Re-casting Possible for the Rays “Young Guns”?

It always amazes me when people make posters like this. It is creative, very well thought out in the ways of design, but the content sometimes makes a lot to be desired. It is not that I do not consider the Tampa Bay Rays pitchers that this artist selected for his poster to not be “Young Guns”, I just think a couple of pitchers who also made an 2011 appearance missed the photo cut.

Gazing at the poster several images of 2011 came rushing back to me, which several being possible final curtain calls for a few Rays. Some showed their magic in 2011, while some may have shown a bit of a bad slide, possibly signing their own visas for exit from the Rays universe. Still it is wild that this one photo to the right was presented on the first day Rays pitchers’ and catchers reported in Port Charlotte, Florida, and one person presented on the poster was not even among those assembled.

Rays phenom Matt Moore did not even report until the Rays minor league player’s strolled into the Southwest Florida community, but won a spot on the poster. It would be futile to not consider this southpaw a future staple in the Rays rotation, possibly making his next appearance after May 2012. Still it shows the defining depth and promise of the Rays hurlers that a guy not even selected for a Major League Spring Invite makes such a prominent figure on the poster.

But there is something that is bothering me about this poster. Something that today might not seem relevant, but could make the whole idea of the poster moot possibly even before the 2012 Spring thaw. I consider the duo of “Alex’s”, Torres and Cobb to have a prominent place in the Rays plans coming into 2012, possibly making their Opening Day debuts this season for the Rays.

That immediately raises the question on who I truly think might be airbrushed off this poster, possibly wearing different colors as the mid-February date approaches. The first pitcher that might get a new MLB address for 2012 could be right-hander Jeff Niemann. It is nothing personal, Niemann has shown great signs of brilliance on the mound, it is just that his risk factors in regard to injury setbacks and his up and down productivity make him a suitable pitcher to find another home for 2012.

Some people might be amazed that the “Tall Texan” has made 83 career starts for the Rays, but most of us are transfixed on his last 2011 start, in Fenway Park where Niemann was matched up against Red Sox hurler Jon Lester and Neumann posted up his 11th victory of the season. Niemann posted a 8-2 record on the road this season in his 12 starts, pushing him into the top 5 road records in the major leagues, including winning 8 of his last 9 road decisions.

Usually that kind of pitcher would not even be on the cusp of trade chatter, but the Rays have a bevy of pitchers trying to break through the barrier between the Triple-A Durham Bulls and a place on the Rays 25-man roster. 2012 might be the season where the Rays get significantly younger, and Niemann may only be the first to mosey into the Florida sunset. Niemann has had a good enough career and 2011 season to possibly get the Rays an up-grade in a few needed areas for 2012. I would put him at the top of the Rays list of available players come the Hot Stove season, and a pitcher more than a few teams covet.

The second member of the Rays current “Young Guns” who might need to worry is also Niemann’s hunting and fishing buddy Wade Davis. Even though he might have signed a salary respectable contract before the 2011 season, that could be a great tasty morsel to a struggling team with limited payroll looking for a viable starter with MLB experience. I guess I put Davis on this list because I consider the two “Alex’s” to have more up-side for the Rays in the near future than Davis, this is not about his present record or his injury in 2011.

Still, Davis is another Rays pitcher who has some valuable MLB abilities and could come at a respectable trade cost to another team. Worst thing here is that Davis would be a marked man in 2012 no matter what in reality. With the firm possibility that Moore will spend at least a few months in Durham before possibly making another visit to the Rays roster, Davis looks like a man firmly on unstable ground with no lifeline within reaching distance.

Even after posting a 8 inning, 2-hit start against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 25th, Davis might not have done enough to have teams kicking his tires this offseason. Davis won his last 7 starts of the season at Tropicana Field plus Davis posted double digit win totals over his first 2 Rays seasons, but it might not be enough to let WD-40 squeak by with a 2012 spot in the rotation. Davis may be in the same row boat as Niemann right now with financial numbers and the possibility of younger starters beating on the Rays doors being the catalyst for a trade, not his abilities.

Most would think I would have selected James Shields as one of the “poster boys” to be in the most jeopardy for 2012. If you thought that, you would not be totally wrong. Shields will possibly be dealt by the Rays, but it seems more logical for him to be separated from this team by the end of July, not this off season. With Moore, Torres and Cobb all having limited game experience, having a starting trio of David Price, Shields and Jeremy Hellickson to start 2012 makes the Rays an instant contender.

Shields 2012 salary would be a huge reason for his departure, but he also showed this season he has the drive and ability to still be a top flight pitcher and a value commodity for the Rays to start 2012. By the end of July, with free agency possibly on the horizon, the Rays might be more likely to trade Shields while his value is high to a contender outside the American League.

The poster is another reminder of the deep and promising rotation the Rays should be able to push up against their Major League Baseball adversaries for the next 5-8 years. Every one of these pitchers have the abilities and the skills to dominate and take a win from the clutches of any team, at any time. It is a rare and unique thing for the Rays to have such depth, but it is also a tragedy that some of their pitchers may ultimately experience their career peaks not wearing a Rays uniform.

6 Comments

I like the poster! yeah, is sad when we know that some of our guys won’t be back the following year. I do hope that Matt Kemp will always be a Dodger. Good luck to your young guns.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Emma,
Some teams have that turnover for competitive reasons, the Rays have it for financial rationale. Every season’s end you wonder who will be back, what surprises the Winter will unfold, and what surprises or treats await you in the Spring.
There will be some addtions, definite subtractions for the Rays, but that is what is so great about MLB…parity can be only a few players away.

Great article. I think that losing Shields could actually help the team in the long run considering all the circumstances. It could end up like the Garza trade, that worked out perfectly. Without Shields and the financial grudge of keeping him, you have Price, Hellickson, Moore, Niemann, Davis, and eventually Archer. Moore is basically a replacement. These are the kind of deals that work out great for small-payroll teams like the Rays, and has been working for the Rays for years. Despite all that, the Rays will miss a great player.
The Rays Rant- http://yossif.mlblogs.com/

Yossif,
Chris Archer, Nick Barnse will be the second wave of Rays prospects forcing changes. Southpaws Alex Torres and Matt Moore will definitely have a roster chance after May. Alex Cobb I think will have the first realistic chance to crack the current five because of his 2011 appearances. If he had not been deleted from the equation by his injury, he might have been the 4th pitcher in the ALDS with Moore still in the Bullpen. Depth can be a curse and a blessing. Right now it is a warm blanket of confidence and assurance for the Rays, but soon the prospects will have achieved what they can at Triple-A and will look for another challenge, hopefully they will experience that on the hill at the Trop.

O ya you reminded me! I forgot about the great future of Alex Cobb and also Alex Torres. If the Rays can keep all (or most) these young arms, they’ll be in good shape.
The Rays Rant- http://yossif.mlblogs.com/

Yossif,
The Rays will possibly use one of the “young Guns”{ pictured above to get a young up and coming big bat, or maybe see if Durham catcher Stephen Vogt, who has a massive swing can play 1B, or DH. Still consider Johnny D the answer, but some people want a feww swinger ala Pena-type to take some pressure off. Not like Joey Votto, Prince Fielder or Pujols will ever wear the Rays colors.

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