In our Baseball Spotlight Tampa Bay Rays 2021 season preview, we take a look at everything from last season to projections for the 2021 season. Let’s get started!
The Tampa Bay Rays dominantly won the American League East last season. They claimed the division by seven games during the 60-game slate, which is remarkable. The Rays bested New York once again in the American League Divisional Series.
The Rays rode their momentum all the way to the World Series before being defeated by the Dodgers in five games. The Rays are projected to finish second in the division in 2021 following the loss of Blake Snell and Charlie Morton.
If the Yankees stay healthy, the Rays will not stand a chance in the division, but I still expect them to claim a Wild Card berth. Toronto will be the Rays main competition behind the Yankees in the American League East.
Let’s take a look at the Rays 2021 season.
- 2020 Regular Season Record: 40-20 (.667)
- AL East Finish: 1st
- Postseason: Eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series
- 2021 Projection: 86-76
- AL East: 2nd
Projected Opening Day Roster
C: Mike Zunino
1B: Ji-Man Choi
2B: Brandon Lowe
3B: Joey Wendle
SS: Willy Adames
OF: Manuel Margot
OF: Kevin Kiermaier
OF: Randy Arozarena
DH: Austin Meadows
C: Francisco Mejia
IF: Mike Brosseau, Yandy Diaz,
OF: Yoshi Tsutsugo, Brett Phillips
RHP: Tyler Glasow, Chris Archer, Michael Wacha
LHP: Ryan Yarbrough, Rich Hill
RHP: Nick Anderson (C), Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, Ryan Thompson, Collin McHugh,
LHP: Ryan Sherriff, Jeffrey Springs, Jalen Beeks (60 Day DL)
Rays 2021 Season Preview
The Rays have a unique system for their players. They do not spend a lot of money on talent to win. Instead, they rely on player value. The Rays made it to the World Series last season, but they did not improve their 2021 roster.
I believe the Rays got worse in the 2021 offseason. They lost Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and a few other players. Snell and Morton were critical to Tampa Bay’s success last season.
The Rays needed to part ways with Morton to save money that was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When Blake Snell was pulled in Game 5 of the World Series, it was believed that he would not be returning to Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay cannot compete with the Yankees with their pitching talent this season. However, if any team can do more with less talent, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays.
There is no exceptional hitter on Tampa Bay’s 2021 roster, but this is no different from the 2020 team. Tampa Bay does not win with giant bats. The Rays can prosper because of their player’s ability to get on base and phenomenal defense.
Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena will create the bulk of the production for the Rays this season. Arozarena hit .281 last season and had some big hits in the playoffs. The outfielder is 26 years old and one of the game’s brightest stars.
Brandon Lowe is also 26 years old, but he is already an All-Star caliber second baseman. Lowe has not played a full season in his young career, but I expect him to have a breakout year at the plate. He hit 14 home runs in 56 games and had an OBP of .362.
If the Rays limit their strikeouts, draw walks, and put together timely hits, they will succeed this season. This is how Tampa Bay plays the game so expect them to generate runs in 2021.
Baseball’s number one prospect, Wander Franco, could help this club if he gets called up in 2021. Franco, who is only 20 years old, is off to a hot start in Spring Training, so do not be surprised if he is playing in the show by the end of the year.
Last year, they could get away with this strategy because of Snell and Morton. I do not deem that this strategy will work as well as it did last year, but this will become evident as the season gets underway.
The Pitching Staff
The Rays need another quality starter, but it does not appear that they will get one at this point. Jake Odorizzi should be on Tampa Bay’s radar if they are looking to win the World Series. Tyler Glasnow will be the team’s ace, but he needs help if the team wants to win.
Glasnow is a young pitcher, but he has the ability to be one of the best pitchers in the league in the coming years. All eyes will be on Glasnow in 2021 without Snell and Morton. He has the talent to rise to the occasion.
In Tampa Bay, starters are not as critical because of manager Kevin Cash’s strategy. Cash will rarely allow his pitchers to go through a lineup twice. If a starter can put together five successful innings, they have done their job in Cash’s mind.
This strategy could help a pitcher like Rich Hill thrive in his age 40 season. However, I do not like Hill as the team’s second-ranked pitcher. That simply shows a lack of rotational depth.
Someone that could surprise the fans in the starting rotation is Chris Archer. Archer is a two-time All-Star. He did not pitch in 2020 and has not been decent since 2017. Nevertheless, he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past two seasons, so he was not getting a lot of run support.
Archer does not need to get back to his prime form to have success in Tampa Bay. He just needs to pitch to contact and let his defense work.
The bullpen is Tampa Bay’s key to a successful 2021. The three leaders in the pen are Pete Fairbanks, Diego Castillo, and Nick Anderson. Anderson will most likely be the designated closer, but all three of these guys will have their chance to finish games in the ninth inning.
The bulk of the relief work will be designated to Collin McHugh. McHugh signed a one-year, $1.8 million contract. McHugh appears to be coming to the end of his career, but if this signing is successful, the Rays will drastically benefit.
Tanner’s Projection –86-76
The Rays got worse in the offseason. They are still one of the best small-market teams in baseball, but this does not result in championships as we saw in the 2020 World Series. I can see the Rays finishing in second if their pitching holds up, but the Toronto Blue Jays are right on their tails.
MORE FROM BASEBALL SPOTLIGHT: If you enjoyed our Rays 2021 season preview, be sure and check out all of our MLB team and division previews before the 2021 season’s first pitch is thrown!
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