Will Tampa Bay Rays shake things up to avoid treading water?
The lack of production from the Rays major league players has everyone pondering, when will Matthew Silverman and Kevin Cash begin to make some changes?
An 18-19 record through the first 37 games of the season doesn’t sound too shoddy, but there’s a strong belief amongst Rays fans that this team is significantly underachieving, particularly on the offensive side.
The team currently sits in 3rd place in the American League East. They are batting an AL worst .233. They are hitting a remarkable amount of home runs, but have the 2nd worst on-base percentage in the AL, so the home runs being hit aren’t converting into an extraordinary amount of runs.
Out of the nine regulars in the Rays starting lineup, only three are hitting over .250. To my understanding, that is not acceptable for a major league baseball team who has plenty of capable hitters on the bench and in the farm system patiently waiting their turn for a chance to contribute.
They brought Logan Morrison in to provide some pop in the middle of the order. They even released sweet swinging James Loney, because they were so sure Morrison would provide more than enough production at first base.
How has that went so far?
In 90 at bats, Morrison has slashed .144/.238/.167 with 0 home runs and 2 RBI’s. Yes, you read that correct. ZERO HOME RUNS AND 2 RBI’s THROUGH 90 AB’s. It doesn’t take a genius to understand it is a baffling mystery why Steve Pierce (slashing .301/.392/.554 with 6 home runs and 17 rbi’s) has less AB’s than Morrison.
Desmond Jennings, who was thought to be a potential breakout player for the Rays this season, is slashing an abysmal .185/.269/.283 through 104 AB’s this year. To make matters worse, he’s not providing any speed on the bases, with just 2 stolen bases on the year. Although, part of that is because of the Rays new offensive philosophy (don’t get on base a lot, so being more careful on the basepaths).
To name a few players who have been underperforming along with Morrison and Jennings; Kevin Kiermaier (.239), Brad Miller (.219), Curt Casalili (.188), and Corey Dickerson (.186).
Now, these numbers are awfully discouraging as well. The difference is their plate approach, how much their contributing on the defensive side of the ball, and the fact they are still driving in runs via extra-base hits and home runs. Furthermore, there isn’t much competition for players like Miller and Casali in the farm system. So the Rays have no choice but to stick them out there and hope they can soon figure things out.
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Regarding Morrison and Jennings, there are viable players on the bench and in the farm system ready to contribute at their positions.
Steve Pierce has been tearing things up. And as I stated above, should have well more AB’s at this point than Morrison. Concerning Jennings, Cash is finally starting to figure out there are much better options than him on the roster, particularly Brandon Guyer, who has evolved into one of the Rays best hitters this season slashing .317/.418/.537 with 4 HR’s and 12 RBI’s through 82 AB’s.
If they wanted to turn to the farm system, Richie Schaffer is currently slashing .246/.353/.369 with 3 HR’s and 18 RBI’s through 130 at-bat’s in Triple-A. Those numbers aren’t widly encouraging, but would give the Rays more pop and one of their top prospects further experience in the MLB. Another player who could provide some offensive consistency is outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who is slashing .308/.384/.477 through 65 AB’s in Triple-A as well.
There comes a point where Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman may just need to eat their pride and start making changes that will better the state of this team. As you can see from the offensive outbursts that have occurred the past couple days, the sky is the limit for this offense. The way to replicate that offensive success is with consistency. And if there isn’t more of it within the next week, it may be time to start shaking things up.
*All stats used for this article were taken from ESPN.com and BaseballReference.com and are accurate to the date of May 18, 2016.