Coming off of an unimpressive series sweep to the hands of the Atlanta Braves, the Miami Marlins will play their in-state rival, the Tampa Bay Rays next, for a four-game series. The first two games will be played in Miami and the last two in Tampa. To help preview the series we reached out friend of Marlins Maniac, Robbie Knopf for a quick chat on what to expect in the series.
Robbie is the editor of the Fansided Rays sites, Rays Colored Glasses. RCD does a phenomenal job of covering everything Rays related, from covering their star pitcher David Price down to their minor league system.
Here is the conversation I had with Robbie:
MM: With the Rays struggling thus for in 2014, did the team make a mistake bringing back David Price? How likely is it that he is dealt at the deadline?
Knopf: The easy answer is that hindsight is 20-20 and the Rays clearly made a mistake. However, there are more factors than that to consider. We know that the Rays were fully prepared to trade Price but never received the type of offer they were looking for. A major reason for that was Price’s “triceps” injury last season and decreased velocity once he returned. This season, especially in his last few starts, Price’s velocity has come back and there have been no real injury reasons. The Rays certainly wish that he was performing better, but if he pitches to expectations for the next two months, he could be as tantalizing to acquire as before. The difference between two years of a potential injury risk and a year and a half of a pitcher who looks like a surer bet is not so large. The Rays took a perfectly reasonable risk–they had to think their team would be better than this–and it won’t cost them much in the long-term.
MM: If the Rays do become sellers, who else could be on the chopping block for the Rays?
Knopf: Aside from Price, two names to watch are Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce. Both have two years left of team control, and especially Joyce is redundant on the roster. He has his moments, but having both him and DeJesus who can play only against left-handed pitching severely limits what they can do. Moving him would also make room for Brandon Guyer and/or Kevin Kiermaier to get more time.
For Zobrist, meanwhile, he isn’t the player that he was a few years ago, but he still remains talented on both sides of the ball and has the ability to help a team. The Rays can’t enough of him and it will be very tough to deal him, but if a team makes them an offer they can’t refuse, a trade will fall into place.
MM: Which Ray has been the biggest surprise in 2014? Which one has been the biggest disappointment?
Knopf: The biggest surprise for the Rays this season has been a revolving door all season, and right now there is no good answer. Ryan Hanigan got off to an awesome start, but then started slumping and got hurt. Brandon Guyer took advantage of Ben Zobrist’s absence to excel in more extended time, but he also got hurt. Even Juan Carlos Oviedo was looking as good as ever and then fell apart in his last few outings. I guess at this point, the answer has to be Kevin Kiermaier, who has looked very good defensively and drilled a pair of home runs after coming into the year as an unknown quantity.
MM: So the Sox and Rays are engaged in a “full-blown war?” What’s up with that?
Knopf: The Rays and Red Sox have had bad blood since the 2008 ALCS, and there have several instances that have reinvigorated that. Bottom line, they’re division rivals who have now played twice in the postseason and have players who can occasionally let their emotions get the best of them. Stuff happens.
MM: With the MLB draft coming up this week, who are the Rays targeting this time around? Is pitching going to take priority over hitting?
Knopf: The Rays are pretty open in regards to who they will take. There is a lot of pitching in the draft, and they would be interested in a guy like Tyler Bedde if he slips to them. At the same time, a college hitter could be tantalizing if the right one falls, or they could even draft another high school position player. The Rays will likely take a pitcher because of the way the draft crop is this year, but they certainly aren’t married to it if the right player falls to them.
MM: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
Alex Cobb: good sinker, dominant changeup, and a curveball that gets better and better. You can get him when he uses the curveball too much or leaves his sinker up in the zone, but overall, he’s an excellent pitcher.
Chris Archer: Two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, but he gets harder than he should because that’s really all he has. He throws a changeup that he doesn’t yet trust, and that’s a major issue. If his command is good, he can make up for it, but if not, he will be in trouble.
David Price: His fastball is reaching the mid-90′s more often, and he is lighting up the zone with it. He throws a cutter that has its moments against right-handed batters, and he is throwing his changeup and curveball a little more than before. His issue lately has been throwing too many pitches in the zone, especially with two strikes, and the key for him will be to change that up and get the Marlins to expand their zones more often.
Jake Odorizzi: He had a blister issue in his last start that prevented him from throwing his curveball. At his best, though, he has a fastball with good movement, a split-change that can be a plus pitch, to go along with that good curveball. The second time through the lineup has given him problems at times, but he can avoid that if he has all his pitches working and changes up his approach as games progress.
MM: Any bold predictions for the upcoming series?
Knopf: It has been nuts how much Evan Longoria has been struggling. This is the series where he finally gets going.
There you have it. We want to thank Robbie for giving us such great insight into the Rays, and remember to check out Rays Colored Glasses for all the latest Rays’ news and notes. Hopefully the Marlins can turn things around and get back over .500 after this 4-game series.