Tampa Bay Rays Biggest Questions at Outfield/DH for 2011

By on March 12, 2011

Key Additions:  Johnny Damon (signed as FA from Detroit), Manny Ramirez (signed as FA fm CWS)

Key Subtractions: Carl Crawford (signed w/Boston FA)

Projected stats for Outfielders/DHs:

LF Johnny Damon .275 7 HR 40 RBI

BJ UPTON (PHOTO BY: PR PHOTO)

CF BJ Upton .292 23 HR 78 RBI 48 SB

RF Matt Joyce (.265 16 HR 58 RBI)/Ben Zobrist (.282 18 HR 86 RBI)

DH Manny Ramirez (.290 15 HR 80 RBI)/Dan Johnson (.230 9 HR 40 RBI)

A good year for Johnny and Manny 2011?

What should be consider the Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez experiment to be a success, is between the two of them you must get about 100-110 games played.  The ceilings for both would be Damona .280 average with  10 HR and  50 RBI with Ramirez batting .305 hitting 20 HR 85 RBI.  If those guys give you  numbers like this then they will more than replace Carl Crawford and improve the DH part of their lineup.  The Rays’ DH position ranked near the bottom of the AL last season.   However, it’s just as likely that these guys bodies will break down (Damon 37, Manny 39) and not make those starts the Rays need.   Manny lost some weight in the offseason and he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder as 2011 begins, but  Joe Maddon will keep Manny interested? I think that answer remains to be seen, but if anyone can Joe will use his “Joe Cool” persona to win Manny over.

Will Desmond Jennings make the opening day roster?

The answer to that question is more than likely no, the Rays have a history with starting their young studs in the minors for the start of the season then bring them up in June, as they did with Evan Longoria and David Price.  This strategy gives the Rays another year of cost control with the players.  As the clock doesn’t start until the 2012 season for arbitration and count toward getting to free agency.  Jennings also didn’t have a great year last year in the minors as he battled wrist injuries since the start the year.  Make no mistake Jennings is the future of the Rays and barring just a horrific year by Desmond you can expect him in the opening day lineup beginning in 2012. 

Is Matt Joyce an everyday player?

That remains to be seen.  Last year Joyce played well at times as he had some big hits in the middle of the year with a couple of walk off home runs.  Joyce gives you some power in his bat but he needs to be able to hit lefties to be an everyday player.  Last year Joyce hit 0.80 against lefthanders with 13 strikeouts in 25 at bats last season.  That must improve for Joyce to take the next step in his development as an everyday player.  In the meantime expect Joyce to platoon in RF with Ben Zobrist, who is going back to his super utility role this year that allowed him put up All-Star numbers in 2009.

Who is on the rise and who is on the decline in 2011? 

BJ Upton is a guy who is ready to mature this year, the Rays have been expecting this from Upton since his breakout playoffs in 2008.  Upton’s approach during this spring training has him driving the ball to right center again which is what he has to do to be successful as a hitter.  Dan Johnson had probably the biggest hit in Rays history in 2008 with the home run off Jonathan Pappelbonn which catapulted the team to their first AL East title, and eventual trip to the World Series.  However for Johnson he has not been able to sustain any sort of production and I do not see him doing it this year either.  It was figured that Johnson would see some time at DH with Manny and other time at first but with the spring that Casey Kotchman is having Johnson may see his playing time cut down.

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