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Tampa Bay Rays Preview

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the third team in the AL East, I have the team that, at least on paper, appears to be the worst in the best division.  With that being said, I think the Rays could make a bounce back to being above .500 once again.  It really depends on what their plan is, and I think it remains attempting to be competitive while keeping a tight budget.  For instance, the trade of Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers for a top prospect in Jose De Leon was a typical "Rays" move.  Here is my preview of the Rays.

PROJECTED ROTATION: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Blake Snell, Matt Andriense
The Rays once again have a very good ace atop their rotation, and a couple of regrouping players with great potential.  Chris Archer struggled last year, but years prior he has been one of the best in the game.  Alex Cobb is returning from Tommy John surgery, but once was the ace of this staff as well.  Odorizzi and Snell are both young arms who are controllable for the near future, and both showed promised last season.  Andriense is definitely the guy whom an outsider would look at for number two Jose De Leon to eventually replace, or even beat out in Spring Training.  Dana Eveland, a non-roster invitee, also has an outside chance to win a job.

BULLPEN: Alex Colome (CL), Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno, Danny Farquhar, Erasmo Ramirez, Chase Whitley, Shawn Tolleson, Eddie Gamboa
The Rays' bullpen is pretty much set for now, but the for now is key.  Closer Alex Colome is also major trade bait, and when you convert 37 of 40 saves and have an ERA under two, you will be in high demand too.  With a healthy Brad Boxberger returning, Colome is expendable, but if the Rays hope to stay competitive I would assume they are in no rush to trade him.  Cedeno, Farquhar and Ramirez all had solid seasons in middle relief, and Whitley and Gamboa both showed upside during the end of last season.  Shawn Tolleson is the wild card here, and he used to close games, so I am giving him the last spot of this eight man bullpen.  Keep an eye out for Ryan Garton and Enny Romero as well.

CATCHERS: Luke Maile, Curt Casali, Wilson Ramos*
The star by Wilson Ramos signifies his torn ACL injury, and most players aren't usually listed on an injury report this early.  He is not included in my 25 man roster for Opening Day.  Due to that, it will be a battle between Luke Maile and Curt Casali, and both played well enough offensively to encourage the Rays to take a chance on an injured player (in other words, they didn't play well).  Combined, they hit about .200, hit 11 home runs and had 40 RBI's, which isn't good enough to win many games.  Currently, Maile is atop the depth chart, but Casali played more last season.  I'm trusting rays.com and going with Maile here. 

INFIELDERS: Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin, Matt Duffy, Tim Beckham
The Rays are looking to add a first baseman to allow Brad Miller to move to second after the Forsythe trade.  Former Astro and Brewer Chris Carter is at the top of their list, and he shouldn't command a ton of money.  As of now, the infield is Brad Miller at first, Nick Franklin at second, Matt Duffy at short and longtime Ray Evan Longoria at third.  Longoria is the only one I would deem reliable at this point, but all three of the other guys showed promise last season.  Most of them can play multiple positions as well.  The Rays will also give Tim Beckham another chance after being a former top prospect, and he really is their only option right now.  Non-roster invitee Casey Gillaspie is the only other Ray with extensive big league experience, and top prospect Willy Adames is on the roster too.  I wouldn't expect either to make it, but expect Adames to be up towards the end of the season.

OUTFIELDERS: Chris Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Mallex Smith, Colby Rasmus**
The two stars by Colby Rasmus signifies that the Rays have come to an agreement with him, but have not officially signed him yet.  As of now, I'm counting him on the active roster, and that is mainly because their outfield depth is really thin.  He'll likely slot in to left field, with defensive master Kevin Kiermaier in center and power bat Steven Souza Jr. in right.  Chris Dickerson has shown the most promise over the years (although not last year), and he will be in the lineup as the designated hitter.  Youngster Mallex Smith was a nice "Rays" pickup, and he will be a good fifth outfielder and can play all three positions.  Non-roster invitee Shane Peterson is the only other player on the roster with big league experience.

LINEUP: Franklin (2B), Souza (RF), Longoria (3B), Dickerson (DH), Miller (1B), Rasmus (LF), Duffy (SS), Maile (C), Kiermaier (CF)
This lineup has potential to be formidable, but could also be pretty bad.  I think they definitely could use another bat in this lineup, and plugging in a Pedro Alvarez or Chris Carter, moving Miller back to short would likely be the best move.  I'd expect a similar season from everybody here as last season, with Maile and Duffy having the best potential to have a better year.

I think this Tampa Bay team would be a lot better if it were not in the best division in baseball, and I don't see them beating out two of the four other teams in it this year.  I think they could crack .500, but I'm thinking 74 wins is a more likely scenario.  They have a lot of nice pieces, but they definitely have the makeup of sellers when the trade deadline comes around.

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