Finally! 112 days after the last pitch in the 2014 season, Spring Training is here... for other franchises. The first teams to report are the San Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. Your beloved Rays' catchers and pitchers will begin reporting this Saturday, the day of Fan Fest.
The Rays will hold their first workout on Monday the 23rd, four days before the full squad reports in Port Charlotte. Unfortunately, we won't see the first preseason game before two weeks and the reception of the Baltimore Orioles on the 5th March.
If you're lucky enough to have the chance to watch Tampa Bay training games, the Rays official website offers interesting tickets deal, starting at $39 for three fixtures. A perfect opportunity to see the 2015 major league roster as well as Rays prospects and non-roster invitees, at the Charlotte Sports Park which was voted by USA Today's Readers as the best Spring Training Facility in 2014. So in other words, lots of Rays fans read the USA Today!
As we too prepare for the season, we will continue rolling out player profiles for the 2015 roster. Here are a few links about Rays players to watch in 2015, including some breakthrough and rebound candidates: Steven Souza Jr, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Jepsen, Non-Roster Position Players Invitees, Non-Roster Pitchers Invitees Part 1 & Part 2, the First Base Depth and the 2015 Prospects in video.
We will still be rolling out player profiles and prospect analysis during the pre-season.
Concerning the Spring Training schedule, the Rays will face five teams outside of the American League East: Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota Twins and the New York Mets. Also, the last game of the preseason, against the Tigers, will be played at Tropicana Field on the 4th April, two days before the season opener.
- SI.com released their AL East preview yesterday, with a focus on the Rays' offense and the 5th rotation spot. According to Sports Illustrated, the "big question" for Tampa Bay is to know where the run production will come from in a team without Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Yunel Escobar etc. SI also made Steven Souza Jr as "the big prospect" for 2015, who will have his chance to shine during Spring Training and show that "the Rays were, once again, right to think very, very different".
- The DRaysBay fantasy comp is on its way and it won't hurt your draft and performances if you take a look at Baseball Prospectus' Starting Pitchers to Target in 2015. Even if the BP Fantasy Staff forgot to mention Alex Cobb, you can still follow their advice if you want and put your money on Jake Arrieta, Gerritt Cole or Marcus Stroman among others.
- Another piece from Baseball Prospectus, or more like a "best of" as the BP Wayback Machine takes a look at the freshly-retired Jason Giambi career through their book comments since 1996. Little bit of trivia here, as Giambi is the only player with Derek Jeter to be featured in every BP Annual (source).
- K-Rod is seeking 10 million dollars for the season to come. The former Angels prodigy is still looking for a team and his agent, Scott Boras, is apparently seeking a two-year contract for his client. According to MLB Trade Rumours, the Brewers, Blue Jays and the Dodgers are the ones who showed the biggest interest on him for now.
- Do you like Physics? Being a baseball fan and a DRaysBay reader, I'd say that there is an above-average chance that you might be interested in hard science. Thus you won't mind and surely even enjoy "The Physics of Fielding" published today on the Hardball Times and written by the self-proclamed "Einstein of the National Pastime", David Kagan. Launch angle, hang times, fielder times and Lorenzo Cain are on today's menu.
- According to the MLB.com, Asdrubal Cabrera, Steven Souza Jr, Ernesto Frieri and Rene Rivera were the key off-season acquisitions for Tampa Bay, while Kevin Cash's first Spring Training should be "critical" for him, according to Jim Duquette, as he is taking over Joe Maddon: "one of the best managers in baseball" said the MLB pundit. Interestingly enough, Duquette also stated that Longoria will be back in 2015, after a disappointing, yet still good, 2014 season. Good to know! In case you're wondering about Evan's chances to rebound, take a look at this piece from our writer Kevin Antonevitch.
- Last, but not least, MLB Trade Rumours released their probably way-too-early 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings. The class of 2015 was somewhat interesting, but the next one should surpass every expectations. I'll just leave a few names here: David Price, Justin Upton, Jayson Heyward, Ian Desmond, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Alex Gordon, Zack Greinke, Matt Wieters, Jeff Samardzija, Yoenis Cespedes... If you want to find a 2016 FA sleeper, here's the full free agents list for next year.