Wil Myers (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
When it comes to specifically baseball related items, the Tampa Bay Rays are a model franchise. The problem, is that they just don’t have the revenue stream and financial wherewithal to compete as they should. But that doesn’t stop Tampa from putting a very good product out on the field.
Prediction: 1st place American League East
Additions & Subtractions:
For a team like they Rays, it is almost considered a victory when their roster turnover from year to year is limited. That means they were able to retain their talent and continue to grow and progress into a winner. This fact alone is why I feel confident predicting them to win their division. James Loney and David DeJesus were retained and while both are not standout players, they are both solid contributors offensively and defensively. Fernando Rodney was swapped for Grant Balfour. Both have had recent success, so this shouldn’t have a material impact on the Rays. Heath Bell was also imported to augment the back end of the bullpen and Ryan Hanigan was added in the same trade to back up at catcher. The addition of Hanigan has spurred rumors that Jose Lobaton could be moved, but regardless Tampa is set behind the plate.
There were rumors to varying degrees of validity that David Price could have been on the move this winter. Price will be reporting to Spring Training calling Tampa his home as he looks to rebound from a somewhat disappointing 2013. The southpaw will be a force at the top of the rotation for the Rays.
Without a doubt, it is the starting rotation. Tampa has five quality young starters – David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer – who are all in or entering the prime of their careers. Even with Hellickson slated to miss the first two months of the season due to injury, the Rays won’t suffer too much as they can insert top prospect Jake Odorizzi into the rotation.
Joe Maddon’s impact, along with his coaching staff, also cannot be understated on the Rays.
Even with the retention of Loney and DeJesus along with a full season of Myers, the Rays’ offense is still on the weaker side. They are lacking some power, and Matt Joyce at Designated Hitter could be improved upon. He has shown flashes, but has been inconsistent and has not shown the ability to hit for a strong average.
Desmond Jennings is entering his third full season, and so far has had mixed results in living up to his potential. He is still young enough here to improve, and turn into more of the star that Tampa thought they had. Even if he doesn’t, Jennings is still a solid player, but if he can improve his average and become more of a consistent threat, then the Rays’ will truly become a force to be reckoned with. That is also assuming that Longoria stays healthy and Myers builds on his rookie season.