It's another look at how Rays players perfromed against the projections. So far I have done this for almost every player to have taken an at-bat during the 2015 season for the Rays and almost each one of them either matched or fell below their expectations, with one exception managing to outperform their projections: way to go Logan Forsythe!
The Rays outfield at the beginning of the season was set in stone, and that that stone began to crumble and break apart to the point that it was unrecognizable. I've already looked at five of the players who made up that crumbled foundation here, and now the final five (Kevin Kiermaier, Joey Butler, David DeJesus, Daniel Nava, and Steven Souza), are up for examination.
First up, the cornerstone.
After a solid rookie campaign in 2014 where Kiermaier caught the attention of everyone around the league with his stellar defense and acceptable offense, with some surprising pop, Kiermaier became a household name in 2015 that had opposing teams' fan swearing under their breath anytime a ball flew anywhere near center field.
Given the center field job in spring training, he had an excellent beginning to the season as he slashed .306/.338/.565 with half of his hits going for extra bases. Then he slumped heavily in May, hitting just .173 during the month. The anti-Joyce.
Kiermaier settled in after that however and slashed a respectable .281/.313/.441 the rest of the yea,r while finishing with a total of 10 home runs. Even more notably, KK would lead the league in triples, never relinquishing an early lead and concluding the season with 12.
Of course, he's also the best outfield defender in baseball.
Kiermaier's calling is clearly defense, able to tally multiple wins above replacement with his defense alone, as evidenced by his nomination a Gold Glove award. He'll turn 26 next April and is still under team control until the conclusion of the 2020 season, so there's still plenty of time for his offensive game to blossom into consistency. But even if it doesn't, he's virtually guaranteed a starting position in the line up. The glove is that good.
If we're being picky, one area of improvement that Kiermaier needs to work on in order to excel to superstar status is to use his speed to steal a bit more often. His 18 swiped bags was 28th in baseball last season, which is nice, but that's one notch ahead of Anthony Rizzo, and Paul Goldschmidt had 21. He might be able to do a touch better. Although, of course, avoiding injury should be the highest concern.
Kiermaier is also one of the few players on the team to exceed his projections as he was pretty much the best player on the Rays in 2015, leading the team in WAR. He did walk less than expected, but provided more pop and contact, while his defense was the main source of his high WAR total.
After displaying some impressive power in spring training, Butler was relegated to Triple-A, but after just a month, Desmond Jennings hit the DL and Butler was promoted to replace him.
A former teammate of Kevin Cash, the one and only Joey Butz would proceed to be the team's best offense player for close to two months. After 44 games, Butler had slashed .338/.378/.519 with six home runs.
However, following that, Butler didn't just fall of a cliff, he crashed into it and destroyed the entire mountain of success he built up.
Butler somehow retained a roster spot until August 9th, long after opposing pitchers had figured him out, going 11-73 with two extra base hits during that time frame. He would be demoted following the 9th, but was back up with the big team in just a couple of weeks.
He played in 14 games over the Rays' final month and closed out the season with a bang as he hit a couple of homers, including the team's lone grand slam of the year, reminding everyone "he can hit."
Butler can really only serve as a designated hitter as he offers hilarious defense in the outfield, but may be lightning in a bottle if he can learn to adjust at the big league level. He'll turn 30 years old in March, and isn't arbitration eligible until 2018. However, he'll likely be non-tendered in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster than possibly given an invite to spring training.
Butler's hot start helped him surpass the projections laid out, however if not for that quick start, he would have failed dreadfully. Nonetheless, he defied the odds and excelled for a short period of time and put up a positive WAR.
One of the most enthusiastic players in the game, the Rays and DeJesus parted ways after almost two years together as he was dealt away in the days leading up to the trade deadline.
DeJesus was necessary and excellent for the Rays for the first two months of the season as he slashed .333/.383/.504 over his first 42 games. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there.
On July 28th, the Rays dealt "Splash bro" David DeJesus to the Angels in something akin to a salary dump, acquiring a low level minor leaguer. Over his last 40 games for the Rays, DeJesus hit just .174, and during the 30 games he played for the Angels, DeJesus had a much tougher time hitting just .125.
In fact, DeJesus didn't start a single game following August 19th, receiving just a handful of pinch-hit appearances, bur remaining a clubhouse presence no doubt.
DeJesus may be on the outs as he pretty much serves as a platoon bat or a defensive replacement late in games. He'll turn 36 in December and likely won't be able to merit a major league deal, but he will certainly find an invite to spring training somewhere.
As for his year with the Rays. despite his excellent start to the season, DeJesus failed to meet his projections as he could not snap out of the slump that began in early June. He struck out less than what was expected and also produced an almost equal average, but everything else he failed to meet by large amounts.
it was just a horrible season for Nava as he started out the year by going just 10 for 63 before hitting the disabled list on May 28th. Following a rehab assignment, Nava returned to the Red Sox in late July, but only for two games as he was designated for assignment to much chagrin across Boston's fan base. He would be claimed by the Rays a few days later.
Nava had a much better time with the Rays finishing out the year, not significantly better, but better. Over his final 31 games of the season, Nava slashed .233/.364/.301, which is not bad when compared to the .152/.260/.182 line he put up with Boston.
Nava is projected to make about $2 million during his second round of arbitration, making him relatively cheap, but also expensive by the Rays standards. It's possible that he may be non-tendered and offered a minor league deal this off-season in order to make room on the 40-man roster, but his platoon flexibility make him valuable and the Rays might not want to risk him going elsewhere.
Nava will turn 33 in January, and his main value lies in his ability to hit right handed pitching, something the Rays were missing in 2015.
ZiPS was expected a decent mediocre year from Nava and he failed to come close to that as he put up putrid numbers. He produced a negative WAR, while putting number up that were way less than expectations with the exception of his walk percentage which helped salvage his on-base numbers.
The main prize of the team's off-season send-offs, Souza was expected to at least replicate Wil Myers' place in the line-up, and while Souza did show plenty of pop, he also displayed an alarming strikeout rate.
Souza was also anticipated to provide solid defense in right field, somethign missing in former ROY Myers, but showed questionable judgement in his routes and throws. Nearly guaranteed a roster spot, he may have to compete for the position as he has to compete against the likes of Mikie Mahtook and Brandon Guyer next season.
In early July, Souza had a team leading 15 home runs, but was hitting just .210 and was striking out a franchise record pace of 35.2%. Souza would hit the DL following being hit by a pitch that lacerated several of his fingers but returned just a couple of weeks later, but that was short lived as he'd be hit by another pitch, this time fracturing his hand and that sent him to the DL until mid-September. He was decent to finish out the year.
Souza will turn 27 next April so he's still pretty young, but he needs to work on cutting down the strikeouts. Most of them were looking, so pitch selection might be a subject he'll study this off-season if he's to become an every day star for the team. He will still just make the league minimum next season.
Although Souza may have not provided the bat that fans expected, but he pretty much met or surpassed the projections laid out for him by ZiPS. Notably, he displayed more power and showed he could get on base at a slightly better clips than expected.