The Rays currently sit just three games out of the second wild card spot, and with a current series against the second-wild-card leading Twins ongoing, they have the potential to make a real move. At the same time, the Rays have six teams to pass before they would be in a playoff spot. Their playoff odds currently sit somewhere in the 4.0 to 7.0 percent range (at least according to the projection systems), not quite what Tampa Bay fans want to see. Playing in a division like the AL East, and having to overcome more than a third of the league in less than a month will do that to a team.
If the Rays are going to make the playoffs, they’re likely going to need a hero, or at least that’s what the narrative will say (a team-wide explosion would obviously be the most successful outcome). But for narrative’s sake, let’s say that one player goes Greg Jennings and puts the team on his back. A few days ago, Adam Sanford took a look at the Rays players who had memorable Septembers in years past. Who is the most likely Ray to be “that guy” in 2017? Let’s meet some of the candidates, but feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Chris Archer/Steven Souza Jr.
Archer is questionable for his next start, but the good news is there isn’t any structural damage. In the words of DRB editor, Mister Lizzie: “‘No structural damage’ seems like good news if you are evaluating a building. I guess it is also good news for an arm but if a guy can't throw a fastball the fact that it is ‘not structural’ is cold comfort.”
That being said, it’s not hard to imagine Archer coming back and doing the damn thing over the final month of the season and continuing what has been, quietly, one of the best seasons of his career.
As for Souza, his collision at home plate couldn’t have felt nice, but he shouldn’t miss too much time, and given that he has been the Rays best player (by fWAR) this season, a beastly final month wouldn’t be too surprising. The man has a wRC+ of 126 and has been a stud in the outfield - going h.a.m. for one final month wouldn’t be that far out of the realm of possibility.
The boring-but-possible picks
Alex Cobb/Logan Morrison
Did you know Cobb has a lower ERA than Archer this season? I certainly didn’t. I could see Cobb keeping the good vibes going for a final month, or I could see a bit of regression coming his way. Honestly though, I most likely see him sitting in the solid-but-not-much-more realm of production.
With Morrison, there’s a bit of a higher ceiling, as he could easily hit a couple big homers in the final month, but unless he goes absolutely bonkers, he’s a (mostly immobile?) first baseman who already relies heavily on the long ball for his value to the Rays.
The proven wildcards
Corey Dickerson/Kevin Kiermaier/Jacob Faria
It would almost be too obvious if Dickerson reignited his fire storm of a first half, or if KK kept up his red hot post-DL numbers, or if Faria went back to his first-called-up dominance, right? I mean, it’s possible, but it seems like these dudes may have already had their big-impact portion of their respective Rays seasons.
The…. Oh wait
The Take That!
Would it or would it not be among the funniest things of all time if Snell went 5-0 with a 0.72 ERA in September? What if he took home September Player of the Month honors and led the Rays from a less than 1-in-10 chance to the promised land of the playoffs? For a player who has always lit up Triple-A and the minors, would it be that much of a stretch of the imagination to see him dominate a September-call-up-influenced final month of the season? Please let this happen for all the hot take artists out there trashing Snell for never going into the seventh inning.
The most fun possibility
Don’t look now, but Longoria is nearly 32 years old, and he’s starting to show signs of it. It’s hard for non-Adrian Beltre humans to play third base into their mid-to-late 30s, and Longoria is on pace for his worst season (per fWAR) since 2012. That being said, it’s hard to imagine a more fun timeline than the one in which Longoria goes off for a dozen homers and a few web-gem-level clutch defensive plays in a Rays playoff run. He’s been (the deserved) Face of the Franchise for the better part of a decade and adding one more highlight to his reel would be the stuff of legend.
The Yeah, I could actually see that happening
Doesn’t it just kind of seem like this guy has a 15-homer, you-thought-Giancarlo-Stanton-was-impressive type of month in him? The Rays will play plenty of AL East games in the final month, and if there’s one thing about AL East stadiums, it’s that they are homer-friendly. Seeing Duda go bonkers for a month is certainly conceivable, and he’s my sneaky pick for the poll below.
Vote below for your chosen Ray to lead us to the Promised Land.