Earlier in the off-season, Ryan Pollock at SB Nation's Orioles site Camden Chat set about making sense of the team's roster, focusing on contact and power. Keen hitting is the bedrock of every Orioles roster, but these two tools in particular are a renewed focus for the 2016 Rays.
The additions of Corey Dickerson and Steve Pearce, as well as decent hitting role players Logan Morrison and Hank Conger, show a desire to have players with power on the Rays, something the team had let slip out of focus.
Tampa Bay also made a change in approach last season to more contact and aggressive swinging, something that nearly helped the Rays over the hump and into the playoffs as the pitching lagged through injury. The hope is that the aforementioned additions, the returned health of some key contributors (Desmond Jennings, James Loney), and the new approach can coalesce into success at the plate.
So where do the new-look Rays stand?
I gathered Contact% and Isolated Power (ISO) data for all non-pitchers with at least 250 total PA in the years 2012-2015. I chose this threshold to minimize survivor bias; if I only showed qualified players, the Contact and ISO numbers would be artificially boosted, since only players good at one skill or the other stick around to qualify for the batting title.
I then compared each metric to its average to create a "+" score where 100 is average, every point below 100 is 1% worse than average, and every point above 100 is 1% better than average.
Pollock then took his findings and dropped it into a graphical representation, finding the 2016 orioles to be a high power, low contact offense.
The Rays are a different breed, but look to be productive in their own way -- particularly big swingin' Corey Dickerson. One tool tends to be average, and the other above so for the Rays starting position players.
The only players at or below 100 in both categories are Rene Rivera and Brandon Guyer. Here's a table of all Rays players who qualified for Pollock's analysis.
|Corey Dickerson||98||167||98.1% (!)|
Again, not every player on the Rays is covered here. This analysis implemented a 250 PA threshold between 2012-2015, which eliminates guys like Curt Casali or Tim Beckham from consideration.
Most remarkable here are how high Corey Dickerson scores among hitters (he distorted early attempts at building the graph of players above), and how low Loney falls, as it includes his successful seasons at the plate beyond his poor 2015.
Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Let's jump into some player comparisons:
Among baseball players with at least 250 PA since 2012, Corey Dickerson is 12th in the majors by percentile rankings, ranking 18th overall by merely ISO+.
The top ranked players by percentile are Encarnacion, Ortiz, Bautista, Trout, Cabrera, Stanton, C. Davis, Correa, F. Gutierrez, Teixeira, Goldy, and then Dickerson.
Pearce has been utilized advantageously when healthy, which helps his numbers along. When he is in the lineup for the Rays, expect him high in the order.
This is not a ringing endorsement for Longoria's contact and power, the latter of which may be a declining asset.
Here's a better feeling comparison. The Outlaw has contemporaries in a wide range of ages and players, but clearly projects as a potent MLB bat. Let's hope that continues.
Logan Morrison slots in here alongside one player who could have been a similar acquisition target this off-season: Chris Coghlan. The defensive skill set differs, but the bat profile is similar.
For a more apt comparison, here is Morrison alongside two players he may effectively replace in the Rays lineup:
All three batters are closely ranked in the top third percentile, at 178, 184, and 195 overall.
Souza has struggled with contact, but his strength has come through. However that mere difference of five points from Desmond is a difference of 50 slots in the overall ranking (157 vs. 204).
The research did not rank players by position, but this is a respectable mark for a short stop. He places quite close to Conger, and four slots below Chase Headley by percentile (both 58%).
Now this is an impressive ranking for the switch hitting Conger. He will be difficult to demote at the start of the season, something the Rays are considering given his lack of experience with the major league pitching staff when compared to Rene Rivera and Curt Casali. Only Rivera is out of options among the three.
|Alejandro De Aza||101||100|
Jennings appears far down the list, but at a major league average mark overall since 2012. He's played through knee injuries, but his defense has been superb. Being average in contact and power is just fine.
This is where Logan Forsythe's career of not-great plate appearances catches up to him in the aggregate. However, his contemporaries of Kipnis and Parra make his percentile ranking (52.8%) not such a poor look.
Franklin has one stellar season to his name, but still profiles respectably.
Overall, the bench player Guyer files in with an eclectic group of hitters. Cain is what he hopes to be.
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||93||97|
Rene Rivera completely revamped his swing this off-season, and only has one season of cuperior hitting to his name. A journeyman, these are not encouraging comps.
And finally, there's Loney, whose doubles-hitting game is not the end of the world when productive, but it does showcase him to be heavily weighted toward one side of the scale.
Thanks to Pollack for pulling the numbers. Thanks to the Rays for landing Dickerson and Pearce. This could be a very fun season.