All offseason we talk about the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, but the Tampa Bay Rays always end up in the discussion at the end of the season. They build through the draft and develop their own, so they stay quiet while the Sox and Yanks throw around big money.
The Rays were second in the AL East, just behind the World Series champs. Matt Moore had a career year with 17 wins and they called up their gem prospect, Wil Myers. With all the young arms in the rotation, it’s hard to predict a win total this season. They could all have double-digit wins and lead the team to a 100-win season or a few could implode. I think it’s fair to say the Rays will land somewhere in the middle
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Tampa Bay Rays.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 92-71
Key Additions: RP Grant Balfour, RP Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan & RP Juan Carlos Oviedo
Key Losses: 2B Kelly Johnson, RP Fernando Rodney, C Jose Lobaton, DH Luke Scott, SP Roberto Hernandez, RP Jamey Wright, RP Alex Torres, OF Sam Fuld & 2B Ryan Roberts
Interleague Schedule: NL Central + Miami Marlins
Projected Starters: Ryan Hanigan, James Loney, Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, Yunel Escobar, David DeJesus, Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers & Matt Joyce
Projected Starting Rotation: David Price, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer & Jake Odorizzi
Closer: Grant Balfour
Fantasy Sleeper: SP Jake Odorizzi – He won the fifth starter job in Spring Training. He doesn’t have much Major League experience, but he put up very nice seasons in Double-A and Triple-A. Even though he is just 24, he has been involved in two major trades and traveled from the Brewers to the Royals and then to the Rays in the James Shields/Wil Myers trade. He’s barely owned in standard leagues and could help you down the road. His upside is hard to ignore.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SS Hak-Ju Lee – The Rays acquired Lee from the Chicago Cubs in the Matt Garza trade a few years ago. He was injured for most of 2013, but in Double-A in 2012, he batted .261 and stole 37 bases. If he were to be called up late this season, he would only be a one category player. He is projected to be a decent average guy, but his bat still needs to develop.
Team Analysis: Year after year, the Rays come into the season undervalued. Vegas constantly has the win over/under set a few games too low. This season, the over/under is 88.5, which a bit high for this year’s squad. The offense should be there, but their pitching staff scares me a bit. The bullpen lost some established arms and they were replaced by Grant Balfour (who the Orioles balked on signing due to arm/shoulder concern) and Heath Bell (who hasn’t had a good season since he left San Diego). The pitching staff might be amazing in two years, but they are still really young. Also, David Price isn’t a lock to be on the team after the trade deadline. The AL East is improved and it will be hard to win 90 games. I have them slated to be a Wild Card contender, but will fall short of winning the East.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 88.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 84-78 (2nd AL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.