2014 Tampa Bay Rays Odds to Win the AL East with MLB Picks and Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 3/10/2014
Joe Maddon will be entering his ninth season at the helm, and during his tenure with Tampa Bay his team has posted five straight winning seasons and four stints in the playoffs, including a trip to the World Series in 2008. Last season the Rays finished second in the AL East at 90-72. They went on to win a tie-breaker against Texas for the final wild card spot in the AL and then they beat Cleveland in that one-game playoff. Tampa Bay's run in the postseason came to a swift and bitter end with a 3-1 loss in the ALDS to rival Boston.
The Rays will start this season right where they ended last season; chasing Boston for the AL East title. These two teams are clearly the cream of the crop in an extremely competitive division that boasts five teams that could easily win one of the weaker divisions in the majors.
Odds to win the AL East: +175
Odds to win the AL Pennant: +800
Odds to win the World Series : +1600
Projected Win Total: 87.5
The Rays' pitching staff has undergone a complete overhaul in the bullpen with the departure of Fernando Rodney, Jesse Crain, Roberto Hernandez and Jeff Niemann. They also said goodbye to second baseman Kelly Johnson, designated hitter Luke Scott and catcher Jose Lobaton.
To help replace the numerous arms that are no longer on the team, Tampa Bay has brought in Grant Balfour, Heath Bell and Nate Karns. It also added infielder Logan Forsythe and catcher Ryan Hanigan.
Projected Starting Lineup:
David DeJesus (OF)
Ben Zobrist (2B)
Evan Longoria (3B)
Wil Myers (OF)
Matt Joyce (DH)
James Loney (1B)
Desmond Jennings (OF)
Yunel Escobar (SS)
Ryan Hanigan (C)
The Rays are going to need better output from this bunch in 2014 to have any chance of overtaking the high-powered Red Sox in the division. They finished ninth in the AL in runs scored in 2013 with 700, and their .257 team batting average was right smack in the middle of the pack. They will also have to improve in both RBI (670) and home runs (165), which were also halfway down the list in the AL last year.
The biggest bat in this lineup still belongs to Longoria, who led the team in both RBIs (88) and home runs (32). Both Loney and Zobrist banged in over 70 runs, and they combined for another 25 homers. David DeJesus will be starting his first full season with the team after coming over in a mid-season trade, and Hanigan joins the lineup as the team's new starting catcher. Will Myers is coming of a solid first season in the majors that earned him AL Rookie of the Year honors.
Projected Starting Rotation
Price remains the ace of this staff, but he could also be trade bait in light of the fact that he is slated to become a free agent at the end of the 2015 season. The youth movement is alive and well in this rotation with an average age of 25. Archer showed some serious promise with an ERA of 3.22 in 2013, and putting Moore's occasional control problems aside, he has proven to be a solid starter as well.
The Rays' bullpen was in need of a shake up after finishing last season ranked 18th in the majors with a 3.59 ERA. They have to hope that both Balfour and Bell can be key contributors right out of the gate.
2014 Tampa Bay Rays Picks and Predictions
Maddon has continually proven that he can squeeze the most out of what he has got. The one bet I like right off the bat is the "over" on the projected win total of 87.5. This team has won at least 90 games the past four seasons, and there is nothing that tells me they will not win at least 90 games in 2014. I also see Boston taking a slight step backwards this year, which could easily open the door to the AL East title.
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