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Is John Jaso the new Rays lead-off hitter?

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In today's Tank: John Jaso, Defying projections, Cliff Lee, Scouting Power, fantasy baseball and Yu Darvish.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Six games into Spring Training, the Tampa Bay Rays are currently at the last place of the American League standings with a 1-5 record. Does it mean anything? Surely, not. However, early Spring Training is more useful to get a first grasp at a player form and health, among other things like finally getting to watch live baseball again.

Thus, you might be interested into looking at John Jaso with a little more attention in the coming days, as he may be the Rays leadoff batter in 2015. According Marc Topkin and Matt Baker from the Tampa Bay Times, Jaso could be the first batter in the new Tampa Bay order for the upcoming season, especially thanks to a .386 career on base-percentage against righties. Although Kevin Cash, the team's manager, said that he "wasn't committing to anything" regarding John Jaso, he acknowledged that it could be interesting to "see him there in certain lineups".

Speaking to the press, Jaso stated that he wouldn't mind being the leadoff batter at all, and was even looking for it somehow:

"I like it. I'll take pitches, I'm not afraid to go deep in the count. I think I fit in well right there. As long as I don't clog up the bases."

Concerning Jaso's ability to be a good leadoff hitter, there is certainly room for him to be better than average in this position. However, if we take a look at his performances from the past three seasons, you might start to raise some questions.

Season Team PA BB% K% OBP wRC+ WAR
2012 Mariners 361 15.50% 14.10% 0.394 143 2.6
2013 Athletics 249 15.30% 18.10% 0.387 121 1.2
2014 Athletics 344 8.10% 17.40% 0.337 121 1.5

Even though he managed to produce runs year in year out with a good 128 wRC+ over the period, his sudden drop in walks and his .337 OBP aren't very promising and the Rays will need to assess whether that looks to be his new norm.

Here are the predictions from Steamer and Pecota and they both expect numbers close to his 2014 season from him this year.

System PA BB% K% OBP WAR
Pecota 295 12.20% 15.25% 0.353 1.0
Steamer 480 10.40% 17.60% 0.331 1.0

His 2014 performance may be one of the reason why Cash does not want to "commit to anything" right now, as he will probably need to see more from Jaso. Nonetheless, he could still be an interesting option against right-handed pitchers in a franchise that isn't reluctant to use platoon advantages.

Rays Notes

- David Balfour, Grant's father and a pioneer of baseball in Australia, passed away late Tuesday. His funeral will be held on Friday. We join the baseball world in sending our condolences. David Balfour was honored over the off-season for his role in revitalizing the sport.

- Drew Smyly was able to make progress yesterday, throwing in a sock drill. Returning to throwing this week was very important for his prospects of starting the season.

- The Whitney/Hancock Bank Club on the second tier down the right field line had it's sponsor pull out after eight years. A new sponsor has yet to be announce.

- Marc Topkin has a profile on possible mid-season call up Allan Dykstra that's a worthwhile read.

- Former Rays television reporter Kelly Nash has been hired by the MLB Network. Sun Sports had announced earlier in the off-season she was not returning to the broadcast.

- Burch Smith was on the mound in Port Charlotte for the radio game between the split squads, and held his own with three hits and a walk in three innings.

- On the road, Matt Andriese performed well in his Spring Start against what looked to be the Red Sox opening day lineup. Two hits, one walk over 49 pitches. Two runs scored, each unearned. In that same game, Kiermaier picked up his third outfield assist over a week of Spring games.

- Jake McGee and Matt Moore look to be throwing off the mound within the next week.

- Per Marc Topkin, an elderly male fan was hospitalized after being struck in the head by a bat that Longoria lost his grip on; Longoria, Cash and team VP Rick Vaughn went to the hospital after the game. Bill Chastain reports Longoria attempted to approach the stands after his plate appearance, but the fan was still receiving treatment. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Links

- A week ago, Jeff Sullivan presented a very entertaining piece on Fangraphs about teams which exceeded or underperformed their expected wins in the last decade. This week, he tries to present the different ways to do "defy teams projections".

- This year' Spring Training has already been terrible for pitchers. Yu Darvish will probably not pitch in 2015, Marcus Stroman is gone for the season and now questions emerge around Cliff Lee. As he has been "medically cleared" by the Phillies staff, Lee explained to Jayson Stark from ESPN.com that he won't "pitch in pain". A reasonable and perfectly understandable decision from the 36-year-old pitcher, which also means that there is a chance to not see him this season.

- The San Diego Padres are not done with their offseason moves. According to Antonio Puesan from ESPN Radio and as SB Nation Baseball also reports, the Californian franchise is making a "strong push" to get Hector Olivera. Considered as "major-league ready", the 29-year-old infielder could be a serious acquisition for the Padres, even though other teams are also rumored to be "in the mix".

- Baseball Prospectus' new senior prospect writer Chris Crawford wrote an interesting piece on "Projecting Power". If you're interested in prospects, scouting, or just want to know more about the mechanics of hitting, do not miss out on his article.

- Every day needs its dose of fantasy baseball and today's bit comes from Beyond the Box Score and their advices on how to win your league thanks to sabermetrics. Pro-tip: wRC+ and FIP are your friends!

Dave Cameron found a silver lining to Yu Darvish's injury and it does actually look good for the Rangers' fans.