30 Teams 30 Days - Tampa Bay Rays

Overview - When Tampa Bay put the “Devil” out of their name they made the playoffs. They have not had a winning record the last three years so maybe they should look at tweaking their name a second time. Their 68-94 record puts them back at where they were when they were an expansion club, with the opportunity to draft a pretty good player in 2017 with a top five pick. They had a losing record for every month of the season except October, which has only two games on its schedule. Pitching was no longer a strength with an ERA buried in the middle of the pack. Hitting continued to be a sore spot with a batting average last in the league. They did hit for some power but that did not prevent them from having the second worst run production in the league.

Strengths - The franchise player is Evan Longoria. He is their mister consistency with a career high 36 homeruns last year while playing in all but two games for the fourth year in a row. He was two RBIs shy of 100. Finding a place for Brad Miller is critical. He moved from shortstop to first base, but the Rays have Logan Morrison to play first. Both bat lefthanded so a platoon does not make sense. They need to find a place for those 30 homeruns in the lineup. Brad could play second base or move to DH. Catching could be a strength if Wilson Ramos comes back healthy in June. Last year he was one of the best catchers in the game, but he has always been injury prone. If he is not healthy this position becomes a weakness. One of the best defensive centerfielders in the game is Kevin Kiermaier but he was limited to just 105 games last year. His bat is also a bit soft. The Rays have to hope for a turn around from Chris Archer. If he can pitch as he did in the second half of the season the rotation should be solid with Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell leading the trifecta. Two other pitchers have to be located during spring with Jose Deleon getting a pretty good look if Alex Cobb can not come back from his injury.

Weakness - Myworld can’t really see Matt Duffy play short. If he is better than Brad Miller that makes a big statement. The Rays may be better when Willy Adames is ready by mid-season. They could also go back to Brad Miller as their shortstop. The Rays signed Colby Rasmus to give their outfield another swing and miss candidate. Stephen Souza occupies right field and his 159 whiffs did not come with the expected power (17 homeruns). On the other corner Rasmus whiffed 121 times in 107 games with a .207 average. The Rays need to see a higher batting average and more pop from the two corner outfielders if they hope to finish over .500. Logan Morrison has a bat that is too quiet for first base. He was limited to 15 homeruns last year though he only played in 107 games. Nick Franklin is better suited as a utility player which could open second base to Brad Miller. They traded away Logan Forsythe and his 20 homeruns for a future pitching prospect in Jose Deleon.

Non-Roster Invitees - Dayron Varona and Rickie Weeks are two interesting candidates to fill the Rays outfield. Varona hit 14 homeruns in AAA last year and Weeks was on the Diamondbacks roster all season as a fourth outfiielder pinch hitter. He could end up filling that role for the Rays.

Breakout Prospects - Willy Adames could fill the shortstop job by mid-season, unless the Rays choose to save his service time. He has the potential to be a power hitting shortstop with plus defensive tools. Jose Deleon was recently acquired from the Dodgers and could fill the back end of the rotation by mid-season. If Alex Cobb is not healthy he could open the season in the rotation. Last year he got battered in four starts for the Dodgers. AAA will be the best spot for him to begin his career. Brent Honeywell could be the 2016 version of Blake Snell. Except for the shutout streak their minor league seasons mirrored each other. Honeywell has a nice screwball, which is a pitch not thrown by many. Casey Gillaspie hits for power but does not match the glove of Logan Morrison. He could also fill the DH role if the Rays feel they need to add more punch to their offense.

Prospects to Watch - Lucius Fox was one of the players acquired for Matt Moore. He plays a fluid defense at short but the bat still needs to develop. The Giants paid a $6 million bonus for the native from the Bahamas. He could move Willy Adames to third. Adrian Rondon is another high salaried bonus baby who the Rays paid close to $3 million to sign him. He has been a bit of a disappointment offensively but his defense at short has been solid. Nick Ciuffo was a first round pick in 2013 but has been a big disappointment from an offensive stand point. The lack of high first round draft picks has disappeared from the Rays repertoire in past seasons because of winning records. The 2017 season should see a return to a high number one pick. The Rays hope this lasts only one season.

Expected Finish - Like last year they will finish at the bottom, far from the next to last place team. Another 90 loss season is in the forecast unless their pitching shows major improvement.

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