Winning isn’t everything, but it sure would be great.
The Tampa Bay Rays came in at fourth place in the American League East. They were 13 games behind first place. The Rays had a below average offense that hindered the abilities of a stellar pitching staff for the 2015 season.
They had a team slugging percentage of .406, while batting .252, not enough to win consistently during the season.
Their pitching was dominant, finishing sixth in the league for their earned run average of 3.63. The team finished fifth in the league when it came to strikeouts per game which clocked in at 8.37. They also took eighth place in the league for strikeouts per walk which was only 3.03.
“We are more pleased with the way the guys have, you know, responded with each other. We feel like we’ve got some really good team chemistry,” said Kevin Cash to RaysBaseball.com. Cash feels that this season the American League East should be a very competitive division.
The Rays have made a few changes to the team trying to add some players to enhance the overall teams’ abilities. They currently have a very good pitching rotation with Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Erasmo Ramirez.
Archer is only twenty-seven years old and has a killer slider. He had a decent ERA of 3.23 in 2015 and had an awesome K/9 at 10.7 which means he was striking out roughly 11 batters every game.
Meanwhile, finally on his way to full health, Moore, younger than Archer, finished the last season fairly strong and continues to do even better so far through spring training. With so much pressure between all the fans in Cuba and worldwide he took down the Cuban National Team, according to Tampa Bay News 9.
Odorizzi is a righty who is a very consistent pitcher. He doesn’t seem to get a lot of publicity but is still a very good pitcher. Odorizzi obtained a solid ERA of 3.35. He had a good K/9 of 7.97 which showed that his defense didn’t have to stress out as much while he was pitching, but it had been higher in 2014 at 9.32 for the previous season. Odorizzi had improved his strike out per walk from a 2.95 in 2014 to a 3.26 in 2015.
Drew Smyly is returning from a shoulder injury in 2015. Smyly has been looking to bounce back this season coming season. Ramirez was doing extremely well last season throwing 163 1/3 innings with a very low ERA. It is assumed that Ramirez will not be used as a starter in the first month, according to Tampa Bay News 9.
The bullpen is up in the air at this point. The Tampa Bay Rays traded Jake McGee, a lefty who can throw a ball so fast it seems to be on fire, and on the other hand, Brad Boxberger is hurt. It has been noted in the past that the Rays have taken in strays and turned them into stars. It seems they might have to do the same this season.
Coming in at second to last for scoring last year in the American League East brought the team to pick up Corey Dickerson, a former Rockies outfielder. Dickerson, proving he can hit it out of the park, hit one of the longest homers this spring in Port Charlotte. Everyone is asking whether Dickerson can really be an everyday outfielder and hit left-handed pitching.
Along the way, the Rays acquired Brad Miller. They believe that Miller can help on their offensive side where they seem to be lacking. When it comes to Miller some question whether he can get over his throwing issues to really benefit the team.
In an attempt to really beef up the lineup, the Rays picked up Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce. Many wonder if Curt Casali will still be hitting as hard as he did last year now that he has a full year under his belt.
Evan Longoria seems to be an extremely good third baseman who will bring in twenty-five homers in addition to eighty runs batted in (RBIs). That’s definitely not bad in the baseball world, but the team still needs a few players who can help bring in some more runs.
Center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, is the real deal. Some believe that Kiermaier may not have reached his peak just yet either. A Gold Glover with intense speed and aggression, which is much needed in this game. On the other hand some tend to think he may be a little too aggressive in his pitch selection, with only a 0.25 BB/K, showing little patience at the plate. Kiermaier is, and will continue to be, a fan favorite.
Overall, the main goal of the team is to stay healthy this season. There is a decent amount of talent and strength backing the team up and the team as a whole seems pretty confident.
Looking at the American League East, the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are doing extremely well and will probably come into the season with higher expectations. On the other hand the Yankees are still a very competitive opponent for the Rays as well as the Baltimore Orioles.
Having that said, provided the team remains healthy and confident, the Rays will be in a three team race for third place in the division, and a spot in the playoffs. The Rays went 2-13 in games that went to extra innings. If they see an improvement from their bullpen that will go a long way to increase their chances of making the playoffs.