Earlier this week, the case was made for why the Cardinals would grab a playoff spot within the Nationwide League this season after lacking out for the final three years. Over within the American League, the competitors for a 2019 postseason berth won’t be as far-reaching, however outdoors of the plain 4 October groups (Yankees, Pink Sox, Indians, and Astros), the remainder of the sector continues to be onerous to foretell.
The Athletics have been the shock wild-card group in 2018, and although they could repeat as a wild-card once more this yr, the opposite group set to achieve the playoffs after lacking out final fall is the Rays.
Tampa Bay received a shocking 90 video games in 2018, and if not for absurdly good seasons from New York and Boston in their very own division and Oakland within the West, the Rays would have simply reached the postseason for his or her first journey since 2013. They ran with a roster largely bereft of marquee expertise and did unusual issues like start a sport with a aid pitcher who threw just one inning, nevertheless it all in some way labored.
Baseball not often rewards this sort of fortune two years in a row, however the Rays ought to positively be on each baseball fan’s playoff radar. Admittedly, although, there are causes to be skeptical. The AL East received’t be any simpler this yr, and on the time of this writing, the Rays’ official depth chart lists solely three beginning pitchers whereas the lineup isn’t any extra star-studded than it was final summer time. However the elements are nonetheless there for them to make noise for the second straight yr.
This begins with the aforementioned pitching rotation. On the high is Blake Snell, who beat Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale to be the 2018 AL Cy Younger winner. After placing collectively respectable seasons in his first two years within the majors, Snell was a world-beater in 2018. His 1.89 ERA led the league, and he held opposing hitters to a 0.974 WHIP. Snell’s total velocity climbed from 2017 to 2018, and batters discovered him largely mystifying. He benefited some from stranding runners at an 88 p.c charge final season, however even with some normal regression, Snell ought to stay an ace.
Behind Snell, the Rays have Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. Each are query marks with excessive potential. Morton was a key piece of the sturdy Astros rotations of 2017 and 2018, and regardless of being 35, his velocity has elevated over the previous three years, as much as almost 97 mph on his fastball in 2018. There are not any actual indicators that he’ll regress considerably, so the Rays have a stable quantity two starter in Morton. As for Glasnow, he was as soon as a heralded pitching prospect within the Pirates’ system, however has not but pitched to his potential. Traded to the Rays on the non-waiver deadline final summer time within the Chris Archer deal, Glasnow may profit from the change of surroundings. Hopefully, he continues to steadiness his fastball along with his secondary pitches and breaks out in the best way followers have anticipated since he debuted with Pittsburgh in 2016.
There’s admittedly nothing significantly dazzling in regards to the Rays offense, however good well being of their outfield may be all they should shine. Heart fielder Kevin Kiermaier is a whiz with the glove, however accidents have saved him out of the lineup with rising frequency since 2016. If he can reverse that pattern, he has proven that he can steadiness his sterling protection with a productive bat.
Newly signed outfielder Avisail Garcia was as soon as dubbed the following Miguel Cabrera whereas he was with the Tigers, and in 2017 he regarded like he had lastly arrived with the White Sox because of an All-Star worthy season during which he hit .330 with 18 residence runs and 27 doubles. However he got here again to earth in 2018. Repeated hamstring accidents saved him to 93 video games with Chicago, and his batting common dipped all the best way to .236. But when there’s a silver lining, he nonetheless hit a career-high 19 residence runs regardless of the restricted enjoying time. If he stays wholesome, the Rays might have struck gold.
On the identical day that the Rays traded Archer to the Pirates, they handled the Cardinals for outfielder Tommy Pham. Pham then broke his foot on Aug. three and missed two weeks, however in 39 video games with the Rays final yr he hit .343 with 20 extra-base hits. Pham fought for normal enjoying time with the Cardinals for years, and it appears to be like as if he might finish that battle in Tampa Bay. As an everyday starter in left area for the Rays, he’s prone to discover his groove.
Preseason predictions for the American League are fairly steadily calling for the Rays to win round 85 video games. Although this could clearly be a step again from final yr’s whole, it could put them in stable place to be one of many wild-card groups, most likely competing with Oakland for the second spot. And like their counterparts on the West Coast, there won’t be quite a bit that’s eye-catching about them on paper, however they’re going to make it work.