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Tampa Bay Rays season predictions- will they improve.. or slide further down than last year?

After going through a injury-plagued season last year which saw the Rays end up in last place in the American league east  with a record of 68-94. This year they are looking to turn things around in hopes of potentially either winning the division, or the wildcard depending on if they can beat out the foes in their division. Question is, can they be the surprise team and pull off the surprise upset? or will they be the same injury-plagued team from last year?

Pitching: 

The Rays have some of the best pitching in all of the majors. Led by Chris Archer who most believe is the ace for the Rays. If Archer has the season that he had back in 2015 for which he had a 3.23 era and was an all star pitcher. He could very well help bring the Rays rotation to great heights again. However, besides Archer; there are other great pitchers in the Rays rotation such as Alex Cobb, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2015; He could very well be the Alex Cobb of season’s past if having Tommy John surgery didn’t affect him too much.  Then you have Blake Snell, who showed signs of promise last season when he was called up from Triple A Durham. Newcomer Jose De Leon is a highly regarded Of course, there’s also Jake Odorizzi who’s a good third-fourth starter in the rotation, and Matt Andrise, who’s a good spot starter/fifth starter if needed. There’s a lot of questions as to whether or not this rotation is the best rotation in baseball. If the Rays can stay away from the injury bug in the starting rotation; then the pitching will be stellar as it has been. If not, they are looking at another year or doom.

Offense:

Losing Loyan Forstyhe in the off-season was a huge bummer because he was one of the Rays’s best offensive players. However, if Longoria can keep up with the production he had last year where he hit .273 with 36 HR’s and 98 RBI’s, and other players step up such as Kevin Kiermaier, Brad Miller, Steven Souza etc. The Rays could actually have decent offensive production. It also helps that Derek Shelton was fired, and Chad Mottola took over as hitting coach. The Rays are known for their sluggish offense, but if every player has a career year offense wise. The Rays could be one of the top teams in the AL.

Defense:

While Kevin Kiermaier isn’t great on offense, he’s certainly great on defense as he has won the Golden Glove award the last two seasons for the Rays. The Rays slipped up on defense last year (because of all of the injuries) having 94 errors in total last year, with Brad Miller having 19 errors, which was the most on the team last year. The Rays certainly can, and will improve on defense this year. Especially since most of the players who were injured last year are back.

Bullpen:

This is the biggest question mark for the Rays this year. Actually, this has been the biggest question on the Rays in the last four year. The bullpen has been the biggest question at times, and will probably continue to do so throughout the season. Although Alex Colome was a bright-spot last year, besides being the only All-Star selection, he posted a 1.91 era coming out the bullpen last year. While he may be the set up man/ closer. One person to really watch out for is Brad Boxberger. Boxberger was a All- Star selection for the Rays in 2015, but ever since then he’s hit a slippery slope posting a 4.81 era as a closer with 0 saves last year, compared to having 41 saves in 2015. The main question is, can he go back to the Boxberger of 2015, or is this who he really is?

Prediction:

82-80 4th place AL East

Personally, this team has a lot of pieces that could help the team perform better than last year. Are they a playoff team? No. Longoria struggles when he has to carry the offense himself, as proven in the past. Starting pitching will be outstanding as usual, but the bullpen (minus Colome) will be the downfall of this team. Kevin Cash’s seat will still be warm, as questions will pile up on whether or not he can manage a major league team. However, they should make things interesting towards the end of the year, and potentially be a spoiler team for teams like the Red Sox, and the Blue Jays.

 

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