The Rays made some small moves this offseason to shore up some areas in which they lost players due to free agency. They acquired Logan Morrison, infielder Brad Miller and reliever Danny Farquhar in a deal with Seattle. All three will play vital roles for the team this season.
The AL East is full of teams with a lot of offense. Can the Rays hang with only average offense, but really good defense?
Here is the 2016 MLB season preview for the Tampa Bay Rays.
2015 Win/Loss Record: 80-82
Key Additions: OF Corey Dickerson, 1B Logan Morrison, 1B Steve Pearce, RP Danny Farquhar, RP Ryan Webb, RP Dana Eveland & C Hank Conger
Key Losses: SS Asdrubal Cabrera, SP Nathan Karns, RP Jake McGee, 1B John Jaso, C Rene Rivera, OF Grady Sizemore, OF Joey Butler, OF Daniel Nava, C J.P. Arencibia, RP Kirby Yates & RP C.J. Riefenhauser
Interleague Schedule: NL West
Projected Starters: Hank Conger, Logan Morrison, Logan Forsythe, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza & Corey Dickerson
Projected Starting Rotation: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore & Erasmo Ramirez
Closer: Brad Boxberger
Fantasy Sleeper: OF/1B Steve Pearce – Pearce had a breakout season two years ago with the Orioles. He couldn’t repeat those numbers last season, but his numbers still weren’t horrible. Yes, his batting average (.218) was horrible, but with 15 homers in only 294 at-bats, the average doesn’t kill your team. The Rays do have plenty of guys to cover first base, outfield and DH, but if Pearce gets some regular at-bats, he could be a steal.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: SP Blake Snell – The Rays will call up Snell at some point this season since he did so well in Triple-A last year AND they need a consistent fifth starter since they traded away Nathan Karns. Snell is a power pitcher with 467 strikeouts in 422 minor league innings. The 22-year looks ready to join the Majors.
Team Analysis: The Rays lost their general manager and manager before last season and they still put together a respectable season. They come into this season with a little higher hopes since some of their young players got another season under their belts.
The AL East will be highly competitive with the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees being the top three favorites. The Rays could easily jump into the mix with consistent starting pitching and further development from Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza. Manager Kevin Cash could turn this team into a contender in just his second season.
The negatives for the Rays are the back-end of their starting rotation and possibly middle infield. Matt Moore was atrocious last season and if he can get back on track, that would go along way. As far as middle infield, Asdrubal Cabrera had a huge bounce back season and I’m not sure if Brad Miller can play at his level. Miller is solid, but the Rays relied on Cabrera’s offense at times last season.
One thing that stands out is their outfield defense. Kevin Kiermaier was a mainstay on Baseball Tonight‘s Web Gems segment. Desmond Jennings in leftfield is a huge plus since he can help cover the large Tropicana Field outfield.
2016 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 81 (Prediction: OVER)
2016 Projected Win/Loss Record: 82-80 (4th 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.