Off a fresh series win against the AL East rival Red Sox, the Rays enter the second half of the 2017 campaign on a high note. With one of the deepest team in the majors, Tampa Bay is receiving all kinds of contributions throughout the roster. And they (almost) all seem to be clicking at the right time!
That being said, who is hot and cold right now?
Let's take a look.
1. Jacob Faria, SP: Is he not Nolan Ryan in disguise? But seriously, this kid is something special. The 23-year old right-hander has now made six starts since his big league debut back on June 7th and he’s earned quality starts in all six, with a 4-0 record, a dazzling 2.11 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Without Faria's month-long stretch of quality starts, the Rays would not find themselves four games over .500.
2. Tommy Hunter, RP: He's been extremely impressive the entire season, hitting high 90's with late movement on his fastball - the culprit of a strikeout rate that has jumped from a career 15 percent rate to 28.4 percent this year. On the year, he sports a career-best 2.13 ERA over 25-1/3 innings. It's scary thinking where this bullpen would be without the hard-throwing veteran.
3. Mallex Smith, OF: This guy is fun to watch. The speedy center fielder closed out the first half on a tear, hitting .440 (11 for 25) with two steals in his final seven games before the break, with seven runs scored. He's filled in marvelously for Kevin Kiermaier (who broke his hip in early June) since recalled from Triple-A. That's a big hole to fill. The defense isn’t a one-for-one replacement, but no one’s could be, and Smith has been a diligent student of the game, playing with a flash and flair that has bolted him into a fan-favorite and one of the most exciting players to watch in the AL East.
4. Brad Boxberger, RP: The 29-year old has been a steadying force in the bullpen since being activated from the DL on June 29. He's pitched just four innings of work, but is yet to give up a run or a hit. His extensive experience in high-leverage scenarios should be a big boost to a Rays bullpen heading into the second half.
5. Brad Miller, 2B: The owner of the biggest hit of the season to this point (B8 2-run bomb off Joe Kelly Sunday), Miller is rolling into the second half on a high note. The 27-year old concluded the final three games of the Red Sox series with a combined .444 BA (4 for 9), 3 RBI's, and 2 BB's. If Miller's recent surge at the plate continues, it would go miles for making a more complete and deathly lineup as the team gears up for a playoff run in the final 72 games.
6. Alex Cobb, SP: Over the past month, Cobb has been the best Tampa starter not named Jacob Faria. In his last six starts, he has an ERA of 2.38 with an opponents batting average of .196 (that even includes a rough start versus the Orioles on July 2). The right-hander has found a way to stay consistent with his fastball-curveball platter and is averaging 1.3 walks per start over the dominant six-game stretch. That's a recipe for success.
7. Steven Souza Jr., RF: After two injury-filled seasons, Souza is finally living up to his potential. We saw flashes of this potential in his first two seasons as a Ray, but he's played consistently good baseball in 2017. In particular, his .306 batting average, seven homers and .949 OPS in his last 28 games have helped him rank 5th in both WAR (2.5) and wRC+ (135). His defense has been great too, evidenced by top 10 plays such as this one versus Boston on Sunday.:
8. Wilson Ramos, C: "The Buffalo" has been a much-welcomed addition to the Rays lineup since returning from the DL June 24. In his last 26 PA's, he's slashing .292/.346/.750 with 3 HR's and 9 RBI's. I've never quite bought into Ramos' former nickname as "The Buffalo". No, that seems to be far too small of an animal. As I like to say, Ramos is a sweet-swinging catcher with the power of a mammoth.
9. Jumbo Diaz, RP: For some reason it feels like Jumbo is getting rocked every time he steps on the mound, but that hasn't been the case. He had that terrible outing against Baltimore on June 24 (4 ER, 2 IP). Besides that, he's been quite good - allowing zero runs in the other seven innings since June 11 (again, omitting the Baltimore game) to tag along with the rest of the improved bullpen performance.
10. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS: Just look at this highlight reel from last Saturday’s game. Absurd!
1. Jake Odorizzi, SP: He hasn't been able to get into a groove all season long, but his last seven starts, in particular, have been disastrous. The right-hander has allowed at least three runs in the seven-game stretch starts with a 6.69 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 31:16 K:BB and 2.8 HR/9 in 35 innings over that stretch. Odorizzi will try to rebound from a miserable first half Sunday against the Angels.
2. Corey Dickerson, OF: The All-Star had a marvelous first half of the season, but he went into the break cold. Since June 29, Dickerson sports a .118/.205/.235 slash-line with 0 HR's and 3 RBI's in 34 AB's. This is essentially the first slump of the season for the slugger, so no need to be concerned yet. Everyone has them at some point. It's the good hitters that find ways to break out of them quick. Let's see if Dickerson can accomplish the feat this weekend in Anaheim.
3. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS: Make no mistake about it, Hechavarria has been great in the field since acquired from Miami. At the plate, however, he has struggled mightily. Since July 1, Hechavarria is batting .043/.043/.043 with 0 HR's, 0 RBI's, and 0 R's with 6 K's in 23 AB's. Much like Dickerson, this could be the case of another mini-slump, as the shortstop slashed an impressive .329/.341/.430 through his first 83 PA's before the rough stretch.