The Rays come into the 2015 season with a new general manager, manager and a load of new faces in the clubhouse. Tampa Bay is going through one of the many issues a small market team goes through. They can’t afford to keep their homegrown talent and must turnover their roster to remain competitive.
After recent success near the top of the AL East, it looks like they could be headed for some lean years. The farm system they relied on for so many years is no longer stocked with can’t-miss prospects. How soon can the new general manager turn things around?
Can the Rays young starting rotation keep the team afloat during the transition?
Here is the 2015 MLB season preview for the Tampa Bay Rays.
2014 Win/Loss Record: 77-85
Key Additions: OF Steven Souza, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, C John Jaso, RP Kevin Jepsen, RP Ernesto Frieri, C Rene Rivera, RP Jose Dominguez, RP Jonny Venters, RP Ronald Belisario, 3B Juan Francisco & 2B Alexi Casilla
Key Losses: OF Wil Myers, 2B Ben Zobrist, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SS Yunel Escobar, OF Matt Joyce, SP Erik Bedard, RP Joel Peralta, RP Cesar Ramos, RP Juan Carlos Oviedo, 2B Sean Rodriguez, C Ryan Hanigan & C Jose Molina
Interleague Schedule: NL East
Projected Starters: Rene Rivera, James Loney, Nick Franklin, Evan Longoria, Asdrubal Cabrera, Steven Souza, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier & John Jaso
Projected Starting Rotation: Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi & Alex Colome
Closer: Jake McGee
Fantasy Sleeper: SP Jake Odorizzi – I don’t usually carry a ton of starting pitchers in a standard league (I’m a big fan of streaming). I do carry the elite pitchers and some young pitchers with upside. Odorizzi is currently being drafted in the 22nd round in most leagues. He didn’t have a great ERA last season (4.13), but his FIP was 3.75, so that shows he was a bit unlucky. He surprised experts by striking out 174 batters last season. He’s a cheap source of strikeouts with a shot of having a better ERA.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: OF Mikie Mahtook – Many of the Rays top prospects will either start the season in the Majors (Steven Souza, Alex Colome) and few like Mahtook should see time in the Majors by the end of the year. Mahtook hits for average and has some nice speed. He isn’t much of a power hitter (28 homers in 1,494 minor league at-bats), but he gets on base (.362 OBP in 2014 in Triple-A). He’s someone to keep an eye on if either Souza or Kiermaier struggles or gets injured.
Team Analysis: The Rays lost their general manager Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers and their popular manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs. New GM Matt Silverman didn’t take long to put his stamp on the franchise. He made deals that sent Wil Myers, Jeremy Hellickson and Ben Zobrist to the West Coast.
The Rays are a team in flux. New manager Kevin Cash knows he has some weapons, but the AL East is a difficult division to navigate while trying to develop team chemistry. They have a really nice starting rotation with Alex Cobb and Chris Archer at the top, but the lineup leaves a lot to the imagination.
Evan Longoria might be the Rays only consistent hitter. You have question marks up and down the lineup. It’s unknown if Steven Souza can put up numbers in the Majors, if the former 31st-round draft pick Kevin Kiermaier was a one year wonder or if Asdrubal Cabrera’s best years are behind him. They struggled to score runs last season and I believe they will be worse this year.
Tampa Bay was one of the worst teams in the league before former GM Andrew Friedman and former manager Joe Maddon landed there. They look to be destined for the cellar in the AL East once again.
2015 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 79.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2015 Projected Win/Loss Record: 74-88 (5th in 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.