The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Tampa Bay Rays!
Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a series where three of the Dynasty Guru’s nerdier baseball writers – Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus, and Keaton O. DeRocher- bring to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly until we cover all 30 teams!
Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Tampa Bay Rays. And, while we here at The Dynasty Guru are primarily baseball obsessed, we’ll also be touching on some music we’ve enjoyed from each team’s home state. Enjoy, and leave us your question and comments below!
Blake Snell, 25, SP
Analysis by: Adam Lawler
No matter what happens for the rest of Blake Snell’s career, he is no doubt a ‘win’ for the Tampa organization. For those of you who don’t remember, Blake Snell was the consolation prize after Brad Hawpe was pried away from the Rays in 2010. If you’re wondering, Hawpe went on to post a .2 WAR over the balance of his career while playing for the Rockies and Angels. Snell, meanwhile, has posted a 3.8 WAR over his first two seasons. So there’s that…
After seeing Snell pitch for the Durham Bulls a few times in 2017, it was easy to see talent teeming from the young southpaw. He brings the heat – topping off at 94 MPH – and the slider is dirty, but it’s the curveball that gets all the love. Boy what a curveball it is too. Though things are a bit murkier when digging into Snell’s profile.
What’s the Snell?
To begin with, he’s never, ever going to be the 2015 version of himself. You know, the one who had a sub 2 ERA and a sub 1 WHIP? That pitcher who some lauded and pointed to as the signal through the noise? That version of him is a unicorn. What continues to play out over his young, somewhat tumultuous MLB tenure (marred with a few demotions and is bruised by shaky command) is exactly what was repeated ad nauseum as the yellow flags spread across his prospect write-ups.
However, there are reasons to believe that he has figured out his pitch mix, as exemplified by the high strikeout rate and a reduced walk rate. Let’s see if you can notice any trends in his 2017 game log pitch in the table provided below.
It’s subtle and it might not even be noticeable to the naked eye, but there’s something there. If you look at Snell’s 2017 game log, you will notice a point in the season beginning on July 24th vs Baltimore where he cauterizes the bleeding of base on balls by increasing the use of his changeup, decreasing the use of his slider, and mixing in the curveball a bit more. Ironically, the changeup is the pitch graded as Snell’s worst offering at Baseball Prospectus, but it seems to have done wonders for his control. More importantly, perhaps, it didn’t really hurt his K-rate. DRA took notice too. In 2016, his DRA of 4.84 was more than a full point higher than his ERA. However, in 2017, DRA rewarded him for his efforts to mix it up with a 3.80.
Now, one could write this off as a small sample size. However, if we wanted to find more reasons to buy into the narrative that the changeup helps further his effectiveness, we can point to his whiff rate based on pitch offering.
This may look like a messy chart- allow me to orient you. As we discussed, Snell began to use his changeup more beginning with his July start vs. Baltimore. This data point doesn’t necessarily prove that the changeup in and of itself is effective to induce flailing batters. Yet, while there are varying degrees of the change’s effectiveness, we can see there is a definitive uptick in his slider and curve effectiveness after he incorporated the cambio more into his repertoire. The slider’s uptick is likely due to the change and the slider displaying the same speed and arm action as the change. Therefore, batters were left guessing if it was going to look like this (change) or this (slider). Meanwhile, the curve is just straight dirty. If you can pump a 93-94 MPH heater and use two pitches at the same rate which display similar delivery but two different flight patterns, then the curveball is going to be deadly.
Again, my counter-argument is that the MLB is about constant adjustments. It’s a chess match. They adjust to you, you adjust to them, they adjust back, and on and on. Snell seemed to have made an adjustment that worked for him. He seemed to be growing and trusting his pitches a bit more as he experiences big league hitting more. As long as Snell could locate, and that was a big if, he could operate at an ace level.
Snell the Roses
2018 has been the coming out party indicated in the latter half of Snell’s 2017 campaign. He has mirrored the pitch mix utilized last July when things started to turn around; that is to say: fastball first and a bit more change than curve. In fact, Snell has been even more successful this year than last. His K rate is up more than 1 per IP, his walk rate is down about .5 per IP. He’s continued to limit the long ball. All great signs.
Is he as good as this 2018 version of himself? No. Definitely not. He has an 86.1% left on base rate and the league average is 74.3% (min 80 IP). His BABIP is .238 and the league average is .283 (min 80 IP). His DRA (2.73) and FIP (3.51) indicate a regression is coming. In total, however, this is sustainable. Snell is an SP2. Buy in.
Adam’s Artist Selection:
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is from… Tampa? What? What even is real anymore?
Jesus Sanchez, 21, OF, High-A
Analysis by: Patrick Magnus
Jesus is Loose!
Jesus Sanchez has tools that have scouts slapping all kinds of grades all over him. Based on his 2017 slash line of .305/.348/.478 all the excitement seems warranted. Last year, at the age of 19 he popped 15 home runs, and now in approximately half the amount of at-bats at a higher level, he’s already hit 9. His current slash line of .322/.339/.512 is just as impressive as the prior year.
So why am I still skeptical?
Tools, and Rose Tinted Glasses
When Sanchez makes contact he is very capable of lifting the ball to both sides of the field.
Not convinced by these grainy gifs? Well a table of stats will be a bit more convincing.
|Year | Level||PA||Pull%||Cent%||Oppo%||HR/FB||ISO|
|2015 | Rookie||268||47.0%||20.0%||33.0%||4.1%||.163|
|2016 | Rookie||173||43.4%||21.3%||35.3%||7.1%||.207|
|2017 | A-Ball||512||42.1%||25.4%||32.6%||12.8%||.173|
|2018 | High-A||251||49.5%||20.8%||29.7%||13.8%||.190|
He’s been able to spray the ball to both parts of the field throughout his development thus far. That’s something I like to see, because that means he’ll be less susceptible to shift. The Tampa Bay outfield prospect never batted below .300 and he’s never posted an ISO below .150.
Now, the Rays are famous for slow roasting their prospects. Let’s check in with our resident Rays fan, TDG Editor, and host of the TDG’s Dynasty’s Child podcast, Ian Hudson, on how he feels about Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell (preinjury), Anthony Banda (preinjury), and any other Rays prospects he knows better than me…
“It’s been a long while since I’ve been as excited by the current crop of prospects as I am now. While I think that they may be more willing to promote guys a little earlier nowadays (i.e. Adames, Arroyo, Bauers, and *sniff* Banda), I imagine they will continue the slow roast at the lower levels.” Ian Hudson
The Rays could be slow roasting Jesus Sanchez as well, or there might be something else keeping him at High-A.
Cold Water Poured On Jesus: The Glass is Half Empty
Why hasn’t Jesus Sanchez been promoted yet? Well, I’m guessing his 2.4% walk rate might have something to do with it. Sanchez has posted some decent walk rates thus far in the minors, but he’s never posted anything above 7.5%, and while his strikeout rate has never been alarmingly high he hasn’t posted anything elite either.
In general, when I’m scouting prospects I’m looking for them to shown signs of being elite in at least K% or BB%. If you’ve read either of my pieces on Romancing Deep Dynasty Prospects, you’d notice that I always include walk rate, strikeout rate, and Isolated power. Power is one thing Sanchez has displayed, sort of.
As mentioned earlier, the 20-year old outfielder has posted strong ISOs and HR/FB rates so far in the minors. However, he’s also hit the ball on the ground near 50% of the time. I don’t like that.
What to Do with Jesus?
This is the year to own Jesus Sanchez. He’s putting up a great slash line, showing more power, and climbing up prospect lists. I’d expect the hype to be even higher once top 100 prospect lists come out in the offseason. This, for me, means that Jesus Sanchez is worth acquiring right now.
The thing about owners and their players is that they tend to inflate their value. Thus, acquiring him straight-up for the proper price might be difficult to do. I would suggest that he be a piece of a larger trade. This way the focus is not on his value, and you have acquired an asset that will appreciate, with a plan to sell it. Unless, of course, you see improvement in his ratio stats.
Patrick’s Artist Selection
Daniel Robertson, Age: 24, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, P*
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
In the interest of full disclosure, I had the hitter spot blank in our planning document for about 5 months. I had no idea who I was going to choose, and then thanks to our Dear Editor, Ian, who pumped Robertson on a bunch of Dynasty’s Child episodes I finally had my guy.
Just kidding he’s benched now. Oop, he’s starting. Wait, now he’s at second. No, short. Now benched. Wait, third. Wait, Pitcher? You know what? I’m just going to talk about Wilson Ramos because his nickname is The Buffalo and he’s raking. Plus, if you’ve been listening to Dynasty’s Child, you know I love catchers.
*Ed Note- these are all the positions at which he’s made an appearance this season. Also he’s 128 wRC+ this season. Go grab him!
Wilson Ramos, Age: 30, C
Analysis by: Keaton O. DeRocher
More like Killson Ramos amirite?! ‘Cuz he’s killing it, get it?
I wrote about Ramos last week in my 2018 First Half All-Exceeding Expectations piece and he’s certainly doing that for an offense that currently ranks 24th in baseball in runs scored. In the way of catchers, Ramos has been spectacularly reliable over the course of his career. Routinely putting up double-digit homers and a serviceable average, Ramos peaked in his FA year by hitting 22 homers, 80 RBI and slashing .307/.354/.496. Ramos’ 2017 season was shortened due to injury; only able to power through 64 games, his numbers were modest but it was unclear if Ramos had hit his stride or had broken out in 2016 for a contract.
This season, Ramos has ramped it up a notch by posting another impressive slash-line of .292/.338/.465 with 11 homers, hitting in the heart of Rays lineup through 65 games so far. Ramos is currently on pace for career highs just about across the board and is currently third in homers for catchers across the league. What’s more impressive is that Ramos has been able to hit for average and power with an almost microscopic 5.7-degree launch angle. He’s been able to overcome the lack of balls in the air by hammering the crap of the ball to the tune of a 90 MPH exit velocity. His trends of barrels this season are also on pace for the best % of his career, showing he’s squaring the ball up at an outstanding rate.
Although extrapolating data is lazy and largely inaccurate in baseball, I’m going to do it anyway. If Ramos had been healthy for a full season last year he would have had another 22-homer season. That would have made this season his third straight year of 22+ homers, and having a catcher hit for both power and average is an incredibly rare asset. As my good friend Patrick so eloquently explained in the Arizona Triple Play, we tend to write off players in dynasty once they hit 30. However, given Ramos’ skillset and the lack of depth at the catcher position that may never get better, I’d feel very comfortable investing in him over the next three seasons.
Keaton’s Artist Selection:
[Ed Note- Also check out, y’know, TOM PETTY. Not to mention Jim Morrison (and hence The Doors), Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marylyn Manson, T-Pain, Less Than Jake, New Found Glory, etc. These clowns writing here. – Ian, Florida boy]
Follow us on Twitter for baseball, jokes, Keaton’s trolling, and other very cool opinions!
Join The Dynasty Guru Facebook group!
Tons of posts, debates, and many replies from writers here at TDG!
If you love what we do here and want to help us keep making it, or if you want downloadable access to a whole ton of content, you can donate a minimum of $5 to receive exclusive downloadable access to the entirety of our ultra-deep dynasty rankings. That includes Bret Sayre’s Top 500 for standard leagues, Tom Trudeau’s Top 500 for OBP leagues, Jesse Roche’s Top 200 prospects, and our entire rankings series in downloadable form. For more information click here.
Previously Covered Teams
|NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|