Well it’s that time of season again. It’s time for some Rays baseball action. The Tampa Bay Rays have had a complete transformation this off-season. There are now 16 Rays members that were with the team last season that are gone. The 2015 season begins soon as opening day is on Monday, April 6th and this will be the first time that the new manager Kevin Cash has managed a game. Matt Silverman has stripped the team and certainly shaken things up in his first stint as a general manager. Spring training for the Rays starts on March 5th against the Baltimore Orioles in Port Charlotte as camp started a few days ago. There are many positions that will be up for grabs before the final roster is set. Last season the Rays had one of the best records in spring ball and fans will see if they Rays can keep up the solid numbers. David DeJesus could be the next Ray to be traded. He is being paid too much for lack of offensive production he provides. The Rays have a surplus of outfielders so hopefully the Rays can get something in return for him. A total of 30 players were involved in the seven trades the Rays made in the last few months with Matt Silverman at the helm. A lot of the names on the active roster many fans have never heard of but this provides a great opportunity for players to make a name for themselves. There will only be three remaining players that were on the opening day lineup compared to last season. Evan Longoria will continue to be the face of the franchise as James Loney will be solid at first base once again. Desmond Jennings will also be back in centerfield and left, but he needs to show a more consistent bat to stay in the lineup. Some fans thought he would have been traded this off-season with Kevin Kiermaier jumping into the spotlight last season. Jennings has shown up at training camp this season much lighter, so hopefully he gets back to his old ways.
The young solid pitching will continue to be the strength of this team. The Rays do a great job in the front office with bringing in young good arms to help them compete in the American League East. The starting rotation would look something like this: Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi would be the rotation. Alex Cobb will take the hill on Monday April 6th as they take on the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Matt Moore won’t be back until June so Nathan Karns may be a nice replacement until then but the fifth starter is definitely still up for grabs. The infield is certainly up for takes with the departure of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. Nick Franklin and Asdrubal Cabrera should fill in nicely though. The Wil Myers trade did not make sense since Steven Souza has yet to have consistent time in the big leagues but the Rays front office believes he can have a huge impact in this lineup with his bat. The offense has certainly not gotten any better from last year so it will be interesting to see how all these new faces respond. John Jaso will likely get most of the time behind the plate and as designated hitter. He is a consistent bat but isn’t going to hit 30 bombs which is what this lineup needs behind Longoria. The Rays could be an attractive spot for some big bats because these players know they will get some quality at bats with a young team like the Rays. Rumors are still swirling around about bringing in Ryan Howard to Tampa Bay as well. Kevin Cash has said he will use a more consistent lineup this season compared to Joe Maddon. Maddon always played the numbers game and switched things up. Sometimes this makes it tough for the hitters to get in a groove. The new approach by Cash will hopefully resolve that issue.
The Rays did spice up their farm system with many of these moves during the winter months. Tampa Bay now has three players in the top 100 prospects list. The hard part for fans is that you just don’t know if these players will pan out at the big league level. If the Rays can get some continuity in spring ball it will definitely help the younger players. If the Rays have a good spring they usually start out very well in April. It’s important to have a good start in 2015 as the Rays are in a tough division. The guys will all need to mesh together for this team to have more than 77 wins they had just a year ago. The Rays do have the best rotation in the AL East but the offense will remain the question. Hopefully the Rays can get it together and make the postseason once again. The continuing stadium issues continue to develop and grow around the Tampa Bay area as well.