The Tampa Bay Rays have begun the roaring twenties with their first division title in a decade as they have successfully clinched the American East division title with a dominant win over the New York Mets.
Despite a slew of major injuries plaguing the team, the Rays have managed to register the best record in the American League, currently possessing the top seed for the playoffs entering play on September 23rd, and are well positioned to secure the top seed in the final three games.
On offense, the Rays have been led by Brandon Lowe, who will be sure to earn MVP votes this season after he has hit .271/.362/.558 with 13 homeruns over 210 plate appearances, accruing 2.2 fWAR.
While the Rays have been led by Lowe, it has been entirely a group effort for Tampa Bay as they have just continued to string together wins in seemingly every way as each series passed. In the bullpen, the Rays have tied a MLB record with 12 different pitchers having recorded saves already this season.
Tyler Glasnow, who looked like a Cy Young candidate in 2019, has continued to dominate opposing hitters. A couple of rough outings have skewed his numbers, but overall, Glasnow has been fantastic for Tampa Bay, along with Charlie Morton and Blake Snell, who have overcome their respective injuries to lead an impressive starting rotation.
Those three will anchor the Rays rotation in the series of three games to come in Round 1. However, the silent unsung workhorse for the Rays has been southpaw Ryan Yarbrough, who leads the team in innings pitched and has just been tremendous overall for the Rays.
There have also been several players to emerge from relative obscurity with John Curtiss and Ryan Thompson pitching in meaningful roles in the Rays bullpen. Meanwhile Josh Fleming, the Rays 5th round pick from 2017, made his big league debut and has been excellent over his 6 appearances thus far.
Randy Arozarena has made his highly anticipated team debut after being acquired for top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore. Entering tonight’s win, Arozarena had registered a 148 wRC+ over 58 plate appearances, displaying an awesome combination of power and speed. Then he hit two more homeruns. Meanwhile, Mike Brosseau has stepped into a larger role on the team and has accrued 1.0 fWAR over his 34 games played.
Another facet that has recently begun to take hold for the Rays has been the return of the stolen base. During the team’s glory days a decade ago, they wreaked havoc on the base paths and now they’re back at it a decade later, having stole a total of 47 bases this season. However, since August 28th, they’ve really upped their kleptomania, having snagged 34 bases over just 24 games.
There has been some debate as to whether there should be asterisks next to respective team accomplishments during this abbreviated season, but Kevin Kiermaier answered that with a resounding no, stating that “We’ve all dealt with this pandemic. This season has been injury plagued for everyone, but we have used the guys available to us and that’s a credit to our organizational depth.”
The 2020 MLB Playoffs officially kick off on Tuesday, September 29th with the best of three Wild Card games commencing. If the standings stay as they are right now, the Tampa Bay Rays would take on the Toronto Blue Jays in a three game series at Tropicana Field.
Soak it in. After ten years, the Rays are AL East champions again!