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Tampa Bay Rays 2019 season preview

Meet your 2019 Tampa Bay Rays, and more!

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a collection of all our Season Preview content at DRaysBay for the Tampa Bay Rays 2019 season. Please enjoy!

Starting Pitchers

LHP Blake Snell - Blake Snell should continue to be good AND lucky

As much as we want to think that predicting performance has gotten easier with the amount of available information, it is still extremely difficult.

While the case can be made that Blake Snell outperformed his peripherals in 2018, much of what allowed him to do so will remain constant in 2019.

RHP Charlie Morton - Uncle Charlie has reported for duty

Charlie Morton is a rare occurrence of a pitcher aging backwards. With age comes diminished velocity, arm problems, and many other issues. However, Morton has used the past few years to re-imagine his career and establish himself as hugely important piece of a competitive rotation.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Tyler Glasnow - The time is (Glas)now

His back of the baseball card numbers may not show it, but he’s ready to live up to the hype. [...]

At the 90th percentile, PECOTA projects Glasnow to produce nearly 4 WARP with a 2.54 ERA in 150 innings. If he can find a way to limit home runs (or at least regress to the league average) and continue to limit walks (his walk rate dropped considerably after the trade), thus eliminating those blowup starts, a breakout year and something near that 90th percentile projection is within the realm of possibility.

And if the Rays hope to make a playoff push, that’s exactly what they will need.

Long Relief

LHP Jalen Beeks - Jalen Beeks could be a key arm for the 2019 Tampa Bay Rays. Or not.

It’s March 28, 2019 and you come home to a brand new board game sitting on your front step. You go inside, tear open the wrapping, and you’re excited to find a dice-based game with unlimited variations at play. Eager to put this bad boy to the test, you call over your friends and embark on what will be an eight-month-long journey.

RHP Yonny Chirinos - Who is Yonny? Chirinos looks to contribute, perhaps as “bulk guy”

We don’t have a ton of data from Chirinos’s injury-shortened rookie season, but there are two things about him of which we have a pretty good idea, and one we know without a doubt:

1. He is probably not the guy who burst on the scene in April 2018.

2. He is a guy that has a future as a big leaguer in some capacity.

3. Most important of all, he is a guy with options. Both in the role he can fill, and minor league kind.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Wilmer Font - Wilmer Font is poised for a breakout

It sure looked like what started out as an emergency waiver wire depth add was on the verge of turning into an important building block for a competitive team, but we only got the teaser in 2018.

LHP Ryan Yarbrough - Ryan Yarbrough: King of the bulk guys

In order for him to repeat his success in ‘19, he’ll need to continue to induce soft contact. If he wants to improve, however, he’ll need to find a way to miss more bats, as his 20.4 K% and his 20.7 whiff% were below the league average.

Short Relief

LHP Jose Alvarado - Jose Alvarado could be even better in 2019

Alvarado made impressive strides in 2018, but tinkering with his pitch mix just a bit — especially early in the count — could be the key from jumping from the “Jeff Sullivan is writing cute articles about you on FanGraphs” tier to the “pitching in the All-Star Game” tier; a tier I believe Alvarado fully capable of reaching.

RHP Diego Castillo - How Diego Castillo found his mojo

With two Opener slots to fill in the rotation, we can expect Castillo to be on the short list. We can expect him to work some relief outings in between opens. We can probably expect him to keep getting days off between outings.

Most of all, if everything stays clicked, we can expect some very sad hitters.

LHP Adam Kolarek - Adam Kolarek is a puzzle

He’s such a weird assortment of pitches. I wonder if everything will stop working for him one day once the novelty wears off. I wonder if it won’t, and if he might actually be a late-inning relief ace, about to click.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Tampa Bay Rays
Chaz Roe
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Chaz Roe - Chaz Roe’s 2018 was a wipeout success

Of pitchers who threw at least 500 sliders last year, Roe ranked 9th best in baseball with an average spin rate of 2843. Ironically, being 9th in baseball was only good for 3rd on his own team, behind Sergio Romo and Tyler Glasnow.

RHP Ryne Stanek - Ryne Stanek is the best 2018 breakout story no one is talking about

With high quality velocity pitches and a full Major League season under his belt, Stanek has an opportunity to cement himself as a reliable arm the Rays can turn to in virtually any situation.

Catchers

Mike Zunino (primary) - Mike Zunino is the catcher you’ve been waiting for

Now healthy, returning home to Florida, motivated beyond belief to finally become the complete player he can be, I too believe in Mike Zunino.

Michael Perez (backup) - Dreaming on Michael Perez (and Nick Ciuffo)

Still just 26, Perez is the clear backup to offseason acquisition Mike Zunino. Though Steamer and ZIPS project Perez to put up just a 77 and 68 wRC+ respectively, his lefty bat should be a nice complement to the right handed hitting Zunino and allow for more favorable matchups.

Infielders

SS Willy Adames - Willy Adames and the inflection point

We got to see Adames break out in the second half of 2018, and whether it was due to a young player simply needing some time to adjust to the big league game, or if it was due to the team showing their full confidence in the youngster. The breakout happened, and it should keep happening in 2019.

1B/DH Ji-Man Choi - Ji-Man and the Masters of Right-Handed Pitchers

Ji-Man Choi is a very good left-handed slugger. He should be good in 2019. The big key, and the big gamble, will be just how good.

3B/1B Yandy Diaz - Yandy Diaz is a mystery the Rays think they can solve

Even if Diaz continues as the player that he is, there’s still plenty of good to be found. He has a knack for getting on base and swinging at what he likes within reason. While Steamer projects his strikeout rate to push 20%, his swinging-strike rate is four percent below the league average. Yandy Diaz is a gifted hitter who doesn’t exactly encapsulate what you think he should be.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Media Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2B/OF Brandon Lowe - 2018 surprise Brandon Lowe can hit at any level

The impressive infield depth that the Rays have will make the battle for a job—whether it be at first, second, or even in the outfield—a tough one, but there is little doubt in Lowe’s tools and being on the every day roster will only make the Rays a better team.

UTIL Daniel Robertson - This is Daniel Robertson’s time

Robertson is coming off a breakout campaign in which he should have won a starting job. Instead, he will be competing for playing time as the Rays infield situation is currently stacked with major league talent.

2B Joey Wendle - Joey Wendle is (still) good

With Willy Adames to his right, Yandy Diaz to his left, and Daniel Robertson pushing from behind, the lefty-hitting second baseman who took Tampa Bay by storm in 2018 is going to have to keep producing if he and the team hope to build on last year’s successes. Something manager Kevin Cash doesn’t doubt Wendle is capable of.

Outfielders

RF Avisail Garcia - Avisail Garcia is a perfect hedge for 2019

This signing was a hedge more than anything else, and a very Rays-type bargain bin signing that could reap significant rewards without impacting the bottom line.

OF Guillermo Heredia - Guillermo Heredia is here

If Heredia struggles while prospect Velazquez shows his improved bat last year wasn’t a mirage, there could be quick hook waiting in the wings. For now, though, the Rays gave the nod to the veteran outfielder, and that’s just fine.

CF Kevin Kiermaier - Dear Kevin Kiermaier: don’t slow down!

While it’s frustrating to see Kiermaier go down with his seemingly annual freak injury, we need not forget just how good he is when he’s on the field.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Philadelphia Phillies Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

RF Austin Meadows - Austin Meadows may be the Swing Vote for 2019

Whether the Rays are competing for a playoff spot or struggling to stay at .500 will be determined by a number of factors, but if you’re looking for the player who may most determine whether the Rays reach their ceiling or their floor, you should start with Austin Meadows.

LF Tommy Pham - Tommy Pham is a dark-horse MVP candidate for 2019

Remember, Pham hit .306/.411/.520 with 6.2 WAR in 2017, and that season he was voted 6th for the MVP. There’s an MVP-caliber performer in there, and 2019 could be his year.

Read More: 2019 Contingency Plans for Centerfield

Injured List

LHP Anthony Banda
RHP Jose De Leon
RHP Brent Honeywell Jr. (minors)

The Future Arms Race: Previewing the Rays injured starting pitchers

[...] it is tough to not get hyped for the return of Honeywell, JDL & Banda. If they do live up to their potential, the Rays will have one of the best rotations in baseball.

3B Matt Duffy - It’s “Sink or Swim” for Matt Duffy

A fully or even a mostly healthy Matt Duffy, with a league average bat and lets say average defense (-4 Defensive Runs Saved and 3.6 runs above average in Ultimate Zone Rating) will be a solid veteran presence in the Rays clubhouse and lineup, and will give the Rays the best chance to push for the playoffs.

He just has to, ya know, take the field.

Important Depth

RHP Jake Faria - Faria from Home: Jake Faria looks to return to form

Early on this spring, Faria has impressed the Rays brass with his bullpen sessions and during his spring debut this past weekend where he pitched a perfect 1 2⁄3 innings, picking up three strikeouts, throwing exclusively out of the stretch [...]

Nonetheless his name appeared on a list of players assigned or optioned to minor league camp. While this must feel discouraging for the player, it is likely a sign that the Rays see Faria as more than an afterthought in their pitching plans.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Ryan Merritt - Rays sign LHP Ryan Merritt to minor league deal

He missed the majority of the 2018 season thanks to a knee sprain, but is expected to be healthy for next year. When healthy, he doesn’t miss the zone. In Triple-A, he walked just 2 of the 291 hitters he faced (0.7%).

RHP Emilio Pagan - Emilio Pagan might be something special

Pagan could simply be running into bad luck. By giving up homers consistently in ballparks like in Oakland and Seattle, this could very well simply be the case. His HR rate could be stabilizing right now but it’s really hard to tell for relievers because, well, they don’t pitch as much as a starter does.

RHP Luis Santos - Luis Santos can pitch in the majors

In total, the package still looks a lot like Erasmo Ramirez, but with a wider true-talent platoon split. [...] if there’s one lesson that 2018 taught, it’s that you can never have too many good pitchers.

RHP Hunter Wood - With several plus pitches, Hunter Wood could become a dominant reliever

Hunter Wood has the stuff to succeed in the bigs. So here are some easier-said-than-done tips for the righty:

1) Stop grooving fastballs.

That’s it, really.

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Other Articles

Breaking down the 2019 Rays offseason

The Tampa Bay Rays are always in state of flux, always restructuring and maneuvering in attempt to field the most competitive team possible, while always remaining conscious of their bottom line. This past offseason was no different.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Rays 2019 offseason.

Rays Roundtable: 2019 bold predictions we actually believe

The push for the 2019 season is upon us, so, as fans, it’s time to put on our prognosticating caps, stare into our crystal balls, and see what the future has in store. Here are some bold predictions for the 2019 season, but these are bold predictions our prognosticators actually, truly believe.

MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at Philadelphia Phillies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 90-win Rays are stacked with ambiguity

The Rays might have a 90-win reputation and 90-win swagger, but the roster is largely filled with new names and ambiguity. [...] Now the Rays return with the vast majority of the players who played in September, even with catcher, first base, and right field in a total overhaul. Time will tell if the Rays can keep those vibes rolling with so many positions filled by new faces or unknown

Who should the Rays target next for a contract extension?

With free agency a mess, contract extensions are all the rage. The Rays have now handed out two contract extensions of their own to young players as they look to secure the core of a 90-win team for the foreseeable future... Who’s next?

The consequences of going “cashless” at Tropicana Field

The Rays need to consider how they are accommodating the cardless, and make every attempt to implement this system in a way that is both transparent and non-discriminatory.

Tampa Bay Rays most underrated move of the offseason

The Rays locked up the biggest hole on the 2019 roster early in the off-season, and the deal deserves a second look.

***

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