Tampa Bay Rays 2018 Season Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t been over .500 since 2013, and 2018 may continue that streak. They lost a lot of big names, mainly the face of their franchise, Evan Longoria. They have some building blocks but certainly not a team that should make a great deal of noise this season. They had a very below average offense but their pitching was the “Ray” of sunshine for them. They will fight and scrap to get runs across but the AL East will swallow them up and they won’t be able to keep up. Poor Chris Archer has to wait another year, at least, til he can think about a serious winning season. They sold every piece they could and haven’t gotten a ton in return.

Key Additions:

Denard Span, OF

Christian Arroyo, SS

CJ Cron, 1B

Key Losses:

Evan Longoria, 3B

Alex Cobb, RHP

Logan Morrison, 1B

Lucas Duda, 1B

Steve Cishek, RHP

Jake Odorizzi, RHP

Steven Souza Jr., OF

Why they can win: Honestly, they’re going to struggle in their division. They will win some games from their fast, rangy OF saving runs and scrapping together runs. The addition of CJ Cron is a nice get for pretty much nothing. He is really their only threat to hit 20 homeruns but he won’t save a lineup by any means. Their pitching is very, very young and has some nice prospects to watch and if they pan out maybe they’ll be better than people think. Archer will strikeout a billion batters and then it’s down to Faria, Snell, Andriese and Honeywell to eat innings, which is exciting.

Why they can lose: Mostly because they stink. They had a terrible offense last year and they’re WAY worse this year. They lost the face of their franchise and the only 20+ homeruns threats they had. They have no identity, no power, they can’t get on base and and their pitching is average with a below average bullpen. They pretty much traded anyone who could make them a threat and it sucks to see.

Bottom Line: Right now, they’re the laughing stock of the Majors in our eyes. Trade away all of their plus-players and don’t bring in any reenforcements. But at least they don’t have many fans to let down. Their payroll is so low and they don’t have an identity. Yes, teams go through rebuilds but they won 80 games last year. It’s not like they were just a miserable team a year ago. This feels like the Pirates and Marlins situation where they just didn’t feel like paying anyone. They won’t compete for very long and should fight for the fourth spot in their division with the Orioles, who can crush the ball. They don’t even have a 5 man rotation!!

Major4 Numbers Game:

Stud: Chris Archer, SP

Archer is the new face Rays. The Rays lost 5 of their top 7 WAR contributors via trade or free agency, including Evan Longoria. Archer has been a solid stud for the Rays the past 4 years, and posted the second highest WAR of his career, 4.6. He set a career high in K% and was a top 10 MLB in: K%, K-BB%, Avg FB Velo, and slider usage. He has routinely outperformed is mediocre counting stats (4.07 ERA, 11-12 W/L) show that they aren’t a true reflection of his ability or how he performed. He is an elite talent, and posting an average of over a 4 WAR during the past four seasons. He is also making an insanely low $6.2M salary for 2018, making him one of the most team friendly post-arb contracts out there.

Sinkhole: CJ Cron, 1B

Acquired from the Angels, the Rays expect Cron to take over every day at bats. This may not be their best option. Cron has a 2.2 cumulative WAR in 1400+ PAs. That shouldn’t instill a lot of confidence for Rays fans. On the positive side, Cron has a ton of raw power and has translated some of that in games with 60 career HRs and .187 ISO. He also hits the ball in the air (44 Flyball rate) and can hit it with authority (35.8% Hard-Hit Rate). Also concerning is his K% jumping 9 points, and his lack of positional diversity make him a limited contributor.

Regression Candidate: Brad Miller, 2B

Miller, well he had a difficult 2017. He hit .207 and is HRs dropped from 30 down to 9. His contact rate dropped to a poor 71.7% contact. He also appeared to be the victim of bad luck as his hard-ht rate increased, while his soft-hit rate went in the opposite direction. Another negative was that he wasn’t able to do was generate as much pull-power, as his pull-rate decreased by 8 points. Why we think he’ll regress to normal rates, his walk rate nearly doubled and the increase in hard hit contact suggest he’s going to have a bounce back year.

Impact Acquisition: Carlos Gomez, OF

The signing over former stud Carlos Gomez is such a Tampa Rays move. They replaced Souza with an older version of himself, which Fangraphs Jeff Sullivan covered in greater detail (https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/rays-replace-steven-souza-with-older-steven-souza/). Gomez is what he is at this point in his career. He still has some pop (17 HRs in 426 PA), and grades as a solid baserunner (13 SB, 2.1 BsR). He has lost some of his athletic juice, as evident by his poor outfield metrics, but his resurgent 2017 (2.3 WAR) shows he can still get it done at 34. His contract appears to be an absolute bargain ($4M). Hot Take: Gomez out produces Souza in terms of WAR.

Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):

Brent Honeywell, RHP (17)

Willy Adames, SS (22)

Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP (25)

Christian Arroyo, SS (82)

Why We Love Them: The Rays always end chock full of good prospects but they can never seem to get them to resign and end up losing them. I love Chris Archer and a few of their prospects but other than that not a ton. Worst stadium maybe in pro sports and those damn FauxBack jerseys gotta go!!

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