Entering spring training, most experts around baseball expect little to nothing from the Rays as an off season filled with them losing staples of the franchise. Andrew Friedman, Joe Maddon, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Wil Myers, and Sean Rodriguez were among the key members to have been dealt away. A rookie and untested manager was brought in, and although he was highly regarded, no one knew much as for what to expect.
The fans would never really know.
When spring training began and progressed, the Rays players began to fall apart almost literally. Frankly, I'm surprised no one spontaneously combusted on the field, or Ducky's wasn't hit by a meteor given the way the season began.
The Rays team that took the field on Opening Day was not the team any one expected, but the replacements provided solid play, and the Rays found themselves 10 games over .500 in late June -- sitting in first place in the AL East. Expecting to get their injured players back and surge to the playoffs, the Rays instead floundered...
Over the next few weeks I'll be looking into how each player on the roster performed against their projections, based upon ZiPS from Fangraphs. With the season not over yet officially, these numbers may differ from their end season totals but the final numbers shouldn't be too far off. We'll start with the catchers.
Acquired in the off-season in the Wil Myers deal, Rivera was expected to take the main catching duties, and while he defense and work with the pitchers has been satisfactory, his production at the plate has been abysmal and he has seen his playing time diminish as a result.
Rivera has done a decent job of controlling the running game, and he also put up a solid month of June with his offense, but that was his lone contribution outside the strikezone. Curt Casali's emergence, plus the September call-up success of J.P. Arencibia have made Rivera's future with Tampa Bay, questionable.
According to ZiPS, Rivera was expected not to have a good line with the bat, not even a decent line, but a subpar line given what you'd expect on offense, and he didn't even come close to matching it.
Rivera gave Tampa Bay an almost equally bad offensive season as Joe Molina did in 2014. Consequently, he fell below predictions in almost every offensive category.
Signed in the off-season to serve as a back up catcher to Ryan Hanigan, pre-Myers trade, Wilson was decent at his role, but around mid June the Rays bullpen had been exhausted and was in need of some fresh arms. Wilson drew the short stick and was designated for assignment.
Wilson returned to the Rays in late July for one game, then was again designated for assignment, this time claimed by the Texas Rangers, where has served as a back-up since. The Rangers are near clinching a post-season appearance with a catching rotation of former Rays: Bobby Wilson, Robinson Chirinos, and Chris Gimenez.
Wilson was just a back-up catcher with very low expectations, so his projections were not high. No one expected him to hit, so I guess you could say he met expectations.
Yes, another Rays catcher didn't come close to meeting the projections that ZiPS laid out for him.
Casali had a sluggish start to the year in Durham, but around mid-June, the Rays were starved for some offensive production from behind the plate. Casali provided it, as he clubbed 10 homers in just 113 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, during the 10th homer on the season he pulled a hamstring that has effectively ended his 2015 campaign. Entering 2016, he looks primed for the starting catching job.
His production may have slipped down the line, but in a small sample size, he was definitely beating the projections laid out for him. ZiPS underestimated the Rays slugging catcher, as he clobbered the ball out of the part on an almost daily basis.
Arencibia came to the Rays on a minor league deal toward the end of April, and he and Richie Shaffer teamed up to become the bash brothers of the International League. Hitting homers is pretty much all Arencibia does and that's been a breath of fresh air.
When he was promoted in late August after Casali hit the DL, he immediately impressed with his power and his production, and however fleeting that production is, it will be exciting while it lasts.
ZiPS didn't have high expectations for Arencibia over a full season, it looks like he would have hit his projections exactly as his average has been slipping and he's drawn very few walks. Meanwhile, the power has stayed consistent, now hitting homers at the same rate Casali was providing the Rays.
Maile was a surprising September addition, that pretty spelled the end was near for Rivera as Maile is horrendous at the plate but has seen more playing time than Rivera since his promotion. In fact, the only thing people knew his name for was being the player that Pawtucket catcher, Humberto Quintero, drilled in the gut as he was attempting to catch a base stealer.
ZiPS certainly didn't expect him to make the leap to the majors this season as they failed to produce projections for him. So far during his time in the majors, he has scraped together a couple of hits while providing solid defense behind the plate.