The Ray of Hope in Tampa

Maybe Carl Crawford is worth $142 million to the Red Sox.  Maybe he truly was an elite LF, even while posting just a .294/.334/.441 slash over his nine years in Tampa, showcasing speed with mediocre plate discipline, yet, plenty of production.  His typical season would include 28 2B, 14 3B, 14 HR, 78 RBI, and 52 SB.  That is a far cry from what they are getting right now all over the field.

Take a look at the Rays roster.  They have had production from Casey Kotchman (.338/.395/.464), Ben Zobrist (.268/.347/.475, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 52 Runs), Matt Joyce (.309/.371/.534, 10 HR, 38 RBI), B.J. Upton (.222/.308/.385, 11 HR, 41 RBI, Johnny Damon (.273/.321/.423, 9 HR, 37 RBI), and Evan Longoria (.249/.341/.481, 10 HR, 34 RBI in just 52 games).  Upton’s strikeout rate is just slightly higher than his career average (28.7 v. 28.4), but his BABIP is just .267, while his career BABIP is .327.  Joyce has bombed in June, hitting just .169/.235/.296.  Longoria has been on a heating up, posting a .324/.439/.853 with 5 HR and 15 RBI in just 8 games since June 20th.

Even with solid production from six of their nine regulars, the Rays are 11th in the AL in AVG and OBP, 7th in SLG, 7th in Runs, and having the 4th most strikeouts in the AL.  The issue seems to be that three positions are a platoon.  These platoons have been awful:

Catcher: John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach – These two are a combined .207/.280/.326 with 12 2B, 7 HR, 29 RBI, and 27 R.

Short: Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Elliot Johnson – The three have struggled to a .202/.261/.328 with 18 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 45 R, and 11 SB

Left Field: Sam Fuld and Justin Ruggiano – At times productive, these two have combined to hit .253/.307/.391 with 17 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 34 R, and 17 SB.

The funny thing about the LF issue is that, though Fuld started hot and Ruggiano has done the same, Desmond Jennings is rotting in Triple-A for Service Time concerns.  He’s 24, turns 25 in October, and they need to get him up to produce now.  He is hitting .280/.373/.459 with 14 2B, 3 3B, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 54 R, and 15 SB.  They need his right handed bat: Damon, Jaso, Elliot, Brignac, Fuld, Kotchman, Zobrist, and Joyce are all left handed hitters.  The team NEEDS Desmond Jennings.  The Rays are 2 1/2 games out in the AL East because their starting pitchers have an ERA of 3.44 between David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann over their 76 starts.  The six have a 34-26 record to show for it.  While no platoon can make up for the production lost by Crawford’s departure, there is a young man in Durham who could make a difference.  While he isn’t guaranteed to do so, the experiments at catcher, short, and left leave a trial for Jennings as the right move right now.

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