2019 Tampa Bay Rays Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
Now that the Oakland A's apparently have concrete plans for a new stadium, by far the biggest stadium/financial mess in the majors belongs to the Tampa Bay Rays. If you have never been to Tropicana Field, well, don't bother. It's a mausoleum and a relic. No franchise in the four American pro sports leagues needs a new building and, frankly, new location more than the Rays.
Problem is, the Rays have a lease with the City of St. Petersburg until late next decade. They were given a window this offseason to negotiate with the City of Tampa on a potential new park, and everyone agrees that the team should move across the bay to Tampa, but that's already dead.
If you read between the lines of owner Stuart Sternberg of late, it would be a shock if this team is still in the Tampa Bay area in 2028, the year after its lease with St. Petersburg expires. I'd be willing to bet $1,000 this team either moves to Portland, which already has a privately funded stadium plan, or Montreal.
It's a darn shame, too, because this is one of the smartest, most forward-thinking organizations in sports - even after losing former GM Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers and Manager Joe Maddon, two industry heavyweights, to the Cubs a few years ago. If the Rays had money to spend, this franchise would have at least one World Series title and likely would be annual contenders. Alas, it's stuck with the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East, so what's the point? Tampa Bay will have the lowest payroll in baseball this season. Doesn't mean the Rays won't be good, though.
Tampa Bay opens March 28 vs. Houston, and it will be one of a few games to actually draw more than 20,000 fans at the Trop.
Rays Projected Lineup
Tampa improved by 10 victories to 90 last year and still finished 18 games behind the division-winning Red Sox and eight behind the Yankees, the AL's top Wild-Card team. The Rays were seven behind Oakland, which took the second playoff spot.
You probably don't even know who most of the every-day regulars will be. The club traded promising Jake Bauers in a three-team deal and landed equally promising young third baseman Yandy Diaz from Cleveland. Diaz can play several positions, and that's something the Rays value going back to Maddon's days. DH CJ Cron was released even though he led the Rays with 30 dingers last year -- no other Tampa Bay player hit more than 14 homers. Tampa Bay simply didn't think Cron was going to be worth the raise he was going to get in arbitration.
The two main additions were catcher Mike Zunino, acquired in trade from Seattle along with outfielder Guillermo Heredia, and free-agent outfielder Avisail Garcia, formerly of the White Sox. Guys who once were highly touted but had hit rock bottom and were available on the cheap. That's how the Rays work.
Here's the projected lineup, but Manager Kevin Cash likes to move his pieces around: OF Kevin Kiermaier, 3B Matt Duffy, OF Tommy Pham, DH Ji-Man Choi, SS Willy Adames (a potential superstar), 1B Diaz, OF Austin Meadows (came over from Pirates last season), C Zunino and 2B Joey Wendle.
Not exactly much star power there.
Rays 2019 Projected Rotation & Closer
No question this team will have to win with pitching, and the staff ranked sixth in the majors last year with a 3.74 ERA. Of course, Cash popularized the "opener" and will absolutely use it plenty again this year. Really makes it tough on bettors for those games.
There are only three sure things in the rotation: LHP Blake Snell, RHP Charlie Morton and RHP Tyler Glasnow. The Rays could well use an "opener" every day those guys don't start.
Snell, 26, won the Cy Young last year, and he surely deserved it. He led all AL starters in (21), ERA (1.89) and hits allowed per nine innings (5.6) while striking out 221 across 180 2/3 innings pitched. Snell's ERA was the fifth lowest single-season mark for a southpaw hander since the mound was lowered in 1969, and third lowest by an AL starter since the DH was implemented in 1973. It was the lowest mark by a qualified AL starter since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 ERA in 2000. If the Rays ever put Snell on the market, they could fill up what is already one of the majors' best farm systems. Snell is under team control through 2022 and will make less than $1 million this season. Best value in baseball.
Morton was the big free-agent addition, getting him pretty reasonably at two years, $30 million. The 35-year-old had a career year with the Astros, going 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 30 starts. His average fastball velocity, according to FanGraphs, was 95.7 mph, fourth in the AL. Glasnow is a former top Pirates prospect who came over in the Chris Archer trade during last season. Glasnow was 1-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 11 starts with Tampa. Plenty of upside.
Lefty Jose Alvarado will close. He was largely a set-up guy last year but finished 1-6 with eight saves and a 2.39 ERA.
Rays Futures Odds
At 5Dimes , Tampa Bay has an "over/under" win total of 84.5, with the over a -130 favorite. The Rays are +800 to win the AL East, +1600 for the pennant and +3300 for the World Series. They are +250 to make the playoffs and -325 to miss.
Rays 2019 Predictions
Obviously, the AL East is a pipe dream and so is one Wild-Card spot because that will go to the second-place finisher in the division, either the Red Sox or Yankees. So, the Rays probably battle Minnesota, the LA Angels and maybe Oakland for the second WC spot. FanGraphs predicts 83 wins for Tampa. I'll go over the 84.5 but just by a couple. No playoff spot.
Doc's Sports is offering $60 in member's baseball picks - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit for any of our top MLB handicappers. Get $60 worth of premium members' picks free. Also, for a limited time only get three MLB handicappers for the price of one. Click here for details . Get free MLB picks daily on Doc's Sports homepage.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Today's MLB Picks
Get all of Today's 100% Profit Guaranteed Expert MLB Picks