Inbox: Who is likely to join Snell in rotation?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain fields Rays fans' questions

October 30th, 2018

What is the likelihood of the Rays stretching out another pitcher (or going back) to a conventional starter, or will remain the sole conventional starter in '19? would seem to be the most likely candidate, but then he's the main reason they were able to go with the unconventional approach. Also, if the Rays plan to stay with this unconventional approach, how are they preparing the starters currently coming up through the Minors, especially Triple-A and Double-A?
-- Dave D., Garden City, Fla.

The Rays have not tipped their hand for next season in regard to how many true starters they plan to have. What they have said is that the opener is not going away any time soon, which is the logical move given their 2018 success using openers. I wouldn't be surprised if Yarbrough gets a chance to become a regular starter in '19, then again, he had success this season in his role coming in following the opener. Believe me, those pitching in the Rays' farm system are familiar with many different roles.
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The playoffs are based on the best teams getting to the postseason, as it should be. I agree that a more balanced schedule should be implemented. Currently, teams play 19 times each against the teams in their division. I think all teams should play all teams home and away, including Interleague matchups. This would cut down on the divisional games, and make a team's record the true key.
-- David, Houston

In my last Inbox, I mentioned the prospect of MLB going to a balanced schedule based on the idea that a balanced schedule seemed fair given the fact that all teams (aside from division winners) compete for the two Wild Card spots in each league. I had not considered the prospect of playing every team home and away, which would increase the amount of Interleague games for every team. Currently all teams play 20 Interleague games and 76 games against division opponents. One downside of drastically decreasing division games would be that those games would not have as much of an impact on actually determining the division winner.
I love how good the Rays' pitching staff looked this season. Especially Snell. I mean he was phenomenal. But as pretty much the only starter on the team, do you expect the Rays to acquire or sign free-agent starting pitchers? Or do you see them sticking with the pitcher by committee the way they did in 2018, using bullpen pitching? It worked. Ninety wins was excellent. But being in the AL East, honestly, the Rays are going to need something special again and what would it take to make that happen without giving up the future that's looking up? If the Rays do land Goldy from Arizona, do you think C.J. Cron will return? Thirty home runs is hard to look away from.
-- Matt A., Clearwater, Fla.

The Rays have rarely gone to market to acquire free-agent starting pitching, or should I say top-tier free-agent starters. Having followed that plan in the past, I don't see them venturing into those waters. As far as finding something special, how about sticking to what they did over the second half of the season when they went 41-25 (.621) after the All-Star break. I don't expect the Rays to go after of the D-backs, and the Rays have given no indication about their plans for Cron, who heads into his second year of arbitration-eligibility after making $2.3 million in 2018.
You've pointed out how difficult it is to win 90 games as the 2018 Rays did, noting that they might even have a better team in '19, but not reach 90 wins. What is your prediction for the team's record in '19?
-- Harry B., Tampa, Fla.

I'm going to say 87 wins, but this time they make the playoffs, which would make for an odd twist given the fact they did not make the playoffs in 2018 despite winning 90 games.
Will Kean Wong have a chance at making the team in 2019? Based on what he did for Durham in '18, I thought it was odd he didn't get called up during the season.
-- Joe W., Tampa, Fla.

Wong had an outstanding season at Triple-A Durham, where he hit .282 with nine home runs and 50 RBIs while playing second base. Given those numbers, it certainly would not have surprised anyone if he had gotten called up last season. However, the Rays' infield depth is pretty strong. It looks like he got caught in a numbers game in 2018. I expect him to be given a chance to make the team in '19 -- he's earned that chance.