Line Drives: David Price, Scott Kazmir, Desmond Jennings and More

Here are the things that come to my mind–”line drives” if you will–about the Tampa Bay Rays right now

Is David Price a Bargain? The Oakland A’s signed Scott Kazmir for $22 million over 2 years. That’s $11 million a year and Kazmir is at best a 4 or 5 pitcher in the rotation. Meanwhile, the Rays have David Price, a Cy Young winner, at $14 million a year for 2014. Good for the Rays and what was Billy Beene thinking?

Strikeouts at DH: It looks like the Rays are going to go with A DH platoon of Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez–their choice but not mine. One of the reason’s I don’t like it is the propensity of both to strike out. Last year in 608 at bats, the two of them struck out 146 times, not a good statistic. If either if them had shown any other batting skills this mix might be acceptable but unfortunately, they are average or worse in every other category. Any chance the Rays make another move?

Where to bat Jennings? Desmond Jennings is a superb athlete. Unfortunately, that has only translated into an average major league baseball player. One of the problems is that the Rays can’t to decide where Jennings should bat in the lineup. Jennings has some really tools, showing power and speed. But is he a leadoff-type hitter who gets on base or a 3 through 6 hitter whose game is built around power? The Rays can’t seem to find the answer and that is costing the team and the player a chance at stardom.

Josh Sale returns: The gathering of top minor league player at Tropicana field featured the return of Josh Sale. The former first round draft choice, who received a bonus of $1.6 million, returned after a years suspension for drug abuse and stupid action at a strip club. Sale is, of course, contrite and vowing to make it all right. The truth is that he has tossed away a good part of 3 years of minor league development and is behind anyone who stepped on the field at the same time. He now has 3 years of minor league ball to show the Rays that he belongs on the 40 man roster. Otherwise, he will be Rule 5 eligible and some other team can take a chance on him for $50,000. Not much of a return on investment.

What is the story with Jayson Nix? The way the Rays roster is setting up a few days ago, they needed a 25th guy who can play a lot of positions. They seemed to think Jayson Nix is that guy. Last year, Nix played for was the New York Yankees. He had a .236/.308/.311 line. This year they don’t have a second baseman. or a third baseman and their shortstop is 40 years old and played 17 games last year. The Yankees didn’t invite Nix back, not exactly a ringing endorsement. Now the Rays have acquired Logan Forsythe. Did the Rays view Nix as strictly depth all along?

As you can see, there are still lots of questions to be resolved over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Topics: David Price, Desmond Jennings, Jayson Nix, Josh Sale, Tampa Bay Rays

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  • phattitudes

    Forsythe is going to get some of the DH ABs versus the lefties. Over his career he has better stats than Rodriguez.

    • david egbert

      He probably will but I think the most obvious spot for Forsythe is left field or 2nd base(Zobrist to the outfield) against left handers.

      • Robbie_Knopf

        We keep saying “Rodriguez at DH”, but whether it’s him or Forsythe or even Guyer, they are not going to be at DH very often. We’ll see Evan Longoria DHing with Rodriguez or Forsythe at third and everyone else getting the occasional half-day off with Rodriguez, Forsythe, or even Zobrist moving to their spot.

  • buddaley

    I think you misrepresent the offensive value of both Joyce and Rodriguez, particularly Joyce. First of all, Joyce has a career 120 OPS+ indicating he does have better than average offense skills. Second, although his BA has been low, his career line of .249/.340/.455 indicates a player with good plate discipline and power.

    More to the point, the reason for platooning at DH is that Joyce is a menace to RH pitchers, about 2/3 of all pitchers. His line vs them is .260/.354/.481. That is a .221 ISO, a very good mark. In addition, although he does strike out a lot overall, his K% vs. RH pitchers is just 18.9%, very good for a power hitter, and his BB% is 12.1%, also very good.

    And incidentally, while his overall K rate is over 22% (also not terrible), he has just 30 DPs in 2040 PAs, less than 1.5%. I think you put far too much stress on strikeouts and not enough credit for the significant offensive value he provides.

    Rodriguez is not an ideal complement, I agree. His greater value is his versatility in the field. But he too is not bad vs. opposite handed pitchers. Vs. lefties, his career line is .252/.352/.398, partly due to a very respectable 10.7% BB rate. I don’t think he will necessarily be Joyce’s platoon partner on a regular basis, but if and when he has that role, he provides value also.

    On another issue, I don’t think Jennings has the power to be a middle of the order hitter. Maddon used him a lot as the leadoff man, for which his minor league record seemed to fit him, but he struggled vs. righties, so he was moved to the bottom of the lineup vs. them. I do think he will eventually regain that position as he continues to develop, but for now there are better alternatives vs. righties.

    • david egbert

      First of all, I’m not thrilled with a platoon at DH. Second, Joyce is a boom or bust guy. He can have a hot month and then go for a long stretch where he’s a mess. Lastly, the Rays have invested four years in this guy and he’s never gotten any better. Time to move on.

      • buddaley

        I was responding to this statement:

        ” If either if them had shown any other batting skills this mix might be
        acceptable but unfortunately, they are average or worse in every other
        category.”

        My point is both, particularly Joyce, have shown significant batting skills which, in my view, more than balance the strikeout propensity. In any event, in Joyce’s case strikeouts are not particularly bad vs. righties. In a platoon, he should do very well.

        Joyce has been prone to hot streaks and long slumps. But his end result is always a positive contribution. He may not be improving, but what he does is a net positive, one that will be difficult and expensive to find elsewhere. Of course, I would love to see the Rays acquire a more consistent lefty bat, but right now, Joyce is the only power they have from the left side.

        Consider the options on the roster. Zobrist, whose power seems to be in decline although he remains very valuable. DeJesus who has little power. Loney with middling power. Forsythe with limited power. That’s it. Lobaton is probably gone. Possible additions like Fuld and Kiermaier have no power. Belnome has minimal power. And no other minor league hitter is close, nor do any exhibit major league power so far.

        Joyce is solid against RH pitchers and provides the best threat from the left side that the Rays have. There is nobody to move on to. I don’t think the fact that he is frustrating because of his streakiness should blind us to his value.

        • david egbert

          Everybody is entitled to their opinion and Joyce certainly has his fans. I think that, come September, we are going to be asking the same questions about Joyce and Rodriguez that we have been asking for the last four years. I hope I’m wrong.

  • TheRealRyan

    A Joyce/Rodriguez platoon would be an above average DH. If you combine Joyce against RHP and Rodriguez against LHP from last year they had 599 PA, 21 HR, .248 avg, .341 OBP, .431 Slg and .772 OPS. The average production from DH last year was 652 PA, 20 HR, .245 avg, .324 OBP, .402 Slg and .726 OPS. The author brought up strike outs as his main opposition, but they combined to be above average in strike outs as well. Against opposite handed pitching Joyce/Rodriguez combined to have a K% of 20.0 and BB% of 11.7. These are both better than the DH average K% of 21.3 and BB% of 10.0. It wouldn’t be my first choice to waste Sean Rodriguez’s above average defense at the DH position, but if they Rays choose to use a Joyce/Rodriguez platoon at DH we should have better production than most AL teams get out of their DH.