- Updated: March 25, 2009
David Price and Andy Sonnanstine are exhibits A and B in a lesson about how valuable experience can be when making a major league roster or, more importantly, a starting rotation. Though I am a big fan of Andy’s, anyone can see that Price is likely a far more talented pitcher in every aspect of the game. The 23 year old Price seemed major league ready when he was drafted, and has simply dominated in his 109 minor league innings pitched.
But at the end of the day, Sonnanstine’s place in Tampa Bay’s rotation is set while Price is on the outside looking in for the fifth spot. Why? Because Sonnanstine pitched 193.1 innings last season, and had a solid year doing it.
I like Price starting the year in Triple-A. I also like Price joining the big squad in May after what is sure to be a quick start in the minors, a la Evan Longoria in 2008.
How swift has the Tampa Bay Rays reversal of fortune been? In their cuts on March 16th, the Rays sent starting pitchers Mitch Talbot and Wade Davis down to the minors. Davis, 23, has 605 strikeouts in 609 minor league innings, and struck out 55 batters in 53 innings with a 2.72 ERA at Triple-A last season. Talbot, 25, posted a 141/35 K:BB ratio in Triple-A last season and has gone 13-9 in each of his two previous seasons.
And these are two guys with no chance of making the major league rotation.
Wanna talk potential disasters? With defensive specialist B.J. Upton slated to miss the start of the season while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, and recently injured backup speedster Fernando Perez out until June, Gabe Kapler is currently Tampa’s best bet in centerfield. Kapler hasn’t been a full time regular since 2001, and missed all of 2007 because he was coaching in the minor leagues.
In all likelihood, the Rays would platoon Ben Zobrist, Gabe Gross, Justin Ruggiano, and Kapler until they found a combination that worked. Interesting though – what does it say about Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell that moving Crawford to center and having Burrell play left isn’t on the table?
The Tampa Bay Rays have a roster filled with humorous coincidences. Here are just some of them:
- Gabe Kapler missed all of 2007 while serving as a minor league coach in the Boston Red Sox farm system, but then decided that he still had what it takes to play major league ball and he made a comeback. Teammate Troy Percival did the exact same thing, coaching in the Angels minor league system before making his comeback in 2007.
- This will be the third team that Percival and second baseman Adam Kennedy have played on together – they were teammates on the 2002 World Series Champion Anaheim Angels and with the Cardinals in 2007.
- This will also be the third time Gabe Kapler and Carlos Pena have played on the same team in the same season, after Texas (2001) and Boston (2006).
- Jason Isringhausen and Scott Kazmir were the subjects of two of the New York Mets worst trades of all time. In 1999 the Mets sent Isringhausen and Greg McMichael to the A’s for Billy Taylor (go look up Billy Taylor and see how surprised you are by his stats). In 2004 the Mets traded Kazmir and Jose Diaz to the Rays for Bartolome Fortunato and Victor Zambrano.
- Gabe Gross played 93 games in the outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007 before being traded to the Rays in 2008. His replacement on the Brewers was Gabe Kapler, who played 96 games for the Brewers in 2008 before signing with the Rays in 2009.
If you believe that professional athletes only have so many innings/minutes/downs in their career, regardless of their age (a theory floated recently about Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James), we have to start wondering now about Carl Crawford. As hard as it is to believe, Crawford is only 27 but will be entering his eight season (seventh full season). Crawford is currently ninth amongst active players with 302 stolen bases and fourth amongst active players with 84 triples. But Crawford missed 53 games last season with balky hamstrings and a finger injury, stole less than half as many bases (25) than he has in any other season, and has hit as many triples in the last two years combined (19) as he did in just one season in 2004. Is it possible that Crawford is 27 going on 30? Is Crawford already a grizzlied veteran despite his age?
Only time will tell.
In my first Rays post of this season, I suggested that now is the time to trade Scott Kazmir. Since that is an unlikely move, I will hedge a bit – now is the time to trade some pitching, period. The Edwin Jackson to the Tigers for Matt Joyce move was a good start, but I think more moves should be made.
Why? Well, for one thing pitching prospects are notoriously flaky. Think Brien Taylor, Todd Van Poppel, Paul Wilson, and Kris Benson. Even when guys make it, sometimes they don’t make it – think Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Dontrelle Willis.
Right now the Tampa Bay Rays have ten pitchers who could start somewhere in the major leagues right now, and they are having outfield issues trying to shift around Gabe Kapler and Gabe Gross.
Do you think that Baltimore or Pittsburgh or Washington or Cincinnati or Kansas City might part with an above average everyday outfielder if it meant they could insert Mitch Talbot or Wade Davis into their rotation? I do.
As my final thought, amidst all the talk about the Tampa Bay Rays embarrassment of pitching riches, here’s a little perspective, a little reminder of Devil Rays past – the Tampa Bay Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks came into existence in the same year, 1998. The Arizona Diamondbacks franchise leader in career shutouts Randy Johnson, with 14, followed by Brandon Webb (8), and Curt Schilling (5). In fact, Brandon Webb once pitched three straight shutouts. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Rays franchise leader in that same statistic is Rolando Arroyo.
He had two.