Do the Rays Have the Best Pitching in Baseball: 2012 Tampa Rays Team Report

Much has been made of all the pitchers the New York Yankees have signed this offseason but the Tampa Bay Rays are coming into the 2012 season with a top-shelf rotation of their own. The Rays will have two legitimate aces, last year’s rookie of the year, and a top rookie prospect toeing the rubber in 2012.

James Shields: The 30 year old hurler is coming off a career season. In 2011 Shields went 16-12 and accomplished that with a 2.82 ERA which is the best record in his six years of major league ball. The Rays exercised a club option on his contract last October. The club will have to dish out $7.5 million for Shields’ services in 2012 but compare that to other ace pitchers in the league and you’ve got a pretty good bargain.

David Price: Although Shields is the perennial ace of the staff Price is the young pup nipping at his heels. Price didn’t have as good of a 2011 campaign as Shields but his career ERA is 3.38 compared to Shields’ career ERA of 3.96. Price is a big southpaw to compliment the mostly right handed pitchers in the rotation. It is an absolute nightmare for opposing hitters and managers alike to face Shields and Price back to back in consecutive days.

Jeremy Hellickson: 2011 was a great year for this kid as he managed to chalk up 13 wins and a 2.95 ERA during his first year in the show. By the way, he won AL Rookie of the Year as well. Now the million dollar question is can he repeat the performance or will he fall into a sophomore slump. Last year was technically Hellickson’s rookie year but this kid is no flash in the pan. He was drafted by the Rays in the fourth round in 2005. During his six year hitch in the minors Hellickson delivered consistent numbers and has never had more losses than wins.

Wade Davis: This is another young gun on the staff. Davis is not as dominant as the top of the rotation but in the last three years he’s show that he has the tools to do the job. In his two full seasons at the big league level he has managed to come away with more wins than losses and a serviceable career ERA of 4.22. It seems that the Rays believe in Davis’ potential. Last march the club locked him up and signed him to a deal that could go as far as seven years with $12.6 million guaranteed.

Jeff Niemann: This guy can intimidate batters before he even throws a pitch. AT 6-9 and 285 pounds this guy is a monster on the mound. Niemann was drafted in the first round (fourth overall) by the rays in 2004. Like Davis he tends to win more games than he loses. His career ERA with the Rays is 4.16 but that includes a dismal 5.06 ERA in 2008.

Matt Moore: I bet you didn’t think the Rays had a left handed pitcher. Moore may be at the bottom at the rotation but he’s on the top of Joe Madden’s radar. Moore is the wild card of the bunch. He is only 22 years old and has only pitched three games in the majors going into the 2012 season. Moore had a 2.89 ERA in three games with the Rays last year. Not bad but that’s nothing compared to what he did in the minors. Moore has led minor league ball in strikeouts for two consecutive seasons. In the past two years he has averaged an amazing 12.9 strikeouts per game. In 2011 with the Durham Bulls, Moore had 1.37 ERA. In 2010 with the Montgomery Biscuits Moore put up a 2.20 ERA. Keep an eye out for this kid, he may end up being the new face of the franchise.

There was speculation in the offseason that the Rays actually had too many good pitchers and not enough cash to go around. Several trade scenarios had been proposed by the press but General Manager Andrew Friedman didn’t budge. In the end the team will be rewarded with one of the hottest rotations in baseball.

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