Tampa Bay has quietly found their place in the AL East, remaining competitive over the years despite strict fiscal restraints. The plan didn’t quite go as hoped in 2012, however, as the team slipped to 3rd place in the division despite a 90-72 record. Ben Zobrist posted a solid year offensively, filling in for an injured Evan Longoria for much of the year. Longoria hit well in his half season, but otherwise there wasn’t much of an offensive punch in Tampa Bay. Pitching carried this team, particularly David Price as he took home the AL Cy Young Award.
The Rays have made some changes this winter, notably dealing James Shields for a collection of prospects (namely Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi) – the inevitable progression of things in Tampa Bay it would seem. Questions remain whether they’ve done enough to replace Shields and Bossman Junior (B.J. Upton). Like most of the other teams in the AL East, things could really go a number of different ways for the Rays this season.
With the start of the 2013 Regular Season upon us, it seemed like the ideal time to check in with each of our team sites here at FanSided MLB and check out what our experts have to say on the upcoming season. Let’s check in with Senior Editor Robbie Knopf of Rays Colored Glasses, and see what he had to say about the team’s best and worst case scenarios, as well as what’s most likely to happen.
Best Case Scenario
Matt Moore goes David Price 2010 and gives the Rays a ridiculous rotation and Evan Longoria has an MVP-type season to go along with breakout years from Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce, leading the Rays to 95 wins and a World Series title as their pitching looks even scarier in the playoffs.
Worst Case Scenario
Longoria gets hurt again, Jeremy Hellickson and Moore sputter with the Rays depending on them to be their 2nd and 3rd starters, and the Rays’ upside plays from the offseason (Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Roberto Hernandez), turn out to be unqualified disasters, leaving this team with good but far from great pitching and no offense. The Rays win 75 games and find themselves in last place in the AL East.
Most Likely to Happen
Moore and Hellickson make strides in their development to make James Shields mostly forgotten, Evan Longoria stays healthy most of the year with the Rays using him hyper-cautiously, and the rest of the offense plays well enough to score a few more runs than last season, keeping the Rays right around the 90 games they won last year and right in the thick of the AL playoff picture.
Shields may be gone, but if Myers and Odorizzi are able to live up to their potential then fans of the Rays will end up happy with the deal. David Price was, and is, the soul of the team anyway and he’s the one they’d really prefer gets locked up for years to come. Tampa Bay has the pieces to win this year, provided all goes to plan. Matt Moore and the rest of the rotation will need to give Price some support. Longoria and Zobrist will need help at the plate. Fernando Rodney will need to dominate one more season. The Rays have long gone about their ways pretty quickly, at least compared to some of their division rivals, and seem once again primed to sit right in the middle of the pack.
Rays Colored Glasses. Be sure to check it out throughout the season for all your Rays news.