2012 MLB Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

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2011 Tampa Bay Rays Season Recap

Evan Longoria and Dan Johnson are heroes, the Tampa Bay Rays must thank the Yankees for losing, and the Rays must also thank the Boston Red Sox for helping to complete 50% of the collapse. The other 50% was the rise of the Rays to take the Wild Card spot from the Red Sox and end up in the MLB playoffs. They were bounced out by the Texas Rangers, who would go on to lose in one of the greatest World Series showdowns of all-time, but the final day of the regular season made this another magical season for fans of the Tampa Bay Rays. More magic will be in store in 2012 for the Rays.

Ben Zobrist– This guy has to be the most underrated player in baseball, because we always talk about how underrated he is, and he still never gets the proper credit. How much was he worth last season? 6.6 WAR. That’s only the highest total on the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was due to a combination of great hitting (131 wRC+), amazing defense (10.2 UZR), and solid base-running. His added positional versatility makes him one of the best players in baseball, even if people aren’t willing to admit it.

Evan Longoria– The franchise 3B tore it up last season with another 6 WAR year in just 133 games of baseball. He had a 134 wRC+ and was knocking home runs like it was nothing. To Longoria, it doesn’t seem like much. He’s arguably the best third baseman in baseball, and he has the defense to prove his value (another 10 UZR guy). Longoria is obviously a terrific player, and he and Zobrist are an incredible duo to possess.

B.J. Upton– Finally, a big year came for Justin’s brother in 2011. He ended up with 36 steals to lead the team, and Upton also added some decent defense in a 4.1 WAR year. He drew some walks, hit some homers, and ended up with a solid 115 wRC+ that does wonders when playing in center field. He has finally blossomed into one of the better CFs in baseball, and I can’t wait to see what he can achieve in the future.

James Shields– Big Game James was certainly at his best last season in a near-5 WAR campaign for the veteran starter. Shields ended up with a 2.82 ERA, although he did have a lucky .258 BABIP. Even so, he ended with a 3.42 FIP (3.25 xFIP due to an unlucky 11.1 HR/FB%) and once again had very good peripherals. I hope the Rays don’t trade him, because he was one of just two starters on the team worth more than two wins last season. Want to guess who the other pitcher was?

David Price– Had a higher strikeout rate than James Shields, but he was worth slightly less than his teammate (4.7 WAR) and his FIP and xFIP (3.32) were exactly the same. He will best Shields next season and is my pick for the AL Cy Young in 2012.