Author: Jaime Acevedo

Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: April 9 to April 11

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The Yankees now take a three game trip to the turf of the Tropicana Field (UGH!), where they will visit Tampa Bay for the Rays first homestand. Fresh from getting swept by the Red Sox (LOL), let’s see how the current bottom dweller of the AL East is doing.

Their story so far

The Rays have lost four straight games after starting 2-0 in the season. In their previous series, the Red Sox outscored them 26-9 sending them straight to the last place of the ALE.

So far in the season the Rays have used four starters. Tyler Glasnow has been amazing in his two starts with just one earned run in 12 innings. The other guys? Not so much: Ryan Yarbrough has allowed six runs in 10.2 (although all of them against the Red Sox on Wednesday), and Michael Wacha and Rich Hill have combined for eight earned runs in nine innings. It seems that replacing two of the club’s three best starters is not looking good already huh? Who would have thunk it? (Not us, definitely not)

Chris Archer, the third addition to the Frankenstein triumvirate to try and replace Snell and Morton, has only appeared one time out of the bullpen, allowing four runs (three earned) in 2 innings pitched. He is expected to make his first start of the season this series.

Offensively, the story is not much better. The Rays hold a 88 OPS+ value as a team. Most of their damage in the early going has been from Brandon Lowe, Manuel Margot, Joey Wendle, and Francisco Mejía; they have values of 164, 171, 135 and 123 of OPS+ respectively. The other starters have been either around average hitters or straight up black holes in the offense like Yoshi Tsutsugo (-18) and Kevin Kiermaier (-45).

The Rays are in a early season bad streak and the Yankees also catch a break in not having to face their best pitcher in Tyler Glasnow. This would be a good opportunity to drop them a bit deeper in the standings in the early going. How about the Yanks do just that?

What to expect from Rougned Odor, the newest Yankee

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In typical Ninja Cashman Style, the Yankees acquired my fellow countryman Rougned Odor (even from the same city!). The 27-year-old former Texas Rangers second baseman arrived to MLB in 2014, having three pretty solid seasons in 15′ and 16′ and 18′, with WAR values of 2.1, 2.7 and 2.5 respectively.

However, from 2019 to present, the ride has been quite ugly: -1 WAR in 729 plate appearances ugly. Just to be clear, that means the Rangers would have been 1 win better if they had used a replacement level player (i.e. a random guy from Triple-A) instead of Odor. To quote a former manager: “That’s not what you want”.

So, let’s take an in-depth look at what the Yankees can expect from Rougned Odor after the jump.

The Tampa Bay Rays [2021 Season Preview]

The defending AL pennant champion Rays accomplished a lot last year. They went 40-20 in the regular season, won the division (ugh), and went to the World Series for the second time in franchise history. They disposed of the Blue Jays, the Yankees (double ugh) and the Astros (yay! I guess?) before their showdown with the Dodgers where they lost in 6 games.

So, surely they took the base of a team that won the pennant and added more pieces to compete for the championship in 2021. That’s how it works, right? Well…not exactly.

The Rays celebrated their pennant by letting go two of their three best pitchers in Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. From a Yankees fan perspective I can only say: Way to go Rays!

After that quite nice celebration, how does this new season look for the Rays?

The “Battle” for the 5th Spot

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Entering spring training, the most prominent role to be defined in the Yankees’ 26-man Roster was the fifth Starter in the rotation. This “competition” allows us to analyze and write a few words about the candidates. So, lets do just that!

The Candidates

What seemed to be a four horse race at the beginning of the spring has sadly lost an interesting competitor. Clarke Schmidt, one of the most prominent pitching prospects in the Yankees system, has gone down with a common extensor strain in his elbow that will shut him down 3-4 weeks.

Also, I’m not considering Mike King or Nick Nelson in this exercise for different reasons. King because of the lack of a reliable secondary offering, and Nelson because of his lack of control (Career MiLB 4.8 BB/9). Also I think Nelson’s stuff plays up a lot in the bullpen and he could be a weapon there.

That leaves us with (ordered alphabetically by their last name): Jhoulys Chacín, Deivi García and Domingo Germán. Let’s see what the projection system’s tell us about those three players regarding their WAR:

Projections via FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus

The projections tell a clear story of two similarly productive pitchers (García and Germán), and an underdog (Chacín). With that in mind, let’s go under the hood for any further evidence on who should win the job.

Room for Improvement: Gio Urshela

I’m pretty glad that for my first post at Views, Gio Urshela was still available for a post in the room for improvement series. As one of my favorites players in the team, my instant reaction was: “Amazing, I’ll take that one!”, only to see in the process of research that Gio practically improved in most aspects of his game in the 2020 season. Let’s see how we can do this!

Gio Urshela is one of the most amazing and unexpected stories of current baseball players. He went from an all-glove-no-bat fringe utility player to an amazing hitter, whose glove is now suspect according to certain advanced defensive stats. Since 2019, Gio is the fourth-best hitter in the absolutely stacked third base position. His 132 wRC+ lags only behind Alex Bregman* (you know I’m going to doubt that value), Anthony Rendon, and Justin Turner. And that value is also better than superstars like Manny Machado and Matt Chapman.

In terms of WAR, he is lower in the third base leaderboard because of his relatively small number of plate appearances  (650 since 2019). However, if we take the value on a rate basis (dividing his WAR number by his PA and multiplying by 600 for a “regular season proxy”), he is the ninth-best third basemen in MLB with a 4.34 WAR/600PA, higher again than Manny Machado’s 3.67 value for example.

So…If Gio puts a full healthy season he is going to be amazing. That’s his room for improvement right? Problem solved!

Just kidding! Let’s look under the hood to see if there is anything he can do to improve his play.

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