The days, hours, and minutes are quickly winding their way down to Thursday at 4:00 PM, when the first pitch of the 2019 season will be thrown. This season, the Rays look to not only build on their successful 90-72 campaign but also ascend to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
Let’s take a look at some of the Rays offseason moves, and take a stab at predicting the Opening Day roster.
Tampa Bay made some solid offseason additions, many of whom will impact the 2019 roster right off the bat. Right-hander Charlie Morton will slot in second in the rotation, Yandy Diaz will spend time both at first and third base, catcher Mike Zunino will be Tampa Bay’s primary backstop, outfielders Avisail Garcia and Guillermo Heredia will give the team some pop, while Emilio Pagan and Adam Kolarek are battling it out for one last spot on the roster. As Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) writes, the decision on Pagan and
The Rays also saw the departures of Sergio Romo, CJ Cron, Mallex Smith, Carlos Gomez, Jake Bauers, and Jesus Sucre.
Last season Blake Snell rode a 1.89 ERA/2.95 FIP, 221 strikeouts, and a .97 WHIP across 180-2/3 innings to his first American League Cy Young Award. Can he do it again? Time will tell. Tyler Glasnow, who has been called the right-handed Snell, performed to a 4.20 ERA/4.44 FIP following his acquisition from Pittsburgh. Yet he is projected to improve on his numbers in 2019. Morton, who made his first All-Star appearance in 2018 thanks to a 3.13 ERA and 201 punch outs, inked a two-year deal. They will
The final two spots will be occupied by openers, who will work ahead of Ryan Yarbrough (who hurled 147-1/3 innings last season) and Yonny Chirinos (who hurled 89-2/3 innings in 2018). Ryne Stanek, and Pagan or Kolarek are Tampa Bay’s opener options, while Jalen Beeks is slated for bulk innings/long relief work. Wilmer Font, who is out of options, will also be on the Opening Day roster. Font could be used as a bulk inning guy, although he could also be used as an opener when needed.
In the bullpen, Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe — who combined for nine
The Rays traded away speedy outfielder Mallex Smith to the Mariners for Zunino, who hit 20 home runs in 113 games last season. He is regarded as one of the best power hitting catchers, although his overall line is mediocre at best. Thankfully Zunino is a good defensive catcher. Michael Perez will be Zunino’s understudy as it were. Perez was impressive after he was acquired from Arizona, however, his time was limited due to a season-ending injury.
Tampa Bay was faced with a challenge when the team traded Bauers away to Cleveland: who would take over first base? However, the answer became clear during Spring Training as Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz showed they can handle the spot. Moreover, the Rays recently extended infielder/outfielder Brandon Lowe, and we shouldn’t forget about utility man Daniel Robertson who has shown to be defensively gifted wherever he is positioned.
Unfortunately, third baseman Matt Duffy will start the season on the injured list. Diaz, Robertson, and Joey Wendle are expected to fill in for Duffy while he mends on the IL. Wendle, otherwise, will spend the most time at second.
Shortstop Willy Adames rounds out the infield and is primed for a breakout season after slashing .305 BA/.383 OBP/.435 SLG/.818 OPS with seven homers and 35 RBI in the second half of last season.
Kevin Kiemaier is not only the face of the franchise, but he will also patrol centerfield … assuming he has a clean, injury-free season. Tommy Pham, acquired at the trade deadline, slashed .331 BA/.433 OBP/.580 SLG/1.013 OPS in the second half of the season and should spend his time prowling left-field. Austin Meadows will get the majority of the reps in right-field, while Garcia — who is coming off of knee surgery and had an excellent Spring — will platoon the corners.
There are correlations between the graphs (below) when the Rays performed exceedingly well, and when they didn’t. From series 29 onward, Tampa Bay mostly fired on all cylinders and ultimately put up an epic 41-25 second half. The question begs, did the Rays make enough offseason moves to perform consistently without the lulls?
— Now I’m feeling kind of blue. According to Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), the Rays are potentially holding off their plan to light Tropicana Field’s roof blue for ballgames.
— The Rays updated their concession/food hall options on Monday. More importantly, though, the team confirmed that the Impossible Burger will be available at Tropicana Field this season. Yes!
— Just six days left to preorder a “Legend of Dan Johnson” t-shirt. Ordering information at the link.