Spring training is right around the corner, so it’s as good a time as any to take a look at the 2012 Tampa Bay Rays. This is a talented team from top to bottom, and has as good a chance as any of making the playoffs. Each part in the series will focus on a key player – what they’ve done so far, and what they’re capable of doing in the future.
One of the top left handed starters in the game, David Price is the focus of part 6 of our series previewing the most important players for the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite a surprisingly poor win/loss record (12-13), Price was a fantastic pitcher in 2011, striking out nearly a batter an inning (8.75 K/9), while posting a 3.49 ERA (3.32 FIP) and earning 4.7 WAR. Price is just another example of why win/loss record is meaningless to evaluate pitchers with – despite putting up good numbers across the board, he had a losing record for the Rays.
The former first overall pick has come a long way in a very short amount of time. Price debuted towards the end of the 2008 season, pitching only 14 stellar innings with a 1.94 ERA before being thrown into the playoff roster. Sound familiar? Price’s success during both his September debut and the playoffs may have been one of the reasons the Rays felt comfortable taking a similar approach with Matt Moore in 2011.
Price’s signature moment of the 2008 season was when he bailed the Rays out of a huge jam in game 7 of the ALCS against Boston. With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the 8th, Price was called in to relieve Chad Bradford. With JD Drew at the plate, and the season on the line, Price got a swinging strikeout on a nasty slider. It was a sign of things to come, and only two years later Price would be the best pitcher on one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the game.
David Price voided his rookie contract in order to be arbitration eligible for the first time this season. The Rays agreed to a one year deal worth $4.35 million so that they didn’t have to go to arbitration. Since Price isn’t signed to a long term deal at this point it’s unlikely that the Rays will be able to afford him. So there’s a chance that in a few years the Rays will have to decide whether they are better off trading him a year early, or taking letting him play out his final year only to receive a couple of draft picks as compensation. But that decision won’t come for a few years, so for now the Rays should simply enjoy seeing one of the best southpaw starters in the game take the mound every 5th day.
It’s interesting to note that Price, a former first overall pick back in 2007, is the first member of our series who was drafted in the first round. One of the arguments about the Rays success revolves around the fact that they struggled for a long period of time, which allowed them to build a strong team off of first round picks. However, we can see this isn’t the case, as players like Ben Zobrist, James Shields, Matt Moore, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce were all acquired through trades or late in the draft.
What can we expect from Price this season? His 2011 season was fairly impressive, and he should be able to duplicate those numbers with ease. If he can increase the number of groundballs or continue to improve with his command we could see numbers that approach his 2010 season. However it’s more likely that Price will be a 3.30 or so ERA pitcher, and that’s pretty valuable given that he’s pitching in the AL East. The Rays have a great shot at the playoffs, and their ace David Price will need another strong season in order to give them a fighting chance.
2012 Prediction: 3.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 17-8.