After a string of six seasons of winning baseball including four playoff appearances and an AL pennant, the Tampa Bay Rays are back to the bottom of the AL East having posted three straight losing seasons, looking more like the Devil Rays teams of old.
While the Rays appear to be the division’s weakest team on paper, they’ve still got a good amount of talent in the rotation and that could allow them to overachieve on their low expectations. Nevertheless, this is a stacked division and Tampa Bay is undermanned on talent, money and depth.
2016 Record: 68-94
2016 Moneyline Record: -30.12 Units
2016 Over/Under Total Record: 78-75-9
Current World Series Odds: +10000
Current Odds To Win AL: +4800
Current Odds To Win AL East: +1800
Regular Season Win Total: 78.5
This isn’t the year for the Rays. They are positioned to battle for the cellar in the division, but there are a few more variables for Tampa Bay than many teams which could lead to them having a bit of a surprise season if all answers are positive.
The first big ‘if’ for Tampa Bay is around the rotation. If the rotation is healthy and pitches to its ability as a whole, this team could actually be pretty competitive game in and game out.
Chris Archer again tops the rotation. He’s a very good pitcher, but he didn’t have a good season last year, going 9-19 with a 4.02 ERA. Despite those numbers, he still had 233 strike outs and a 3.48 SO/W ratio. His walk rate was still in line and much of his struggles can be attributed to luck. He should bounce back.
In addition, Alex Cobb is now healthy and should improve on his dismal 8.59 ERA in his five brief stats in 2017. His last full, healthy season was in 2014 when he posted a 2.87 ERA.
Add in Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jose DeLeon and Matt Andriese and this rotation has talented options. Of course, Odorizzi is the only near-certainty of the bunch, but the talent is certainly there to be one of the division’s best rotations.
Of course, that’s all well and good, but even if all the answers in the rotation end up positive—a long shot to be sure—the rotation alone cannot win games. Tampa Bay has Alex Colome to close out games and he had a very good season. In addition, Brad Boxberger and Shawn Tolleson have been successful closers in the not too distant future as well, though both will be aiming to bounce back off rough years.
Like the rest of this team, there is potential in the pen, but it’s still hard to count on too many relievers beyond Colome.
Once again, there are more questions when we transition to the lineup. Brad Miller is coming off a 30-home run season and slides over to replace Logan Forsythe at second and partners with a now-healthy Matt Duffy to form the double-play combination up the middle. Along with Kevin Kiermaier, arguably the best defensive outfielder in baseball, the team is pretty good up the middle, but even all three players have offensive flaws.
Evan Longoria is a steady answer. He, again, put together a very good season in 2017 with a .840 OPS and 36 bombs. Added to that, Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza and Colby Rasmus add power, but can this collection of sluggers get on base enough and generate enough runs from the power to allow the talented, but question-riddled, rotation to thrive.
In the end, the best way to evaluate teams prior to a season is how many questions does that team have and how likely are those questions to be answered positively? Tampa Bay has a lot of questions.
April 2-5: vs. Yankees
April 6-9: vs. Blue Jays
April 10-13: at Yankees
April 14-17: at Red Sox
April 18-20: vs. Tigers
April 21-23: vs. Astros
April 24-26: at Orioles
April 28-30: at Blue Jays
Tampa Bay will have a real test as they start the season. One of a handful of games on the opening Sunday, the Rays get to host a rebuilding Yankees’ team to kick off the season and will get to play them in Yankee Stadium for their home opener a week later.
Outside of those two series against New York, the Rays have game after game against teams expected to at least compete for a playoff spot with games against the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Tigers, Astros and Orioles.
On top of all of that, while the Yankees aren’t the same team that dominated the league in the late 90s and early 2000s, the team is still the New York Yankees. Playing in the Big Apple will still be a daunting task and even the opening series in Tampa will have a huge Yankee fan presence given New York’s longtime tie to the area with their Spring Training home and Florida State League team.
View this years MLB game match-ups with the complete seasonal schedule for all MLB teams. Each year we will be updating the season schedule with the current information including final scores, so bookmark this page.
The 2017 Major League Baseball season is tentatively set to begin on April 2, 2017, and feature three games, including the 2016 World Series champions Chicago Cubs facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals, which will be ESPN's first Sunday Night Baseball game of the year.
The 88th MLB All-Star Game will be hosted by the Miami Marlins and will be played at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017. It will be televised nationally on Fox.
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