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Tampa Bay Rays: A Dream Season for Logan Forsythe

By Robbie Knopf
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Logan Forsythe was just named the MVP of the Tampa Bay Rays by the local chapter of the Baseball Writers of America, and he was probably the wrong choice. One look at Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, or Baseball Prospectus tells us that Kevin Kiermaier‘s all-time great defensive season and solid offense makes him the most valuable player on the team. Both Fangraphs and BP even put Evan Longoria ahead of Forsythe as well. Whether or not Forsythe is the most valuable Ray doesn’t matter too much, though–all we need to know is that he has emerged as a core player for this team after entering the year as a platoon guy.

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The funniest part of the whole situation for me is that readers and Twitter followers asked me at the end of the 2014 season whether the Rays were grooming Logan Forsythe to replace Ben Zobrist as their starting second baseman. My reply was always something like “absolutely not–the Rays know what they are doing and won’t hand the position over to a less-than-qualified player.” Then, Nick Franklin got hurt, Forsythe did end up being the starter at second base, and he has been spectacular for the duration of the season. The Rays didn’t intend for him to start, but when he received the opportunity, he ran with it.

There is some element of luck here–if Franklin had stayed healthy and played decently (like he has in September), who knows if Forsythe ever would have gotten this chance. The answer is “almost surely, yes.” If the Rays were willing to start play Joey Butler and Mikie Mahtook against righties at different times this year, they certainly would have started doing the same with Forsythe. Injuries would have opened up opportunities for both Franklin and Forsythe to play, and even if Franklin was playing up to expectations, he had the versatility to see time in multiple spots to accommodate Forsythe.

Obviously if the Rays had known that Forsythe was going to break through, they never would have named Franklin their starting second baseman against right-handed pitching. They didn’t see this coming, certainly not to this extent. Nevertheless, they deserve credit for acquiring Forsythe from the San Diego Padres and sticking with him despite his mediocre 2014. He was only one piece of a deal that also brought back Brad Boxberger and Matt Andriese, but they saw something in him that prompted them to get him even after he had played poorly in 2013 as well. At the very least, they thought that he could be a valuable backup.

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Forsythe clearly put a lot of work in to get to this point, and this is an instance where hitting coach Derek Shelton deserves credit as well. Beyond the Box Score discussed Forsythe’s improved patience and the new leg kick in his swing. He made adjustments that have helped him reach the upside he had back when he was a first round pick in 2008, like we delved into in May. This big season is the culmination of hard work on the part of many people, especially Forsythe, and while he still needs to prove that he can maintain this in coming years, the thought of extending him figures just as prominently into the discussion.

Given everything that we have said, Logan Forsythe didn’t quite come out of nowhere to star for the Tampa Bay Rays, but no one could have expected him to be anywhere near this good. He has clearly been this team’s best hitter and it is scary to think about where the Rays would be without him. Congratulations are in order for Forsythe after his incredible season, and fans will be excited to see what he can do for an encore.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: What Do We Make of the 78 Wins?

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