2018 Tampa Bay Rays Expert Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
There was a time when the Rays were relevant as more than a team that develops players for other organizations - a glorified farm team that plays a major league schedule. The last couple of years have been rough, though, and it's hard to see how this year won't be rough, too. Actually, it's going to be really ugly.
They cleaned house after last season and did very little to replace all that they lost. They just don't seem to care anymore. Or maybe they know something we don't know. Maybe they are going to be a big surprise. They aren't, of course. The biggest victory for this year would be if it seemed like they actually had a plan to climb out of the hole they have dug. That's not likely, either. Man, it's hard to get excited about this squad.
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Rays 2018 Projected Lineup
Only the Blue Jays scored fewer runs than the Rays last year in the American League - 694 to 693. And after a tumultuous season focused seemingly entirely on cost cutting, the team is without Logan Morrison, Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr., and Evan Longoria. Besides being four decent players, they were also four of the five team leaders in OPS. So, you take most of the production out of a not-very-productive offense, and what are you left with? Pure ugliness. They got first baseman C.J. Cron from the Angels in one of the deals they made, and he has a bit of power, but he's not Giancarlo Stanton or anything. And they have a couple of young infielders in Christian Arroyo and Willie Adames that they have high hopes for, but neither seems likely at this point to start the year in the majors. So, they are left with an infield of guys who just aren't going to blow the doors off teams.
The outfield is often relied on for big production, but that is going to be a letdown here. New addition Denard Span is 34, and he had just 43 RBIs last year - which isn't too far below his career high of 68. He had a career high of 12 home runs last year, and he has a career batting average of .283. He's serviceable, but not much more. Kevin Kiermaier is a defensive savant, but he has career bests of 40 RBIs and 15 home runs. Carlos Gomez is 32 and had 51 RBIs last year. And Mallex Smith had 12 RBIs and a putrid .684 OPS in 81 games with the Rays last year. This is a defensively-sound outfield group, but to say it leaves something to be desired at the plate would be a gross understatement. We could go on and on about the lack of production on this roster, but the point is clear - they are not going to be able to score a lot of runs. If anyone will let you bet on the least productive offense in the AL, go all in on the Rays.
Rays 2018 Projected Rotation and Closer
The sell off didn't just affect the offense. Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb are gone from the rotation as well, continuing the long Tampa Bay tradition of developing strong starters and then getting rid of them before they can benefit from their productivity. That leaves Chris Archer as the unquestioned star of the rotation - and really the face of the franchise at this point. There is so much to like about Archer, but he has yet to put it all together and be the ace that it seems like he is capable of being. And with the total absence of run support he'll be burdened with this year it's hard to imagine him putting together shiny numbers. Blake Snell, the likely second starter, was a high pick in 2011, and he has been expected to do big things but hasn't managed it yet. Again, he has plenty of potential that will be tough to realize in this environment. Jake Faria showed some promise last year, and Nathan Eovaldi is coming off Tommy John surgery but had a solid year for the Yankees in 2015.
The team is going with a four-man rotation out of the gate, but the schedule and a lack of options has more to do with that than anything. Chris Archer boldly said at the start of spring training that this could be the best rotation in baseball. That seems to be proof that Archer has taken one too many hits off the head. Promising youngster Brent Honeywell looked like he could have been a bright spot, and maybe part of the reason for Archer's optimism, but he tore his UCL in the spring and is set for Tommy John surgery. The pitching is much less of a concern than the offense, but it still isn't ideal.
The bullpen, however, is a relative strength. All-star closer Alex Colome is the real deal. Behind him they have all sorts of guys with starting experience and/or potential like Anthony Banda, Matt Andriese and Daniel Hudson. That gives them both options in the rotation and a lot of arms to eat up innings if need be - because this team is likely to play a whole lot of meaningless innings this year. Sergio Romo is around as a reliable veteran presence as well.
Rays Futures Odds
Tampa Bay is at +8000 to win the World Series at BetOnline . That puts their chances ahead of 10 teams but so far behind the leaders that they are on a different stratosphere. Their +3300 price to win the AL is better than just four teams. And they are the fourth choice to win the AL East at +1400, just ahead of the Orioles at +1600. The season win total sits at 75.5.
Rays 2018 Predictions
Like I said, it's hard to like this team. The offense is terrible, and the pitching is likely doomed as a result. It will be a race to the bottom in the AL East with the Orioles. And while I give Baltimore a slight edge, it will be a battle right to the end. There are going to be some hard times, and I like the "under" on the season win total.
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