On Friday, I looked at the right side of the Rays infield with the majority of the players not being able to meet their expectations. With the only exception, pretty much being Logan Forsythe's breakout campaign. The left side, consisting of Asdrubal Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Richie Shaffer, and TIm Beckham (whom I only added because I had too many players represented on the right side), did much better.
2015 was Tim Beckham's eighth year in the Rays organization. Back in 2013, he finally broke into the majors and looked to be a strong candidate to make the opening day roster in 2014, however an injury that occurred in the off season prevented that as well as costed him the majority of the season. Entering spring training this year, he finally had the opportunity to potentially win a starting a job.
As an injury took out Nick Franklin for a couple of weeks, Beckham was a shoe-in for opening day. He opened the season on a nice pace, coming through in some clutch situations. However, he quickly fell into a slump and wasn't able to recover before sustaining an injury towards the end of May. Once activated, he was sent to Triple-A Durham. He wouldn't rejoin the big league club until mid-July when Cabrera hit the DL.
Beckham was decent after returning, hitting .280 from July til early September, however he fell back into his slumping ways as he finished the season having just five hits in his final 41 plate appearances.
In 2016, Beckham will come into spring training and depending on how the off-season goes, may be competing for the starting short stop job. He'll turn 26 in January and is set to make the league minimum. The Rays still have him under contract until the end of the 2020 season.
ZiPS was pretty close with their Beckham projections as the only difference was him hitting for more power, and sacrificing more strikeouts for it. He was projected to not strikeout as much and have a slightly higher average and K% because of it. However, he had five more homers in 100 less plate appearances, so showed more power than was expected.
A surprising off-season addition, Cabrera signed with the team immediately following the Ben Zobrist/Yunel Escobar deal. Cabrera chose Tampa Bay as several players had revived their careers playing there and received paydays, as well as the opportunity to be the starting short stop.
Cabrera was awarded the position during spring training, but got off to a painfully slow start with the team. His season can actually be easily divided into two halves. From Opening day to June 17th, he slashed .199/.259/.308 with three home runs over 63 games compared to June 18th to October 4th, where he slashed .317/.357/.525 with 12 homers in 80 games.
In 2016, Cabrera will likely be playing elsewhere as his second half surge should warrant some interest on the open market and will probably price him out of the Rays budget range. He has previously stated that he is looking for a multi-year deal and will be entering the season at thirty years old.
ZiPS was pretty accurate with Cabrera, although his turnaround made it so as he was heading for a horid offensive season before delivering an excellent second half. Once can wonder how his season would have looked if he had kept at the rate he began the season, or could have played the full season like his second half. As it played it out, he was much better with the bat than was expected, however struck out more and walked less.
Not many people expected Shaffer to reach the majors this season, despite his second half surge last season. After spring training, he was assigned to Montgomery for the second year in a row and proved his power was for real as he tore up the Double-A pitching. He was up with Durham after a couple of months and continued to decimate the pitching.
In August, he was finally promoted to the majors, but was infuriatingly used a platoon bat. After a few weeks, the Rays optioned him back down to Durham after the team acquired Daniel Nava, but Shaffer returned in September and was again sparingly used. Over the final month of the season, Shaffer struggled against lefties, however he did much better in a small sample size against righties.
This offseason will decide as to what Shaffer's role will be next season as he took some reps at first base in 2015 and was respectable at the position. He may need some more practice there in order to play the spot every day, but he may serve as a unique platoon option with Longoria and Loney, allowing Longo some days off the field as a DH. At any rate, if he can get over his strikeout problems, the future looks bright the slugging prospect.
Over a full season, ZiPS would probably be exactly right for Shaffer with maybe the main differences being his walk rate and power, as he showed a surprisingly good eye at the plate and walked quite often during his short stint in the majors.
Another year, and another season with Tampa Bay, his eighth in fact. He again provided a consistent exceptional defense at third base, meanwhile a solid bat in the middle of the Rays' lineup. He did however struggle against righties, but excelled versus lefties, hitting nearly .330 against while he hit a lowly .245 against righties.
Longoria almost achieved his goal of starting every day, as he played in 160 games over the season, despite suffering several nagging injuries that may have hampered his performance. However, over the final month of the season, he actually put up his best numbers of the season as he racked up six homers, tied with four other Rays for the most in a month this season. Oddly, two of those also came in the month of September.
Longoria just celebrated his 30th birthday a week ago on the seventh and the Rays still have him under control until the 2024 season. He his set to be the team's highest paid player in 2016, making just over $12 million. With Richie Shaffer's emergence, Longoria may see more time of the field as the DH to help maintain his health throughout the season and may actually help his numbers as well.
Although he may have considered it a down year, ZiPS pretty much expected him to put up the numbers that he did. However he was expected to maybe display a little more power, but he offset that by making more contact. Nevertheless, he matched the WAR total laid out for him as well and ZiPS pretty much hit the nail on the head with Longoria.