It’s not long now before pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Certainly the Tampa Bay players and their fans will head to Port Charlotte with the optimism that they can be competitive in what is sure to be a very tough American League East Division. The Rays had a much improved 2017 season, finishing 80-82, good enough for third in the East. That’s a far cry from their 2016 record 68-94 and a last place finish. But even if Tampa Bay makes it over the .500 mark this year, can they contend with the likes of Boston and New York?
There are going to be concerns with the Rays offensive production with Evan Longoria now in a Giants uniform and Logan Morrison likely to sign as a free agent with another team. That’s a loss of 58 home runs and 171 RBIs combined from last season. So who picks it up at the plate? The Rays will have to rely more on Steven Souza (30 HR & 78 RBIs), though he will have to hit better than the .239 clip he had in 2017. More also must be expected of Corey Dickerson (27 HR, 62 RBIs, .282). That’s a pretty good 1-2 punch from the outfield. If Wilson Ramos can rebound from his injury that limited him to 64 games last year, and Denard Span can come through as a table setter, The Rays should do well putting runs on the board. It would also be nice if Mallex Smith can become the table setter the Rays hoped for.
In the end, it’s going to come down to pitching. Alex Colome turned into a reliable closer with 47 saves and a 3.24 ERA last year. Your text to link… Many of the starters, however, saw their ERAs surpass 4.00. Alex Cobb did the best of any starter with 12 wins, but he’s a free agent. It will come down to whether Chris Archer can become a true staff ace, with Jake Odorizzi a solid number two. If that does not happen, look for the big guns of Boston and New York to feast on Rays pitching in 2018.