American League East: Previews and Predictions
Tampa Bay Rays
Baseball Prospectus Projection: 85-77 (4th)
FanGraphs Projection: 83-79 (3rd)
The Rays pitching staff started giving up home runs like it was 1998 last season and it cost them. However, that ignores the fact that nearly every aspect of their team was a disappointment – especially their once elite defense.
The collection of disappointment from a year ago is precisely why projections are high on them (well, as high as you can be for a team expected to finish third or fourth). They’re sure to get a bounce back from Chris Archer after he posted a career-worst 4.02 ERA in 2016. The rest of their rotation – Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Alex Cobb and Matt Andriese/Jose De Leon – are similarly up to the task.
While pitching and defense win championships, teams still need to score runs. Based on their current lineup, the Rays are expecting to win a lot of one-run ball games. The lineup from 2016 remains intact, with only one new addition – Wilson Ramos. He’ll provide a massive upgrade at catcher but won’t be ready until midseason because of knee surgery. The team will once again rely on Evan Longoria to provide the bulk of their offense, which was a successful recipe years ago but hasn’t been enough to get the job done lately.
Pitching and defense could be enough for them to improve on their 68-win season from a year ago, but won’t be enough to overcome a mediocre offense. 83-85 wins look more like a best-case scenario at this point.