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Rays have candidates to take home hardware

March 28, 2017

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Many possible scenarios could come to life this season that would bring postseason awards to Rays players.Most would be contingent upon the Rays becoming contenders. Here's a look at some of the possibilities.Any one of a trio of Rays starting pitchers including Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi,

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Many possible scenarios could come to life this season that would bring postseason awards to Rays players.
Most would be contingent upon the Rays becoming contenders. Here's a look at some of the possibilities.
Any one of a trio of Rays starting pitchers including Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Cobb, could become a Cy Young Award candidate if everything breaks right. Of the three, Archer has the most explosive stuff, and has the strikeouts to boot, so he's the sexiest of the candidates. On Tuesday, Archer pitched three shutout innings in the Rays' 1-0 loss to the Twins.
Of course, there's stiff competition in the American League, meaning Chris Sale and Rick Porcello of the Red Sox, Corey Kluber of the Indians, Felix Hernandez of the Mariners, and Justin Verlander of the Tigers. Any of the group could also bring home an Esurance MLB Award for Best Pitcher as the top pitcher in both leagues.

Evan Longoria, 31, is always a legitimate AL MVP candidate. The longest-tenured Rays player had one of his best seasons in 2016, putting to rest the idea that he has seen better years. If the Rays are contenders this season, he'll surely be in the middle of things, which would help his cause.
Put Corey Dickerson in the mix as a long-shot candidate to come away with MVP honors. The left-handed slugger is 25-pounds lighter and is showing a tendency to go to all fields. And he has the power to go deep to any field. He'll likely be the team's DH most nights despite his weight loss. That fact would make winning an MVP award more difficult, but there's always a chance he could hit his way to that honor.

Pencil in Kevin Kiermaier for another Gold Glove award. The Rays' center fielder won Gold and Platinum glove awards in 2015, then came back and won a Gold Glove in 2016 despite missing a good part of the season due to injury. When he's healthy, he's not only the best center fielder in baseball, he's the best fielder in baseball, too.
Archer, Cobb, Derek Norris, and Colby Rasmus are all legitimate Comeback Player of the Year Award candidates. Archer lost 19 games last season, so if he comes back strong that would boost his case. Meanwhile, Cobb and Rasmus are both coming back from injuries that would make them serious candidates. Norris is returning from a down year and will get serious playing time with the Rays.
Finally, Jake Bauers is the longest of shots to be Rookie of the Year since the 21-year-old slugger isn't even in the Major Leagues yet. However, if he gets the call to The Show, he's a legitimate talent who could put up the kind of numbers that earn Rookie of the Year honors. Bauers is the Rays' No. 4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.