Have the Rays done enough this off-season to hit another milestone in 2020?
ST. PETERSBURG – The calendar has turned to a new year and a new decade. The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off a 96-win season that saw them make a respectable playoff run that ended with a divisional round loss to the Houston Astros in five games. In true Rays fashion, unsung heroes emerged throughout the year. Off-season signings that turned into gold, rookies stepping up, and another dominating pitching staff keyed the first playoff run since 2013. Have they done enough and have enough returning to have their first 100-win season in franchise history?
This team is already looking quite different. But could these changes actually have made them better?
Tommy out, Hunter in
There’s no arguing how valuable Tommy Pham was to this team. Could Hunter Renfroe wind up being equally as valuable…if not moreso? He may not swipe 20+ bags or hit .280 like Pham was penciled in for every year. A healthy Renfroe playing in 150-160 games could wind up being a 40-50 home run slugger from the right side and provide as good if not better defense in left field. He’s also a few years younger than Pham with control through 2024. Sounds like the perfect fit for the Rays. Throw in Austin Meadows potentially improving on an All Star 2019 and the Rays may have the best corner outfield tandem in baseball.
Have we seen the end of “the opener?”
The Rays created it, they can end it…right? At least in Tampa. With what’s hoping to be a healthy rotation of Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, and Yonny Chirinos, the Rays could very well go back to the traditional starting five. The depth is as deep as any in baseball beyond that group. Brendan McKay proved he can compete at the MLB level and a healthy Brent Honeywell is also very much in the conversation to finally make his MLB debut in 2020. Trevor Richards and Anthony Banda could be dark horses to crack the rotation with a solid spring. In a perfect scenario all those arms are healthy and Kevin Cash has a decision to make. One he would gladly welcome.
How much of a difference will Renfroe and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo make to the offense?
As mentioned above, Renfroe has an incredibly high ceiling offensively. Pencil him in for a 45/100 season if he plays 150-160 games. The Japanese phenom, Tsutsugo, has insane power, himself. These two combined could be the most prolific duo in this team’s history if they both stay healthy. Throw in a 20-home run short stop in Willy Adames, an All Star in Austin Meadows who could easily hit another 30 bombs, himself, and then if Mike Zunino returns to his 20-25 home run self – look out AL East! Did we forget Brandon Lowe? Of course not. His health is also a factor but if healthy – he could have himself another All Star season in his second full season in MLB. Let us not forget Yandy Diaz, either! Again, his health is a question but he absolutely destroys baseballs when he squares up on them.
Let’s quiet down about Montreal – for now
It’s going to be brought up throughout the 2020 season. We won’t be able to avoid it. The Rays and Stu Sternberg have been very open about wanting to continue talks about a split season north of the border. Safe to say most the fan base is against such a thing. Let’s table it for the next 8-9 months or so, shall we? How about looking at arguably the most exciting team in MLB shooting for their next milestone – 100 wins. How about this team taking another step in the post-season – a return to the World Series. Finally, how about a Cy Young and MVP?
You heard it here, first.
Tyler Glasnow will be your AL Cy Young winner and Austin Meadows your MVP (or at least a finalist).
We’ll revisit this down the road. For now – enjoy the upcoming season. Pitchers and catchers report NEXT MONTH!
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