Rays aim to take next step, build on '19 run

February 27th, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- After winning 96 games in 2019 and pushing the Astros to the brink in the American League Division Series, the word is finally out: The Rays are good.

Tampa Bay returns one of the best rotations in the Majors. The bullpen is filled with guys who throw 100 mph with ease. The Rays also believe they’ve made significant improvements to a lineup that averaged 4.71 runs per game last season, finishing 18th in the Majors. Oh, and the Rays have a top system that has six players in the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list, including Wander Franco, the top overall prospect.

Now, the Rays are looking to take the next step. Here’s how they’ll stack up heading into the 2020 season.

What's the goal?

Making the postseason for the first time since 2013 was a step in the right direction for the Rays. But now that the expectations have been raised, the Rays are looking to dethrone the Yankees in the AL East, go deeper into the playoffs and ultimately win the first World Series in franchise history. They certainly believe they can do that.

“I think we can do some really good things,” said Rays starter Tyler Glasnow. “I’m not saying it’s World Series or bust, but we have the capability of taking it all the way. In my mind, that’s what I’m shooting for.”

How do they get there?

The Rays have a lot of depth this season, and on paper, they look like a team that doesn’t have a glaring weakness. However, in order for the team to succeed, it’s all going to come down to just how healthy the pitching staff can stay throughout the season. Glasnow missed four months with a forearm strain last season and Blake Snell missed two months after undergoing left elbow surgery to remove loose bodies. But when healthy, the trio of Charlie Morton, Snell and Glasnow is one of the best in the Majors.

What could go wrong?

Tampa Bay’s bullpen finished with a Majors-best 3.66 ERA last season, but with how volatile bullpens are, the Rays’ staff will have to prove that they can repeat last year’s performance. Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and Oliver Drake had the best performances of their respective careers last season, and now it’s about finding consistency.

The Rays will also have to replace Emilio Pagán, who led the team last season with 20 saves. Tampa Bay, however, is hoping to get better performances out of José Alvarado and Chaz Roe.

Who might surprise?

Willy Adames played 152 games last season, so he won’t necessarily be a surprise to many Rays fans. But with a strong 2020 season, the young shortstop could establish himself as one of the best at the position.

Despite a slow start, Adames hit 20 home runs in 2019. His biggest improvement, however, came on defense. Adames finished with 4 Outs Above Average, ranking 14th in the Majors among qualified shortstops and sixth in the AL behind Andrelton Simmons (16), Francisco Lindor (11), Carlos Correa (9), Niko Goodrum (6) and Elvis Andrus (5). Adames also ranked sixth among Major League shortstops with 13 Defensive Runs Saved.

Adames is also a key clubhouse guy and will be a big piece of the Rays’ success in 2020.