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Tampa Bay Rays 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Chris Archer

Chris Archer

The Rays will look different in 2018. No matter what other moves they make, their place in the baseball world changed forever with the Dec. 20 trade of franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria to the Giants. Just about every great moment in their last 10 seasons had Longoria’s fingerprints on it, starting with their improbable run to the 2008 World Series in his rookie season. 

But reality was that the Rays hadn’t been great, or even very good in a while, with four straight losing seasons. And given the gap in talent and trajectory between the Rays and their AL East rivals in New York and Boston, combined with Longoria’s advancing age, declining stats and escalating salary ($86 million with a 2023 option remaining), they decided it was time to start an overhaul.

“As we look at where we are competitively, the landscape of the American League led to a lot of questions realistically as to where we are heading into 2018,” GM Erik Neander says. “That being said, we have a lot of young talent; we have a lot of guys coming, but there’s going to be some bumps in the road. There’s going to be some time needed for those guys to develop and have the opportunities that they need.”

Opposing Scouts Size Up the RAYS

“They should tear it all down, but they never quite do that. There’s something admirable about that, but I’m not sure it’s the  wisest approach. Of the guys you know will be there, I still think Blake Snell can be an impact arm, even if he won’t be the No. 1 some people expected. Jake Faria can contribute as a mid- to back-of-the-rotation guy. Their hitters will make you pay for mistakes, but they’ve got a lot of holes in their swings. Everyone strikes out these days, but the Rays take it to the extreme. Steven Souza does make up for it in other ways, though — he’s got power, a good eye and he can run a little bit. They’ll miss Evan Longoria, but I’m high on Christian Arroyo; he’s the kind of high-average contact hitter this lineup really needs. It continues to be a pleasure watching Kevin Kiermaier in center field. He’s even better than Kevin Pillar in Toronto, because he takes such efficient routes and lets his incredible athleticism do the rest.”

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Beyond the Box Score

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All or Nothing

One goal for 2018 is to have a more balanced and productive offense. Last year, the Rays hit a franchise-record 228 homers, sixth most in the majors, but ranked just 25th with only 694 runs, their sixth straight season without surpassing 700. That included a historical dry stretch of being shut out five times in eight games.

True Believers

 Another example of the need to diversify the offense is the fact that more than one-third of the Rays’ plate appearances (37.6 percent) ended in one of the three “true” outcomes of either a walk, strikeout or home run, highest in the AL and second in the majors behind the Brewers (38.2). The MLB average was 33.5 percent.

Feeling Your Pain

Being acquired to eventually replace traded franchise cornerstone third baseman Evan Longoria was more personal for Christian Arroyo, as he grew up in the Tampa Bay area as a Longoria fan before being drafted by the Giants. “I know for a lot of Rays fans out there it hurts,” he says. “For me, if I was still a fan, it would hurt me, too, because I was a huge Evan Longoria fan.”

Drama King

 Right fielder Steven Souza Jr.’s walk-off homer on Aug. 6 gave the Rays more than a win over the Brewers. It also ended their perplexing majors-long streak of 277 home games since their last walk-off homer on May 22, 2014, by Sean Rodriguez vs. Oakland. In between, the Rays won 14 games in other walk-off ways and allowed 13 walk-off homers on the road.

Chris Crossed

Righthander Chris Archer’s 734 strikeouts from 2015-17 are the third most in the AL, as he crossed the 200-K barrier each time. In doing so, he earned some ignominy as the first pitcher in MLB history, per the Elias Sports Bureau, to have three consecutive losing seasons with 200-plus strikeouts in each season.

Cash Called

Though manager Kevin Cash hasn’t led the Rays to a winning record since taking over in 2015, his overall mark of 228–258 (.469) is the best for the first three seasons of any manager in franchise history, topping Joe Maddon’s 224–262 (.461). Larry Rothschild was 201–284 (.414), and Lou Piniella was 200–285 (.412). 

Projected Lineup

LF     Denard Span (L)
CF     Kevin Kiermaier (L)
RF     Steven Souza Jr. (R)
DH    Corey Dickerson (L)
3B     Matt Duffy  (R)
C     Wilson Ramos (R)
1B     Brad Miller (L)
SS     Adeiny Hechavarria (R)
2B     Daniel Robertson (R)
INF     Ryan Schimpf (L) 
OF     Mallex Smith (L)
C     Jesus Sucre (R)
INF     Joey Wendle (L)
RHP     Chris Archer
RHP     Jake Odorizzi
LHP     Blake Snell
RHP     Nathan Eovaldi
RHP     Jake Faria
RHP    Alex Colome
LHP     Jose Alvarado
RHP     Matt Andriese
LHP     Dan Jennings
RHP     Austin Pruitt
RHP     Chaz Roe
RHP     Ryne Stanek