AL East Notes: Neander, Rays Stadium, Hicks, Jays

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times takes an interesting look at how Erik Neander came to land atop the Rays’ baseball operations department. Neander took an unusual path to his current position, with data providing his hook into the Tampa Bay baseball operations department — but only after a lot of hustle. At MLBTR, we often field emails and chat questions about how to break into the business; perhaps this article serves as something of a guide for what kind of effort it might take, even if you do have ability to go with the passion.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • While Neander will do all he can to squeeze value out of limited payroll resources, the Rays’ ongoing stadium efforts remain critical to the organization’s long-term viability. On the heels of recent news that the club has settled on a preferred site, Topkin and others at the TB Times have compiled a comprehensive look at the current state of play surrounding the proposed site in Tampa Bay’s Ybor City. Those with interest in the subject will need to read the full post for its many details; suffice to say that a variety of challenges still lay ahead to convert this idea into reality.
  • Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks says he’s coming to camp with sights set on winning a starting job in center, as Bryan Hoch of reports. The 28-year-old unquestionably impressed in 2017, with a surprising .266/.372/.475 batting line and 15 home runs. Of course, that’s the first time the switch-hitter has posted above-average offensive production and he has still yet to top four hundred plate appearances (due to performance issues and, more recently, injuries) in a given season. Plus, the Yankees have to consider Jacoby Ellsbury, who isn’t likely to find time playing in the corners with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on hand along with Brett Gardner. It’s certainly still possible that the Yanks will clarify the roster logjam before the start of the season. If not, though, it seems reasonable to anticipate that Ellsbury will at least take a fair amount of time against right-handed pitchers. (While Ellsbury has long thrived against righties, Hicks has traditionally been better against southpaws.)
  • John Lott of The Athletic examines the seven recent PED suspensions doled out to Blue Jays Latin American farmhands in a subscription-only post. Of course, there are lots of difficult issues surrounding this subject, due in large part to the difficult incentive system facing these young players. In the case of the Toronto prospects, they were caught using the kinds of unsophisticated substances that MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem says are easy to detect. Of course, this isn’t a problem facing only the Blue Jays. The Latin American signing and development system, which typically involves so-called buscones and very youthful players, has long been riddled with problems.

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