To lead you into the MLB season Stoop Sports’ MLB staff is embarking on a 30 day journey, where we will give you pre-season profiles of all thirty teams. Each writer was given the artistic liberty to format their previews to their liking. Enjoy, and happy spring training!
The Tampa Bay Rays made one of the biggest splashes of the offseason in acquiring highly touted power-hitting outfield prospect Wil Myers from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for staff horse James Shields. Also involved in the deal coming from Kansas City were pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery, in addition to Patrick Leonard, a 20-year old 6’4” righty who has yet to see minor league action. Tampa Bay sent Wade Davis, a 27-year old bullpen arm with several years of control to sweeten the pot.
The Rays have prided themselves over the last five years in fielding a competitive, young product without spending big money on free agents or trading for bloated contracts. It is a wonder how with so much young talent rising up through the Tampa farm system to the major leagues their prospect pool remains deep and fully stocked with high upside players. The Wil Myers trade only further cemented Tampa GM Andrew Friedman’s plan and vision for the present and future of the Rays’ on-field product.
In 2012, the Rays won 90 games, finishing 3rd in the AL East, 5 games out of first place, and 3 games out of the Wild Card.
The team benefitted heavily from strong play by outfielder BJ Upton who recently signed with the Atlanta Braves for 5 years/$75 million, in addition to a stellar rotation led by AL Cy Young winner David Price, James Shields, 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, and young lefty fireballer Matt Moore. The Rays also saw a historically great season from team closer Fernando Rodney, who posted a record-low ERA of 0.60. Star third baseman Evan Longoria saw extended time on the disabled list, and only played in 74 games for the team, however, in that short period he contributed 17 home runs and 55 RBIs with a .289 batting average; a notable improvement from his 2011 season when he hit .244.
The Tampa Bay Rays, while strong in the pitching department and brimming with young positional depth, lost several key contributors in the offseason to free agency. BJ Upton hit 28 home runs and knocked in 71 runs, in addition to 31 stolen bases. Replacing a WAR of 3.3 is not an easy task, but the Rays are hoping young stud Wil Myers will be the outfield power bat the team desperately needs. Another big contributor the Rays lost was infielder Jeff Keppinger. With a .806 OPS and the ability to play all around the diamond, the Rays will likely look to promising young infielders such as Hak-Ju Lee, or former 1st overall pick Tim Beckham to pick up the slack.
The Rays are still one of the most dangerous teams in the American League, and with a rotation and farm system bursting from the seams with talent, they are sure to be a contender for quite some time. Though they lost a good deal of production in the outfield via BJ Upton leaving for “greener” pastures, they have confidence that Wil Myers will eventually step in and provide both on-field and off-the-field production as one of the young faces of the franchise. The fact remains however, that they will need to compete with several hitting powerhouses in the Yankees, shiny new look Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles (who quietly boasted the 2nd most longballs in the League as a team in 2012), and even the Red Sox. But, as the old adage says, good pitching beats good hitting, and the Rays certainly have plenty of that.
Prediction: 88-74 (3rd in AL East)