Rays season preview

  The Tampa Bay Rays are entering this season as a potential contender in the American League Wild Card race, despite finish­ing last place in the Amer­ican League East (68-94) in 2016. One reason why they have a chance to compete in the AL is by the offseason acquisitions they added to the roster and the success­ful development of young players. The Tampa Bay Rays added several play­ers via signing and trades. Players like Colby Rasmus, Wilson Ramos, and Shawn Tolleson from the open market, and youngsters like Mallex Smith and Jose De Leon via trades.

  The Rays will miss Lo­gan Forsythe’s production, however, it might be worth it in the long run, as Jose De Leon is a future all-star in the Major Leagues. The Rays will move Brad Mill­er to second base to fill the hole left by Forysthe. Mille had a career year in his first season as a Ray. The Orlando native belt­ed 30 long balls and picked up 81 RBIs. In addition, Drew Smyly is another ma­jor subtraction from the ro­tation. When Smyly was on point, he was one of the pitchers thought to be a CY Young candidate. It was a smart move to move his pricey salary ($6.8M), how­ever, Smyly never real­ly panned out the way the Rays would have liked, as he battled some big inju­ries.

  The rotation is still the strongest point of the team, as it has been since the Joe Maddon era in Tampa. The rotation struggled last year due to the fact that Alex Cobb was recovering most­ly the whole season from Tommy John’s surgery, and Chris Archer did not real­ly get going until the second half of the season. I would not sleep on this rotation, as Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, and most likely Matt An­driese are capable of being a top five rotation in all of the baseball.

  Jose De Leon will most likely start the season in Tri­ple-A, but he will be seen in a Rays uniform before the MLB All-Star Game.

  The Rays offense will be much better and scar­ier than shown in past years. They hit home runs like crazy and finished sixth in baseball with 216 homeruns. That being said, they could be more disci­plined at the plate after fin­ishing 27th in on-base per­centage (.307) and striking out 1,482 times.

  Chad Mottola will have a full season to grow with his hitters, which should help improve those two stats and he replaced Der­ek Shelton midway through last year.

  The Rays biggest chal­lenge in the American League East will be the Boston Red Sox and Toron­to Blue Jays.