Sunday, December 14, 2008

Looking Ahead: 2009 Rays Starting Rotations

Tampa Bay RaysIt's still very early to project the 2009 starting pitching rotations for the Rays organization, but here are my best estimates as of today. Please note that I'm not projecting trades or injuries, even the organization doesn't know who will be traded or hurt. They may know who they would be willing to trade, but until they receive an acceptable offer, they do not know who will be traded. Injuries can also happen over the winter and during spring training. These projections are based on what we know right now and on how the organization typically promotes starting pitchers. Age, in (), is as of today.

Tampa Bay - MLB:
Possibilities: James Shields (26.9), Scott Kazmir (24.8), Matt Garza (25.1), Andy Sonnanstine (25.7), David Price (23.3), Jeff Niemann (25.8), Mitch Talbot (25.1), Wade Davis (23.3), James Houser (24.0), Jae Kuk Ryu (25.5).

Discussion: Shields, Kazmir, Garza and Sonnanstine are set in stone, barring injury. Despite recent reports that Price could start the year in AAA, I believe he gets the final slot. When you're looking to get the maximum value for Edwin Jackson of course there will be 'reports' that you aren't in any hurry to trade him because Price will be in AAA. Now that Jackson has been traded the only choice is between Price and Niemann. When you are trying to win in the highly-competitive AL East, every game matters. Price clearly gives you the best option to start the season. Niemann is out of options so he has to make the 25-man roster or be traded. I think he stays and pitches out of the bullpen and is insurance in case of injury. Talbot has one option left and should start the year in AAA. Davis has 3 options left and should join Talbot in Durham. Houser has 2 options left and needs to prove himself in AAA. Ryu is also out of options, why is Ryu on the 40-man? I still believe we have the best starting rotation in the majors, despite the NYY moves.

Projection: Shields, Kazmir, Garza, Sonnanstine, Price.

Durham - AAA:
Possibilities: David Price (23.3), Mitch Talbot (25.1), Wade Davis (23.3), James Houser (24.0), Jeremy Cummings (32.1), Richard De Los Santos (24.5), minor league free agents.

Discussion: As discussed above, Price should start the year in the majors. Talbot, Davis, and Cummings (recently re-signed minor league free agent) seem to be locks. Houser needs to prove himself against AAA hitters, and prove he can stay healthy, so expect AAA over AA. De Los Santos also recently re-signed with the Rays as a minor league free agent. He's also had trouble staying healthy but has pitched in AAA before as a reliever in 2007. I don't think he would have re-signed with the Rays unless he received some assurances that he would be strongly considered for a AAA slot in 2009. It's impossible to predict minor league free agent signings but someone like Ben Hendrickson or Heath Phillips would not be a surprise. If Hellickson and Rollins recieve mid-season promotions this has to be the best rotation in AAA.

Projection: Talbot, Davis, Houser, Cummings, De Los Santos.

Montgomery - AA:
Possibilities: James Houser (24.0), Richard De Los Santos (24.5), Jeremy Hellickson (21.7), Heath Rollins (23.5), Ryan Morse (25.5), Brandon Mann (24.5), Carlos Hernandez (28.6), Chris Mason (24.4), minor league free agents.

Discussion: Houser and De Los Santos should be in AAA. Hellickson and Rollins are set. Morse and Mann should move up from A+. Hernandez is too old for AA and they won't start three lefties (with Morse and Mann). Predict Hernandez in the AAA pen and either Mason or a free agent in the final slot. It will be interesting to see if anyone (Hellickson, Rollins) gets to move up to AAA at mid-season.

Projection: Hellickson, Rollins, Morse, Mann, Mason.

Charlotte County - A+:
Possibilities: Alexander Cobb (21.2), Jesse Darcy (23.5), Brian Flores (23.9), Jeremy Hall (25.2), Woods Fines (23.3), minor league free agents.

Discussion: Cobb, Darcy, and Flores should fill the first three slots. Hall and Fines should also move up from low A. A minor league free agent such as Jason Ragan is also a possibility. This is the weakest rotation in the system.

Projection: Cobb, Darcy, Flores, Hall, Fines.

Bowling Green - A:
Possibilities: Nick Barnese (19.9), Tyree Hayes (20.3), Chris Andujar (21.3), Shane Dyer (20.8), Frank De Los Santos (21.0), Diego Echeverria (23.9), Matthew Moore (19.4), Glenn Gibson (21.2), Joseph Cruz (20.3).

Discussion: Barnese and Hayes, along with Andujar and Dyer, should make the move to full-season ball. Echeverria and Gibson may end up in the pen given the competition. Moore could start the year with Hudson Valley (A-) but I think he jumps to Bowling Green over De Los Santos, who could repeat A- or move to the pen. Cruz is a possibility, but Hudson Valley is more likely. This rotation, along with the position players moving up from Hudson Valley, makes Bowling Green my favorite affiliate to watch in '09.

Projection: Barnese, Hayes, Andujar, Dyer, Moore.

Below full-season A ball it's really hard to predict due to players coming in from the 2009 draft and promotions from the DSL and VSL. We also have several pitchers who didn't pitch in 2008 coming back from injuries and suspensions, and then there are 2008 draftees who didn't sign in time to pitch in 2008. The addition of a Gulf Coast League (low rookie level) affiliate also complicates things, but hopefully allows DSL/VSL pitchers to move to the states sooner. Projections for other 2008 starters:

From the DSL: Juan Wilsino (19.7, GCL Rays, maybe Princeton), Eliazer Suero (19.5, GCL Rays, DSL), Jose Monegro (18.7, DSL, GCL Rays), Victor Mateo (19.3, DSL, GCL Rays).

From the VSL: Omar Bencomo (19.8, GCL Rays, maybe Princeton), Luis Yendis (19.3, GCL Rays, Princeton).

From injuries: Jacob McGee (22.3, AA or AAA in relief for now), Will Kline (24.3, somewhere in relief), David Newmann (23.4, somewhere in relief).

From suspensions: Matt Walker (22.3, Charlotte County in relief once he's eligible).

'08 draftees who haven't pitched: Kyle Lobstein (19.3, Hudson Valley or Princeton).

Others: Joseph Cruz (20.3, Hudson Valley, maybe Bowling Green), Kevin Chavez (19.4, Hudson Valley), Alexander Colome (19.9, Hudson Valley), Albert Suarez (19.3, Hudson Valley).

I will update as trades, signings, injuries, and news comes out, but for now here is a summary of my projections of our 2009 opening rotations:

AAATalbotDavisHouserCummingsDe Los Santos


  1. Mason's days as a starter are over.

  2. I would doubt they send Mason BACK to AA, he already showed he can handle it. He'll be at Durham, either in the rotation or the bullpen.

  3. I agree with both comments about Mason, there was an opening and I added him at the end. I should have just left him off and put 'minor league free agent' in for the last AA starter. Given his 2008 performance (including AFL), he'll be lucky to make Durham's bullpen.

    Here's why I did it: AA has/should have an opening; a demotion is unusual, but what's he going to do, complain?; the org wants to re-establish as much value as possible following his horrible 2008; the best way to do that is as a starter; so stick him in the AA rotation for a few weeks and hope he does well; then consider a promotion back to AAA.

    I agree I'm probably wrong, but that's what I was thinking.

  4. Don't count on Price being the #5 starter. By mid season he will be the ace of the staff.

  5. I should have made that clearer. I listed them as I discussed them, not as a projected order. The most likely members of the rotation appear first, the question marks last. Obviously, you mix your righties/lefties up and hard vs. soft tossers to keep opponents off balance. It was meant as a list of the members of the rotation, not the order in which they would appear. Thanks for pointing it out, it could be misleading. As injuries, trades, signings, and news happens I'll update the chart with the reasons for the updates and will make sure to clarify what the chart represents.