Tampa Bay Rays 2018 Season Preview By: Peter Snyder

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The Tampa Bay Rays were one of the sneakier teams during the 2017 season. They didn’t get any national attention, they weren’t on Sunday night baseball, but yet they finished the season with an 80-82 record and were a hot streak away from the postseason. This year, the Rays have a revamped lineup that features some familiar faces, a decent starting rotation, and they have the ability to turn some heads this year. The question now becomes “Can the Rays win the AL East this season?” To answer that question simply, there is a better chance of getting struck by lightning during a blizzard. The way they are going to turn heads is by playing .500 ball throughout the year and possibly competing for a wild card spot.

The Tampa Bay Rays starting rotation is one that can only be described as average. They have a name that jumps out at you, but his numbers don’t and the rest of the guys are simply just average. The guy that jumps out to you is of course, the new face of the franchise, Chris Archer. Archer is a firecracker. His personality shines both on and off the pitchers mound and is just a fun guy to follow throughout the season. Archer although extremely talented, has shown signs of weakness. In the last 2 seasons, Archer has accumulated a record of 19-31 with a 3.88 ERA. The ERA is not terrible but that record is flat out embarrassing. If Archer wants to be a star in this league which I think he is very capable of doing, he needs to learn how to leave the mound with a lead, and it starts in 2018. Complimenting Archer in the Rays rotation is a 25 year old from Seattle who I think has a huge upside, Blake Snell. The former first round draft pick is entering his third season in the majors and while his numbers might not quite be there yet, I think his potential is through the roof. You will not find a lot of guys as confident as Blake Snell gets when he steps on the mound. I expect him to have a great 2018 campaign. The Rays then go with a pitcher who pitched for the enemy just two seasons ago, Nathan Eovaldi. The former Yankee is looking to contribute to the Rays staff and brings with him a fastball that can reach speeds of up to 100 MPH. I am actually a big fan of Eovaldi’s and think this was a great acquisition for the Rays. The Rays rotation is then capped off with a pair of righties in  Jake Faria and Matt Andriese who are decent, but nothing special. This rotation has the potential to be very productive during this upcoming season and it is all going to have to start with Archer. He is going to have to become the tone setter for the entire staff if this team wants any chance to play in October.

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We then transition into the belly of the Rays beast, their offense. This offense features an array of new faces that are filling a huge hole that was left by the best player to ever put on the Rays uniform, Evan Longoria. To replace Longo is impossible, but the Rays did a good job in at least making a lineup that is balanced and one that can be dangerous. The Rays offense is going to be led by Kevin Kiermaier, the best looking man in the game. Along with being a good looking dude, Kiermaier is also one of the best CF of our generation, and is a 2x gold glove winner. He also has a decent bat and will most likely finish the 2018 season with a .275 BA, will drive in around 40 runs and hit around 20 homers. The Rays also landed a big offseason acquisition in the likes of power hitter, Carlos Gomez. Gomez in the past few years has become some what of a journeymen as this his 4th team in 4 years. Gomez has shown that he can be great, but the numbers have decreased with a age, and Gomez finished the 2017 season hitting only 17 home runs and 51 RBIs. How productive is Gomez going to be in 2018? It’s hard to say, but he has a veteran bat that has pop and the Rays are lucky to have him. The Rays also acquired veteran Denard Span in the offseason who will give the team a boost at the leadoff position. To keep on track with the veteran presence, the Rays have Wilson Ramos, who has been behind the plate for 8 years and is as sturdy as they come. To wrap up, if I had one word to describe this offense it would be fresh faced. This team will need time to build team chemistry but if they can, they have potential to be really balanced and effective.

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Overall, I am very intrigued by this Tampa Bay Rays team. I think they have enough of a balance with their arms and bats where they can put together a decent season. I think to make it to October however, they will need to add one more piece at the trade deadline. If they fail to do that, I think they will fall short of the postseason and have them finishing with a 81-81 record on the year. The boys from the trop will be exciting to watch and diehard fan Dickey V will be in euphoria all summer long.

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