Tampa Bay Rays 2019: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the AL East?

The Rays were quite pleased to win 90 games in a 2018 season that started brutally bad and included a string of key injuries that forced them to employ some innovative strategy.


But they were far from satisfied.


Team officials started talking that way right from the start of the offseason, plotting to be aggressive and take advantage of some rare financial flexibility to do so at a higher price point. And they showed they were serious about making the most of their window to contend, working an early November trade to acquire catcher Mike Zunino in a sell-high deal for outfielder Mallex Smith in the first in a series of moves that may continue up until Opening Day.


By Christmas, the Rays had let veteran closer Sergio Romo and outfielder Carlos Gomez become free agents, DFA’d leading home run hitter C.J. Cron (getting only the $50,000 waiver fee), signed free agent starter Charlie Morton to a two-year, $30 million deal, swapped supposed cornerstone first baseman Jake Bauers for hard-hitting Yandy Diaz and traded three minor league pitchers in a deal that netted reliever Emilio Pagan (plus a draft pick).


Rather than seeking to plug specific holes, senior VP Chaim Bloom said their approach was more about saying, “Okay, we have this group now that did what they did last year, that we feel strongly about their futures; how can we help support that group to put them in the best position to do what we didn’t do this past year, which is pop champagne and get to the postseason?” 

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Rays

Tampa Bay Rays logo“They could’ve tanked, and nobody would have blamed them. Instead, these guys try to win every night, and they’ll execute any and all unorthodox strategies to gain an advantage. They’ve embraced the quality-over-quantity pitching strategy, whether it’s by using the ‘opener’ or holding Blake Snell to 180 innings and getting one of the best seasons — inning for inning — we’ve ever seen from an AL pitcher. They’ll have Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow behind Snell, and while Morton has some injury questions, he’s the perfect guy for them — he’s unflappable in high-pressure settings, and since he’s never thrown 200 innings, he already knows how to pace himself. They added Yandy Diaz and Mike Zunino to their everyday lineup; they’ll live with Zunino’s strikeouts to get his power, and they’ll try to get Diaz to keep the same hard-contact rate but hit more fly balls. The Rays will find slightly above-average position players for every spot on the field, they won’t overextend any individual pitcher, and they’ll win a lot of games.”


Beyond the Box Score

Uncle Charlie Veteran free agent addition Charlie Morton comes to the Rays bearing a couple of interesting designations — one, as the first pitcher in MLB history to get the win in Game 7 of both an LCS and the World Series, as he did for the Astros in 2017; and two, with a $15 million salary for 2019 that will be the highest in team history.


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Kids Power The Rays didn’t just set a team record in using 23 rookies, but they were also the first team in MLB history, per Stats LLC, to use as many as 23 and finish at least 18 games over .500. Their rookies played in 814 games, threw 604 innings (nearly half the team total) and hit close to one-third of their home runs.


Mr. Do It All Sergio Romo was on the mound, and thus on the front line, on May 19 when the Rays unveiled their revolutionary “opener” pitching strategy, working only the first inning of the game before being replaced by lefty Ryan Yarbrough. Romo’s 588 relief appearances before a start were the fourth most in history. He showed his versatility throughout the season, pitching in 10 different innings — first through 11th with the exception of the third — and also appearing at third base for one hitter.


Florida Man Once Mike Zunino got over the shock of the November trade from the Mariners to the Rays, he saw it as a homecoming — given that he grew up in Cape Coral, Fla., played collegiately at the University of Florida and spends his offseasons in Gainesville. And, turns out, he has some history at the Trop. “I grew up playing travel ball around the state,” Zunino says. “When we were in Tampa, I loved to snag a $5 ticket to watch the Rays. It was a dream to play major league baseball.”


Economical Effort Blake Snell won the American League Cy Young Award despite pitching only 180.2 innings, the fewest over a full season for any starter who won the award. Snell, at 25, also was the youngest AL pitcher to win the award since 2010, when Felix Hernandez earned the nod at 24. 


Home Boys The 51 wins for the Rays at home were a good sign, giving the team back-to-back winning seasons at the Trop after three straight non-winning seasons and matching the third-most home wins in franchise history. The Rays also tied the Brewers and Cubs for third-most home wins in the majors, trailing the Red Sox (57) and Yankees (53).


Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

CF  Kevin Kiermaier (L)
3B  Matt Duffy (R)
DH Ji-Man Choi (L)
LF  Tommy Pham (R)
2B  Joey Wendle (L)
1B  Yandy Diaz (R)
RF  Austin Meadows (L)
C   Mike Zunino (R)
SS  Willy Adames (R)

 

BENCH

OF  Avisail Garcia (R)
UT  Brandon Lowe (L)
C    Michael Perez (L)
INF Daniel Robertson (R)

 

ROTATION

LHP Blake Snell
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Tyler Glasnow
RHP Ryne Stanek
RHP Diego Castillo

 

BULLPEN

LHP  Jose Alvarado (C)
RHP Yonny Chirinos
RHP Wilmer Font
LHP Adam Kolarek
RHP Emilio Pagan
RHP Chaz Roe
LHP Ryan Yarbrough

 

2019 PREDICTION

3rd AL East 

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