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ALDS Preview: Rays vs Yankees

Written by: Jake Tillinghast
Follow him on Twitter: @JTillinghast27
Follow Prospects Worldwide on Twitter: @ProspectsWorldW


Tampa Bay Rays vs New York Yankees

Things To Know:

– Neither team will be playing in their home parks. Games will be played at a neutral site in San Diego, at Petco Park.
– Series is set to begin October 5th. Allowing each team to rest up their Top Starting Pitchers and be ready for Game 1 & 2.
– No off days during the series. So starting pitching depth, as well as Bullpen depth are going to be incredibly valuable in this series.
– This is the 1st ever playoff meeting between the 2 teams.
Rays took the season series very convincingly 8-2 with a combined score of (47-34).
– BAD BLOOD!! Things got heated in the final regular-season series between these 2. Chapman unleashed a 101 MPH Fastball at the head of Michael Brosseau and the benches cleared. Rays manager Kevin Cash was pretty ticked off in the post-game presser saying he had a full stable full of guys capable of throwing 98.
– “The Stable” vs “The Savage in the Box”

Expected Starting Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: Blake Snell (TB) vs Gerrit Cole (NYY) – Monday October 5th
Game 2: Tyler Glasnow (TB) vs Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) – Tuesday October 6th
Game 3: Charlie Morton (TB) vs J.A Happ (NYY) – Wednesday October 7th
Game 4: Ryan Yarbrough (TB) vs Deivi Garcia (NYY) (If Necessary)- Thursday October 8th
Game 5: Bullpen Game vs Gerrit Cole or Bullpen Game (If Necessary) – Friday October 9th

** Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said Rookie and No. 2 Prospect RHP Deivi Garcia will not be used as a reliever in the series, because he will be used as a Starting Pitcher. A Game 4 start I would assume, with Gerrit Cole likely asking for the ball in a Game 5. Working on 3 days rest. Even if Cole doesn’t go in Game 5, I doubt they trust a Rookie making his Postseason debut in a moment like that. Big pressure on a young kid.
** The Rays will need to work the magic here this series as I mentioned, Snell has been limited throughout the season and I seriously doubt they would risk his health and use him on short rest to start this game. Maybe 1 inning out of the bullpen at most. We very likely see a “Bullpen” Game for the Rays, or they could turn to Rookie LHP Josh Fleming in an “Opener Role” At most getting 1 turn through the rotation, likely not going deeper than 2 innings with the arms the Rays have available.


TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Rays made quick work of the young Toronto Blue Jays sweeping them 2-0 in the 2 game series getting strong starts from Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, per usual. And a great job by their bullpen over the 2 games giving up just 1 run in 6.1 innings of work. And walking 0. Making life tough on the young Blue Jays lineup, and ultimately being to much for them.

The have 5 days off until the start of the next series, and should set up their rotation perfectly.

Snell has been limited throughout the season with his pitch count, and likely will have some type of limit again. But should be able to go 85+ pitches in this outing as he went 82 in his start against the Jays. Before handing it off to one of the league’s best bullpens.

The Rays may be getting Austin Meadows back in the lineup, and that could prove crucial as they may need all the offense they can scrap together against a powerful offense such as the Yankees, especially if this series gets into Game 4 or 5 when the Rays are expected to toss out Ryan Yarbrough in Game 4 and Game 5 either Josh Fleming or rely on “The Stable” to get them to the ALCS.

On paper, the Rays are virtually no match for the star-studded Yankees. But just because you don’t know their names, doesn’t mean they aren’t just as talented as their opponents and can make just as much impact.

I mentioned Meadows, and they also have a stud in Brandon Lowe who was as hot as any hitter over the first month of the season and turned in a strong 2020. Randy Arozarena who I’ll touch on later, Nate Lowe breaking out before the Rays eyes with his new approach at the plate. Willy Adames in the midst of a career year offensively, and getting contributions in key spots from so many others.

1-9 this lineup may not stand out as a big threat and look pretty overmatched by those big and scary Bronx Bombers. But these Rays can be just as potent with their everyday guys and also the ability to find the right matchups and seemingly having the pieces needed to attack this Yankees pitching staff.

Rays Things to know:
– Led the league with 608 Strikeouts offensively
– 2nd worst xBA in the entire MLB. (.228; Tied with Oakland Athletics. Rangers were last with a .226)
– It’s possible we see one of the Rays Top Prospects in LHP Shane McLanahan make his MLB Debut in the Postseason for the Rays as a Power Left Hander out of the pen, with an ability to touch triple digits and give the Yankees an arm really no one on the roster has seen before, barring a Spring Training matchup.
– Ji-Man Choi owns Gerrit Cole……?


NEW YORK YANKEES

The Yankees had a tough matchup in the AL Wild Card Round. Taking on the soon to be named AL CY Young Winner Shane Bieber in Game 1. Turned out to be an easy task for the Yankees dominate lineup as they took advantage of Biebers command issues and jumped on him early. I covered that start here if you want to take a deeper look into it.

Gerrit Cole faced the Rays 2 times in the regular season. 1st start on 8/8 he lasted just 4.2 Innings on 107 pitches. 6 Hits allowed, 3 ER while striking out 10 and walking just 1. His 2nd start on 8/19, he went 6.2 Innings on 109 pitches. 6 Hits allowed, 2 ER and again, struck out 10 and walked just 1. Cole matched up with Tyler Glasnow in both of these games, and the teams split them 1-1. The postseason is built for the Aces.

And that’s exactly why the Yankees went out and brought him to the Bronx. To take commanding series leads, and finish the job, leaving the opposition searching for answers in ways to stop their high powered offense, as well as attack one of the games best, in Cole.

The Yankees will likely have more issues then the Rays with their bullpen in this series with no days off, they simply just are not as deep as the Rays. By no means are they some push over bullpen. From the likes of Zach Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green being the focal points of that bullpen. And they are trying to count on Jonathan Loaisiga or as the Yankee fans call him “Johnny Lasagna” more frequently as the bullpen shrinks, and will be asked to provide clutch innings at some point this series. This is the Rays best chance to attack a young kid (25) who hasn’t really been asked to pitch significant Playoff innings in his career.

A key part of the Yankees pen since joining the Yankees, Adam Ottavino has been well…… not good. So much so, that Manager Aaron Boone has virtually phased him out of the bullpen rotation to this point in any significant situation. He may be asked to pitch in a low leverage situation early in the series to see if he will be an option later down the road to gain some confidence.

Speaking of gaining confidence, the Yankees bats made a loud entrance into the Postseason against that tough Indians staff, and if they keep that rolling into the ALDS, the Rays may be in for some trouble as they simply may not have the firepower offensively to keep up.

Yankees Things to Know:
– Voit HR 22 in the 2020 regular season leading the entire league.
– Yankees beat the Rays in virtually every offensive category in 2020 with the exception of wOBAcon which the Rays only led .390 to .378. The Yankees on paper are clearly the more lethal offense, but on paper gets you nothing.
Deivi Garcia will likely get that Game 4 start as I mentioned. Clearly will be his Postseason Debut. As he hopes to follow in the footsteps of our rookie RHP, the Braves Ian Anderson and Marlins Sixto Sanchez with dominant starts. Deivi hasn’t been as effective as them, and likely won’t have as much success against the Rays in the postseason. I would expect this Game 4 to be the high scoring game of the series with both these offenses knowing this is their best chance to put up big scoring totals.
– If you haven’t seen much of the teams #2 Prospect RHP Deivi Garcia (click the link to check a scouting report on him) and some video from earlier this season.


Series X-Factors

Rays: OF Randy Arozarena

Before September, Arozarena has 5 AB for the Rays this season. In September, he got 59 ABs. Here were his stats in that final month of September leading into the Postseason.

ABRHHRRBISBAVGOBPSLGOPS
5914177113.288.377.6781.055
***Stats from start September through end of season***

And if you want to count those 5 extra ABs prior to September, he posted a 90.3 MPH Avg Exit Velocity, 14% Barrel rate, 32.8% Sweet Spot, .416 wOBA, .447 xwOBAcon, 44.7% Hard Hit Rate on the season. Some unsustainability in there perhaps, but nonetheless shows off the potential he possesses on the offensive end. And remember he has that Elite speed to go with it.

Pretty good for a rookie with 28 ABs prior in his career to that point. Arozarena has been playing virtually every day and mostly been entrenched in the 2/3 spot of the Rays lineup in the midst of a playoff run.

A hot September carried into the AL Wild Card Series vs the Blue Jays that saw Arozarena go 4-8 with 1 BB and just 1 Strikeout. As well as 2 Doubles and 1 Triple. Scoring 3 runs in those 2 games.

In his short 2020 season (and small sample sizes) he improved significantly on his Hard hit rates and Barrel% to go with his elite speed (96 Percentile per Baseball Savant).

Yankees: SS Gleyber Torres

2020 wasn’t kind to Gleyber after a strong 2019 season. Saw virtually all his numbers regress, as you will see below. And these are just a few. He also hit just 3 HR in 136 AB after hitting 38 HR in 604 AB in 2019.

SeasonxBAxSLGwOBAxwOBAconBarrel%
2019.262.501.359.34710.1%
2020.239.374.321.3183.7%

Some of this can be tossed up as a short season, lots of variables in this strange season so a down 1/3 of a regular season isn’t the end of the world. But does bring up some concerns about why he didn’t perform to what most were expecting this season. If he can find some more barrels as he shows in 2018 (9.2%) and 2019 (10.1%. As we see above it dropped to a dreadful 3.7% in 2020, however, the underlying stats show there could be some bounce back next season for Gleyber in 2021, and this might just be a 60 game sample size that we should look past.

The K% dropped a good bit at the same time he saw his BB rates rise to a strong 13.8% as well as the Chase %. All showing his discipline at the plate has improved at his young age (23) If you forgot Joe Buck will remind you soon of that.

SeasonK%BB%Chase%
201921.4%7.9%31.3%
202017.5%13.8%20.2%

2018 was Gleyber’s 1st Postseason action. The Yankees lost in the ALDS to the Redsox in 5 Games and even though he found his hits, wasn’t a major factor in the series. But the tables turned in 2019. The Postseason was Gleyber Time.

SeasonABH2BHRRBIBBSOAVGOBPSLG
201816400023.250.333.250
20193712531036.324.3751.078
2020 (In Progress)7501330.714.8001.943
Career6021541389.350.4261.060

After his 1st taste of the Postseason, Gleyber seems to found himself at home and comfortable under the bright lights and has come up big over the past 2 years for the Yankees, finding at least 1 Hit in every single 2019 Postseason game except for 1. And coming out with a bang in 2020 in the at series against the Indians that saw him go a perfect 4-4 in the opener with a 2 run HR. The Postseason brings out the best in Gleyber, and maybe that is just what he needed to get back on track in 2020.


Something To Watch

The Rays (1st; 31.1%) and Yankees (3rd; 30.3%) pitching staff both have been great at making hitters chase out of the zone. But the Yankees Offense had the lowest Chase% in baseball at just 23.2%, Rays came in 9th with 25.6%.
The Yankees led the league offensively with 246 BBs. The Rays came in 4th with 234 BBs offensively. But both of these pitching staffs were extremely good in terms of limited BBs. Yankees 163 BBs, Rays 164 BBs ranking 4th and 5th respectively.

Something has to give here, hitters will need to get aggressive and not be looking to string hits and walks together. Doing damage early in the counts, hunting Fastballs before having the face some of the nasty secondaries these pitchers in the series have to offer. And let’s be honest, some of these guys have some of the best Fastballs in the game to pair with those secondaries.

Speaking of attacking early in the count, The Rays were 4th in the league in 1st Pitch Swing% at 62.3%, and remember, they also ere 4th in BBs. That tells me they were attacking pitches they could do damage on early in counts, knowing that likely is the best pitch they are going to get. And after that, getting a bit more selective in their approach.

The Yankees on the other hand were 6th lowest in 1st Pitch Swing% at 60.4%, and very well could have led to their struggles in the regular season, and will likely see similar results if they allow the Rays to get ahead early.


Series Prediction

This series is going to be good. So so good. Feels every bit like a 5 game series in the making with these teams having so much familiarity with one another. On top of the talent, each can throw out on both sides of the ball. I do feel the strength of the Rays Bullpen will eventually be the deciding factor in the series, they have so many arms to throw at you and give different looks night after night, where the Yankees really only have a few they can rely on at this time as we touched on above. I see the series going like this.
Game 1 – Yankees. Cole dominates.
Game 2 – Rays. Glasnow and Tanaka pitching duel. Edge Glasnow.
Game 3 – Rays. Facing the lefty will allow some of the Power Rays Righty Bats
Game 4 – Yankees.
Game 5 – Rays. Cole gets the start for NYY, but goes 6 innings due to the 3-day rest, and ultimately the Rays scratch and claw their way to a Game 5 win and move on to the ALCS.

RAYS 3-2


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