2011 MLB Playoffs: How the Rays Were Built
Win, lose, or draw, the Tampa Bay Rays are playing on house money. They weren't supposed to be in the playoffs from the get go and they have the lowest payroll of all the teams in the playoffs. 2012 or beyond was supposed to be their time.
They have a number of talented young players in their system and a number of talented players already on the team. They made history when they had a five-man rotation without a 30-year-old. That should continue next year with the development of Matt Moore.
Here is a look at the important players currently in the ALDS. We will look at what their role was in 2011 and what they have done in the ALDS. Finally, we will look at how they acquired. In one of those SAT kind of questions, see if you can decipher a pattern.
2011 Role: Down on the farm
ALDS Role: Right now, his seven shut-out innings are the one thing standing in between the Rays and vacation.
How acquired: 2007 Draft (8th Round)
Matt Moore wasn't supposed to be such a huge factor. The Rays honestly hoped he would be able to help them out of the pen down the stretch. He made a huge start against the Yankees in September and then that epic effort in Arlington. If the series goes to five games it could all be riding on his shoulders.
2011 Role: Jennings was called up in July to play left field and his offense was a shot in the arm for a struggling team.
ALDS Role: Jennings had two home runs and all three RBIs in Game 3.
How Acquired: 2006 Draft (10th Round)
He doesn't fit the mold of most of these guys because it took him a bit longer to make it to Tampa. Yet, when he did he immediately went to work. Most pundits thought they would deal B.J. Upton to make room for him, but they kept Upton and used Jennings in left instead.
2011 Role: Longoria got off to a horrible start, but his second half is on the short list of reasons for the team's resurgence.
ALDS Role: Okay, he is only hitting .250 in the first three games. See where they would be without his heroics in game 162.
How Acquired: 2007 Draft (1st round)
If the Rays should somehow advance to the World Series and win it, Longoria will be deified in Tampa Bay. His final three months and the final game were the stuff that legends were made of. In a lesser season he might have gotten MVP votes.
2011 Role: Rays No. 3 starter
ALDS Role: Surrendered three earned runs in six and a third innings in Game 3
How Acquired: 2008 Draft (1st Round)
Price came into the season penciled in as the team's ace, but ended up as the third starter. His pitching line looks worse than it was for Game 3. He got into trouble in the seventh inning and the bullpen let him down.
2011 Role: He took over as the staff ace and led the American League in complete games.
ALDS Role: He struggled in Game 2 and ended up taking the loss.
How Acquired: 2000 Draft (16th Round)
Shields is the one guy here from a bygone era. He made his debut in 2006 and is approaching his 30th birthday. Coincidentally, there are considerable rumors that he will be dealt in the offseason to keep costs down. Go figure.
2011 Role: Took over right field on a full-time basis after Manny Ramirez retired.
ALDS Role: His three-run home run kept the Rays in it in Game 2.
How Acquired: Traded to the Rays in exchange for Edwin Jackson
I might call the trade a draw except Jackson has put a ton of stickers on his suitcase since that deal. Joyce was always a fourth outfielder, but took over right field when Manny Ramirez got busted upping the estrogen again. He isn't a star, but the kind of player every winning team needs.
2011 Role: They call him the second baseman, but he has played a lot of right field as well.
ALDS Role: Hitting .222 in only nine plate appearances.
How Acquired: Traded to the Rays in exchange for Aubrey Huff
This is where the Andrew Friedman mystique began. Friedman dealt a mediocre veteran for Zobrist and pitcher Mitch Talbot. Zobrist had not done much in the minors, but burst on the scene in 2009. He has arguably been among the 10 best position players in the American League.
2011 Role: Hellickson elevated himself to the second spot in the rotation with a very solid season.
ALDS Role: Hellickson is the presumed starter for Game 4. The season rests on his shoulders.
How Acquired: 2005 Draft (4th Round)
It's hard to imagine the whole season riding on one player's shoulders, but the Rays desperately need a good outing of of Hellickson. He had a 2.95 for the season, but was actually better down the stretch with a 2-0 record and 2.67 ERA in the final month.
2011 Role: Regular centerfielder
ALDS Role: Upton is hitting .500 during this postseason and has a .920 OPS in 103 plate appearances in the postseason.
How Acquired: 2002 Draft (1st Round)
It's funny, but I think Rays fans are finally at peace with B.J. Upton now that he has one foot out the door. There are all kinds of rumors that he will be traded in the offseason. Upton has never hit for average, but he combines impressive power, patience and speed to be a good player anyway.
2011 Role: Davis entered the season as the fourth starter and finished in that role despite having the highest ERA among the starters.
ALDS Role: David closed out the shutout in game one and has a 3.00 ERA against the Rangers in postseason play the last two seasons.
How Acquired: 2004 Draft (3rd Round)
Davis is signed through 2014 and the Rays are counting on him to be a key member of the pitching staff moving forward. 2011 was a bit of a struggle, but he is still young and can bounce back.