The Tampa Bay Rays have been towards the bottom of MLB for some time now, but in 2017, the team seemed to turn it around a bit, going 80-82. This seems like a bad record to most, but that is a big increase from 2016, where they were only able to muster a pitiful 68 wins with 94 losses.
The Rays must not have found that 2017 season to be promising, as this offseason, they blew the team up and entered rebuilding mode. This included trading away good players and letting studs leave and find a new team.
These moves include the big one, in which they traded away the face of the franchise, Evan Longoria, for OF Denard Span, INF Christian Arroyo, RHP Stephen Woods and LHP Matt Krook.
Longoria was for sure their best player and moving on from him signaled that they would rather develop a farm system with the additions of Arroyo, Woods, and Krook. But Span is aging, and his role with the team will likely not be too big for too long.
The Rays also traded one of their better players, Stephen Souza, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for LHP Anthony Banda.
Another move that they made was trading one of their top pitchers, Jake Odorizzi, to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Jermaine Palacios. The Rays did not stop there either, as they DFAd Corey Dickerson and then traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHPs Daniel Hudson and Tristan Gray.
The Rays did not take much action in free agency, besides signing outfielder Carlos Gomez, but they did have their fair share of changing up the coaching staff. Tampa Bay moved third base coach Charlie Montoyo to bench coach for the 2018 season. Triple-A pitching coach Kyle Snyder also got promoted to MLB pitching coach. Former Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey left the organization altogether to take a job with the Chicago Cubs.
Although Rays fans do not have much to look forward to in the 2018 season success wise, at least they still have Kevin Kiermaier, who hit .276 with 15 homers last season. With Longoria out of the picture, Kiermeier could now be considered their best player.
The Rays also have Matt Duffy, who is coming off a season in 2017 where he did not play a single game, recovering from an Achilles injury that required surgery. Duffy seems like a promising player, but he has not played since about 2016 so only time will tell how he performs.
Adeiny Hechavarria, who was traded to the Rays in 2017, should have a solid campaign for the Rays in 2018. Last year, Hechavarria boasted a .261 average and is getting adjusted to his new team.
The final big name player for the Rays heading into 2018 is catcher Wilson Ramos. Ramos joined the team before the 2017 season and in his first season with the Rays hit .260 with 11 home runs. Ramos also has decent fielding skills behind the plate and should play well for the Rays.
A Weak Rotation
According to MLB.com the Rays starting rotation consists of four pitchers: Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, and Nathan Eovaldi.
Archer is definitely the best of the bunch. While he is the Rays ace, Archer posted a weak 4.07 ERA in 2017 over 201 innings pitched. Archer will look to improve upon this in 2018 and I have no doubt that he will be more successful in 2018.
Snell is a 25-year-old left-handed pitcher who pitched 129.1 innings and posted a 4.04 ERA. Snell could progress very well in 2018 and be a bright spot for the Rays.
The third pitcher is Jake Faria, who only pitched a little bit at 86.2 innings but nonetheless had a 3.43 ERA.
The final pitcher is former New York Yankees pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi usually has a four ERA and probably will not break that trend in 2018.
Up And Coming Farm System
It seems obvious that with the state of rebuild the Rays have been in that they would have a great farm system. This is true, as their farm system is definitely in the top five of the entire MLB.
This great farm system features RHP Brett Honeywell. Honeywell got rated the 12th best prospect by MLB and has the skills to prove it. Honeywell has a fastball that is in the low to mid 90’s but the late sinking action is what throws batters off. Honeywell also boasts an amazing screwball and a couple other pitches. While Honeywell will have to have Tommy John surgery, he could be a force to be reckoned with in the not-so-distant future.
The next top prospect is shortstop Willy Adames, who is ranked the number 16 prospect in the MLB. Adames was acquired by the Rays in the move that sent David Price away, and in that time he truly has blossomed into something special. Adames is an above average fielder and is no stranger to hitting hard line drives. Although he may not get called up this season, he still will be a stud one day.
The final prospect is Brendan McKay, who is a pitcher and a first baseman in the minors. He has a nice fastball and an average curveball. But he especially excels at the plate with his raw power and smooth swing. McKay is such a good hitter that he could eventually replace what Evan Longoria’s hitting was for the Rays.
The Rays made the move of signing Carlos Gomez this offseason, but I think he will have another average season, as he is aging and his numbers are declining.
Personally, I think one glance at the Rays lineup, rotation, and roster shows that they simply are not a very good team, and I believe that will show in their record.
Expect another bad season in Tampa, but if they keep on progressing those prospects, then they will have something special in the future.
Team Record Prediction: 67- 95
Team Cy Young: Chris Archer
Archer is the team’s best pitcher and, although he had an off year in 2017, I expect him to bounce back and get back to good form in 2018. I think he will have the lowest ERA out of all starters for the Rays, likely somewhere around the 3.15-3.65 range.
Team MVP: Kevin Kiermaier
I’m going to be very clear about this: I think the Rays position player talent is very low, as in almost bottom of the league. But that one bright light that they do have is Kevin Kiermaier. He has been a consistently good hitter and fielder for the Rays, and with lackluster talent around him, I do think he stands out and hits around .270 with about 20 home runs.
(Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)