2016 Record 68-94 (5th AL East)
Tonight we’re taking a trip to Tampa to see how the Rays look for the 2017 season, and we’ll be joined shortly by Danny Russell from D Rays Bay to get his take on this year's Rays.
The 2017 Rays should look somewhat similar to the 2016 Rays, although they did lose key contributers in Logan Forsythe and Drew Smyly. However, I think they’ll fare a little better on the diamond than they did in 2016.
The pitching staff should bounce back a bit this year. I currently have them rated as my 8th best staff in the American League. I’ve actually got their rotation as my 5th best coming into 2017, however their bullpen grades out as my 12th rated unit. I think with big years from some of their younger guys, such as Blake Snell, they could jump up even higher than 8th.
When it comes to the plate, I have the Rays as my 12th overall squad in the AL. Being as how these are the Rays we’re talking about, I’m sure they will out-do those projections at the plate. As far as projected lineup, I’ve got them ranked last, but their bench is actually my top rated unit in the American League so that brings them up a notch overall.
When it comes to defense, my system loves the Rays, and I’ve got them rated as my top defense in the league. Pitching and defense will again be key in Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see if they have enough to keep up.
Let’s check in with Danny Russell to see how he thinks 2017 will play out.
- What do you expect out of the pitching staff in 2017? Do you see a big bounce back year out of Chris Archer?
"Wins and Losses are one of the last metrics I use to evaluate a player, so I don't believe much of a bounceback will be needed. His strikeout and walk rates were right where you wanted them last season, and he really settled down in the second half with a mere 5% walk rate and 3.29 FIP. Archer was plagued by some longballs in a very uncharacteristic way in 2016 that I believe can be sorted out through some better sequencing."
- Who are some rookies and younger guys the Rays are really counting on in 2017?
"The roster has fairly experienced players this year, but the Rays have serious talent in the minors that has finally pushed its way to Triple-A in 2017: Willy Adames, Ryne Stanek, Daniel Robertson, Casey Gillaspie, Jake Bauers, Jaime Schultz, Jake Faria, and the newly acquired Jose De Leon and Mallex Smith will be knocking on the door all season. I expect a lot of headaches for the Rays coming from their promotion opportunities."
- Do you think the lineup can score enough runs to keep up in the AL East?
"The Rays are built on pitching and defense. They need to win more one run games in 2017 to make their post season dreams a reality, and I don't see why that can't happen. The division is loaded with talent, but when everyone is strong that creates parity."
- Do you think the Rays will cash in some of their young pitching for a premier bat at any point this year?
"It really depends on what the minors dictate for the major league roster. The Rays will be more likely to ship out veterans to clear space than go for the big one, but if the team is putting up a 2010 like season (it's been a while since they felt like World Series contenders) I could see a big DH or bullpen acquisition in the cards. They have the depth."
- Finally, what are your overall expectations headed into the season?
"I expect a much improved bullpen to help anchor the Rays post season hopes throughout the year. Alex Colome was one of the five best closers in baseball last season, and the team has several high leverage arms available in Brad Boxberger, Shawn Tolleson, Tommy Hunter, Danny Farquhar, and Xavier Cedeno, as well as some flame throwing rookies with 97+ fastballs in Ryne Stanek, Jaime Schultz, and Jose Alvarado. It could be a fun year."
All in all, I’ve got the Rays as my 9th best overall team in the American League. Last year, the Yankees were 9th place and they finished at 84-78. Vegas has the Rays win total set between 75.5 and 78.5, depending on where you get it.
If you can find 75.5 anywhere I definitely like the over in that scenario, however it gets a little trickier at 78.5. Like I said I project them out at 9th but they play in a really tough division which could cost them some games. I’ll say, in the end, they sneak by 78 and finish over 78.5.
It may take until the last day of the season to hit that over of 78.5, but they’ll get there. I like the Rays to finish 79-83 in 2017.