By: Noah Wright
As of 6-18, the Rays are in the first Wild Card spot, and aren’t there by luck. They have built up a solid team. Brandon Lowe is leading the team with both the glove and bat. He has a .285/.341/.544 batting line with 15 home runs and a 136 wRC+ in 261 PA’s. On the defensive spectrum, he has a way above average 4 DRS .6 UZR, and .5 dWAR. Another large part of this team has been off season acquisition Yandy Diaz. Diaz has batted a healthy .286/.363/.502 line, 11 home runs, and a 130 OPS+ in 248 PA’s. Diaz has also brought value with his defense. He has racked up 1 DRS at both 1B and 3B, while being worth .1 dWAR. A big bat the Rays have relied on this season has been Austin Meadows. Through 236 plate appearances, Meadows has 12 long balls, a .314/.390/.571, and 155 wRC+. Although he hasn’t really done anything with the glove (-2 DRS, and -.4 dWAR), Meadows’ bat has been very valuable. An overlooked signing has been outfielder Avisail Garcia. The 28 year old is having a solid bounceback campaign. Currently, he has a .294/.348/.484 batting line through 270 PA’s. Although his BABIP in his breakout season was an extremely unsustainable .392, his BABIP this season has been a much better looking .350. His 123 wRC+ has been above average this season as well. Usually, Garcia is a below average defensive outfielder, but he actually hasn’t been that bad this season. He has 3 DRS, 2.9 UZR, and .1 dWAR. Next to Lowe, their second most valuable batter this season has to be former Cardinal Tommy Pham. The Rays’ primary LF has an impressive batting line of .298/.405/.472 in 299 PA’s. That’s good for an extremely good 141 wRC+. He’s also an asset with the glove. In left, Pham has 6 DRS, 2.8 UZR, and .4 dWAR.
Plus with the solid offensive contribution from 1B Ji-Man Choi and premium glove of Kevin Kiermaier, this team’s line-up is both deep and productive. Then there’s the pitching, which has been solid. Charlie Morton has looked like an ace this season with his sub-3.00 ERA/FIP (2.37/2.88) and nice walk (3.2 per 9), and strikeout (11.0 per 9) this season. Tyler Glasnow looked like a co-ace to this rotation before he went on the IL. Yonny Chrinos has been a nice surprise as well. Despite his 4.20 FIP, Chrinos has a 3.00 ERA, .938 WHIP, and 4.53 strikeouts per walk ratio through 81 innings. While Blake Snell has middling numbers compared to his 2018 Cy Young season, Snell still is giving up hard contact just 31.6% of the time. That’s much lower compared to last year. Ryne Stanek and Jalen Beaks have made an extremely good opener/long relief combo to round out the opening 5. The bullpen is where we get a bit shaky though. Jose Alvarado has had a solid year so far, as well as Diego Castillo. Emilio Pagan has been lights out though. Through 26 innings, Pagan has a 1.38 ERA, 2.24 FIP, and .808 WHIP. Plus with an extremely impressive 5.67 K/BB ratio, and having given up only 2 long balls, Pagan has easily been the Rays’ best relief pitcher.
But right now, I don’t think the Rays could go deep into the playoffs. They still have a few areas of the team where they could improve. For starters, the team needs another shutdown relief pitcher. I’d suggest someone from the Giants. Right now, Sam Dyson might be on the trading block. Currently, he’s pitching to the tune of an excellent 2.45 ERA, 2.77 FIP, and .939 WHIP through 33 innings. While Dyson isn’t striking out tons of batters (8.2 per 9), his control has been impeccable. He has walked only 9 guys this season, while giving up 2 long balls. Plus Dyson is controllable through the 2020 season, so the Rays could hold onto Dyson for 2020. Another arm on the Giants they could target is LHP starter Madison Bumgarner. While Bumgarner is no longer the ace he was with the Giants a few seasons ago, he’s still a solid pitcher. He has a 3.87 ERA, 3.96 FIP, and 1.172 WHIP. Bumgarner still has elite control with 1.9 BB/9. His strikeout numbers have also seen a jump from 2017 (8.2) and 2018 (7.6) to 8.7. His home runs have been an issue though at 1.4 per 9. But with his playoff experience, he could help a fairly playoff-inexperienced group. The Rays have a fairly deep minor league system, so not only will they have the prospects to acquire a package of Dyson+Bumgarner, but it likely would not cost all that much.
If the Rays can bolster their pitching staff, and maybe add a bench bat, I think this team has a much better shot at going deep into the playoffs. It’s really the only thing they need. While they won’t greatly suffer without adding some, it would definitely help the Rays.