Is a playoff appearance in the cards for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017? Perhaps a return to the World Series?
In all likelihood, the answer to both questions is no. The American League East looks to remain one of baseball’s toughest divisions with Boston, Toronto, and Baltimore expected to battle for the title. But even without a trip to the post-season, there are reasons for Rays fans to be excited. The team appears on the cusp of rebounding from its dismal 2016. One indication for hope is the performance of Chris Archer this spring. The opening day starter went 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 17 strikeouts, and four walks in 13 innings in the pre-season. Any Rays resurgence will hinge on Archer recovering from a 19-loss season in 2016. Despite a 4.91 ERA in the spring, look for Jake Odorizzi to be a big factor in the starting rotation. Last year he was Tampa Bay’s best starter at 10-6 with a 3.69 ERA and 166 strikeouts. If he ups those numbers in 2017, the Rays will have a solid one-two punch in the rotation. Your text to link…
Offensively, the Rays will still have Evan Longoria banging out hits and driving in runs. Despite a .239 spring batting average, the All-Star third baseman is always good for 20-30 home runs and 80-90 RBIs a year. If Tampa Bay can get more production out of Logan Morrison and Kevin Kiermaier, they could have a pretty potent lineup. The big key that will be missing for much of the first half is Wilson Ramos. The former Washington catcher who had 22 home runs and 80 RBIs last year is on the disabled list with a knee injury. He is expected to return in June. In his place is former San Diego catcher Derek Norris, who has done well at the plate this spring.
There may be no playoffs for Tampa Bay this year, but if they can play .500 ball, it will be a step in the right direction.