At the beginning of each spring, the Tampa Bay Rays are looked at for their pitching staff, drafting top prospects, developing them down on the farm and rotating them into the major league roster when someone has moved on via trade or free agency. Pitchers will take the mound in less than a week down in Port Charlotte, FL and a few of these arms will be important pieces on this staff if the Rays want to have a winning season. Keep an eye on these pitchers and the predictions for them as the season progresses.
Closer – Brad Boxberger: When Boxberger made his debut with the Rays back in 2014 he was provided with a handful of save opportunities out of the bullpen but was only able to successfully close out two of those games. Before coming over from San Diego he was providing relief out of the bullpen pitched an average of 24.6 innings, kept his earned run average below 3.00 and continued to improve upon it to get it down to 2.37 in the first season in Tampa Bay. Last season, Boxberger, 27, was presented with 47 save opportunities and able to close 41 of those opportunities and saw his ERA increase to 3.71 with a 4-10 record. This Tampa Bay Rays team will look to him again in 2016 to be an important part of this team to shut the door in close games if they want to get back to having a winning season and a chance at the post season. If that is the case, then Boxberger will have about 54 save opportunities and count on him to eclipse the 50 save plateau in 2016 with an ERA back down to around 2.80.
Starter – Chris Archer: Archer has been a part of this team since he made his debut back in 2012 where he went 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA but in the three years since we’ve seen him settle into his own providing quality outings and in some cases just completely become untouchable. In his short career he has started 93 games, has a 32-32 record with a 3.33 ERA and three complete game shutouts. Pitching and defense is what this team continues to pride themselves on which means sometimes the run support can come up short even for a pitcher as good as Archer. In 2016, Archer will be expected to start around 32 games again and with more run support this season he will finish the season with 19 wins.
Bullpen – Xavier Cedeno: Tampa Bay acquired Cedeno from the Los Angeles Dodgers for cash considerations after he was originally designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals and acquired by the Dodgers but never appeared in a game in Los Angeles. Cedeno, 29, has certainly provided that left-handed option in relief out of the bullpen for the Rays. Last season, Cedeno had 47 strikeouts across 46 innings pitched and held a record of 4-1. Cedeno will be that one strong pitcher throughout the 2016 for the Rays not just in certain situations but will help fend off the opposition time and time again. Expect him to see 50-plus innings pitched and would not be surprised to see him have between 55 and 60 strikeouts.
These pitchers have yet to get their feet set on the rubber but if they’re successful as predicted, then the Rays have a bright season ahead of them in 2016.
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