The Rays are, to put it mildly, aggressive on the base paths. They attempted 255 steals last season, 44 more than the second-place Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
If top prospect Desmond Jennings makes it to The Show this season, he will run. Manager Joe Maddon even encourages his lesser speedsters to run. Witness infielder Ben Zobrist's 17 steals in 23 tries.
Tampa's corps of young starting pitching is so deep that the frustrating Edwin Jackson was easily expendable last winter.
Pitching coach Jim Hickey emphasizes pitching to contact, which helps to explain the success of James Shields and Jeff Niemann. Neither man misses bats with regularity. What happens if the high-upside duo of David Price and Wade Davis buys into Hickey's system and pitch to contact more, lowering pitch counts and walk totals?
Maddon had to spread save chances around more than fantasy owners would prefer because Troy Percival wasn't durable. With flame-throwing Rafael Soriano on board, Maddon may revert to a more traditional approach.
Everyone is really good. There. Finished. They may boast the best all-around defense in Major League Baseball. Left fielder Carl Crawford and third baseman Evan Longoria are arguably the best at their positions. B.J. Upton and Zobrist are top-five at theirs.
Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach are each offensive-minded catchers, but both are also serviceable backstops. The Rays provide pitchers with an excellent environment.
About Matt Trueblood
Matt is a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. The guest contributor is a featured Chicago Cubs columnist on the Bleacher Report as well as a contributor to hotstove.com. Matt envisions himself as both a writer and analyst and strives to deliver pieces that are both well-researched and thought-provoking. He work first appeared on KFFL.com in February 2010.
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