By Joshua Foster-Storch
The Tampa Bay Rays were able to add to Tampa’s multiple professional sport championships and titles year after their American League Championship Series (ALCS) win in the Fall. However, the Rays still weren’t able to bring the World Series Championship home after their loss in game six against the Los Angeles Dodgers. In game six, Rays manager Kevin Cash made the controversial decision to pull starting pitcher Blake Snell in the middle of an Most Valuable Player (MVP) performance when they were winning late in the game. Now heading into the 2021-22 Major League Baseball (MLB) seadon, what can we expect from the 2020 American League champions?
The starting pitching staff has had a couple of significant shake-ups this off-season. After Snell was pulled in game six of the World Series, he asked to be traded, and they promptly sent him to the San Diego Padres for five prospects. Pitcher Charlie Morton also left for the Atlanta Braves after the Rays declined his team-option. So, the Rays have now left themselves without their two best pitchers. Their third and fourth pitchers Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough will potentially be relied on heavily this season, and the Rays will have high expectations for those two. The bullpen remains intact mainly, though, and the hope around the organization is that they will continue their championship reputation..
With the Rays maintaining their key hitters from last season, they will build on a solid postseason lead by outfielders Austin Meadows and upstart Randy Arozarena. Their rotation will look to build upon increasing their batting average of .238, which was one of the lowest in baseball last season. They lacked hitting but if last postseason was any indicator, they’re looking for some significant improvement.
For all of the controversy surrounding the Snell move, the Rays have been very fortunate to have a qualified coaching staff. Entering his seventh season as Rays manager, Kevin Cash has built a winning culture in Tampa and has been good at maintaining continuity on his team. The current staff should continue to be one of the best in baseball this season.
2020 was a year and a MLB season to remember for the city of Tampa. As the Rays look towards the future with this roster, expect them to be in the wild card hunt. With the Yankees adding another stellar free-agent class to the arsenal, do not expect the Rays to be in the quest for the division title while the Yankees are pushing for 100 wins this year. I would say that the Rays are going to finish with about 88 to 93 wins and either make the wild card or miss out.