Because I heard so much about Blake Snell during the offseason, I expected him to be in the starting rotation this year. Instead, he began the season at Triple-A Durham. Why isn't he in the rotation? And do you believe he will be in the rotation before the season is over?
-- Andrew S., Tampa
You heard a lot about Snell during the offseason because he had an incredible year in 2015 that saw him excel at the Class A, Double-A and Triple-A levels, and MLBPipeline.com ranks him as the Rays' top prospect. As for why he's not in the rotation right now, the answer is simple: The Rays have five quality arms in Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Matt Moore and Erasmo Ramirez. Right now they are going with a four-man rotation. They will need to expand to a five-man rotation around the middle of May. At that time, I expect Ramirez to rejoin the rotation. However, if the Rays decide they'd rather keep him in the bullpen, I think there's a chance we might see Snell. But even if that did happen, there would be a good chance that the stint would be short-lived since Alex Cobb is expected to return in early August.
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How can you compare Archer to the great Bob Gibson? Next thing you'll be comparing Steven Souza Jr. to Mickey Mantle.
-- Bob G., Tampa
You're obviously talking about the question from my last Inbox when Tom from Tampa wrote about Archer, "Everybody is hailing him as the next Bob Gibson. I'm not convinced he's the be-all, end-all he's portrayed to be." Seems I touched a nerve. I agreed with Tom that Archer certainly is not Gibson, but I compared their numbers at the same age and they were similar. I also pointed out that Archer has a ways to go before he can be close to Gibson, but he has the potential to get there. I'll stand by my comment. As for a Souza-Mantle comparison, I'd never do that. Mantle was a switch-hitter.
I like what I've seen from Corey Dickerson so far. Two things I'm concerned about, though: He swings so hard, I figure he's going to hurt himself at some point during the season. Also, I only remember seeing him play the field once. Does that mean he's not good in the field? What will they do with him during Interleague games?
-- Ken S., Tampa
As for your first question, Dickerson does indeed take a healthy cut at the baseball. I've asked him about that and he said he's always swung hard, so why change something that's always worked for him? As for hurting himself, Dickerson is just 26, so that bodes well for him not getting hurt. Finally, without the designated hitter, he could play left field or he could be used as a pinch-hitter when the Rays play in National League cities. I'm relatively certain he'll be in the field if he's swinging the bat well when those games occur.
From what I've seen of the team thus far, I don't see them making the postseason. Am I jumping the gun or does this team really have what it takes?
-- Frank S., Los Angeles
While I do believe you're jumping the gun, I say this: I'm not sure what they have just yet. The other night Evan Longoria talked about how this year's offensive group is more confident than those of recent years. That should count for something. But everything must come together for this team to reach the postseason. I still believe they have the potential to make the postseason, but I want to see more before I go all in.
I think Xavier Cedeno is our best reliever. With Brad Boxberger out, why don't the Rays take a look at Cedeno closing instead of Alex Colome? Cedeno has light's-out stuff and the right makeup, which plays perfectly for a closer.
-- Ben W., Apollo Beach, Fla.
Prior to the beginning of the season, Rays manager Kevin Cash addressed this idea. While he believes that Cedeno could be the team's closer, he thinks he is more valuable coming into the game in matchup situations. He does get the job done, though, doesn't he?