The Tampa Bay Rays made it a priority to add offense to their roster over the past calendar year, and what a journey it’s been.
Going back a calendar year to include last season’s trade deadline, the Rays have steadily added impressive pieces to overhaul their roster into one of the strongest in baseball.
Twelve Month Rewind
At the 2018 trade deadline, the Rays acquired hard hitting outfielder, Tommy Pham, who was a bit down on his luck. That quickly turned around when he put on the Rays uniform and he excelled down the stretch, putting up some of the best numbers the franchise has ever seen.
The Rays also dealt away their ace, Chris Archer, for the quite the haul of players as they landed right-handed pitcher Tyler Glasnow and outfielder Austin Meadows, along with a developing young pitcher, Shane Baz.
Then, in the offseason, the Rays jettisoned promising young first baseman / outfielder Jake Bauers to the Cleveland Indians, along with $5M, for Yandy Diaz. Diaz was, to drastically undersell him, a bulky infielder whom Cleveland had seldom used for two seasons despite excellent numbers in the minors.
The Rays would add a couple of additional hitters during the winter months, shipping off Mallex Smith for slugging catcher, Mike Zunino. In January, the Rays signed outfielder Avisail Garcia to a one year deal. Garcia had dealt with an injury during most of a disappointing 2018 campaign, perhaps suppressing his offensive potential.
The Rays had quietly, but efficiently, recreated an extremely potent offense that had the ability to make them among the best teams in all of baseball.
Whatever you thought of the Rays off-season, the early returns indicate their plan worked.
Hit Show 2.0
Just over two months into the 2019 season, the Rays offense has been fierce and relentless, but most of all strong.
According to Statcast, entering play on Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays offense currently leads the major league in Hard-Hit% with a whopping 42.4% of balls in play being hard hit.
Meanwhile, their exit velocity is the third highest in the game, trailing just behind the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
When I say, trailing just behind, I mean they’re just behind...
90.0 MPH - Yankees
89.9 MPH - Red Sox
89.8 MPH - Rays
Garcia, Zunino, Pham, and Diaz are all in the 85th percentile or higher when it comes to Hard Hit %.
Meanwhile, Brandon Lowe, Meadows, Zunino, and Pham are represented in the 82nd percentile or higher in terms of exit velocity.
Tommy Pham is currently 7th in the majors with a 53.7 hard hit percentage and 9th with a 92.9 average exit velocity. The only other players in the top ten for both categories are Joey Gallo and Josh Bell.
Meanwhile, Austin Meadows may not be stinging the ball as hard as his peers, but he is in the upper echelon when it comes to production as he currently ranks 3rd in all of the MLB in wRC+ while leading the American League in a slew of other stats:
It only took 18 years, but the Hit Show has finally arrived in Tampa Bay and they’re something to behold. Combine that offense with the Rays incredible pitching staff, and it’s no wonder the Rays have been in playoff pole position all year.