Rays 2022 season preview: Projected roster, rotation and three things to know as Tampa aims for AL East crown
The Tampa Bay Rays in 2022 will be aiming for a number of franchise firsts. They’ll be trying to win three straight AL East titles for the first time, they’ll be trying to make the playoffs in four straight seasons for the first time, and most importantly they’ll be trying to win the World Series for the first time in franchise history. . Can Kevin Cash’s squadron, which has just completed its first-ever 100-win season, achieve all these lofty goals? Let’s explore this very question.
Total projection of wins, odds
- Record 2021: 100-62
- Sportsline 2022 projection: 96-66
- World Series odds (via Caesars Sportsbook): +1500
- Brandon Lowe, 2B
- Wander Franco, SS
- Austin Meadows, DH
- Randy Arozarena, LF
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B
- Yandy Diaz, 3B
- Mike Zunino, C.
- Manuel Margot, RF
- Kevin Kiermaier, FC
The Rays in 2021 boasted one of the best offenses in all of baseball, especially once you adjust to the run-suppressing nature of Tropicana Field. Last season, they ranked second in the AL in runs scored and fifth in OPS. As for the park-adjusted OPS+ metric, the Rays’ 112 figure ranked third in the AL. The good news is that they’re turning over the usual suspects. Lowe and Franco make one of the best midfield tandems in the game today, and Arozarena last season proved his regular season and 2020 playoff exploits were no fluke. There’s reason to believe that Mike Zunino’s power spike in 2021 could be at least partly sustainable, and Austin Meadows should be the highly productive first half of a DH peloton. This should again be one of the best attacks in the game.
- Shane McClanahan, LHP
- Drew Rasmussen, RHP
- Corey Kluber, RHP
- Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
- Luis Patino, HRP
If there’s reason to suspect the Rays will take a step back in 2022, then here it is. The situation is hardly hopeless given the impressive depth of organizational pitching, but there is some concern here. Most notably, Shane Baz, who has the most upside of any ray, is sidelined after undergoing elbow surgery. More information on its location and importance can be found below. Tyler Glasnow is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is highly unlikely to cast in 2022. Brendan McKay appears to be healthy and available, but getting out of a procedure like chest outlet surgery offers no guarantees future efficiency. On top of all that, Yonny Chirinos broke his elbow while recovering from surgery at Tommy John and may not be available until the second half of the season. If any team can make this situation work, it’s the Rays, but that situation is precarious right now.
Closest: Andrew Kittredge, RHP
Set up: Pete Fairbanks, RHP
Structure: JT Chargois, RHP
Midfielder: JP Feyereisen, RHP
Middle: Matt Wisler, RHP
Midfielder: Brooks Raley, LHP
Midfielder: Ryan Thompson, RHP
Middle: Jason Adam, RHP
Long: Jalen Beeks, LHP
It was a dominant body in 2021. The Rays led the AL in the bullpen ERA and led the Majors in the bullpen FIP. They also did it during an MLB 703 relief innings. Given Cash’s excellence in handling bullpen roles and his calculated quick hooks with starters, it’s not that surprising. There has been some turnover – the loss of Colin McHugh to Atlanta is a notable example – but the Rays’ recent history of identifying and deploying relievers correctly gives assurance that it will be again. one of the best bullpen in the league. The addition of Brooks Raley in particular should provide the necessary depth on the left side.
Shane Baz status
The 22-year-old right-hander is the Rays’ ace in waiting. However, the Rays may be waiting a little longer than expected. That’s because Baz this spring was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body from his throwing elbow. As elbow surgeries go by for pitchers, the results are much worse, especially since the Rays say Baz has no structural damage. Barring a setback, Baz should be able to join the rotation at some point from mid-May to late May. The unknowns, however, are whether he will be able to meet that schedule and whether his effectiveness will be compromised in the short term.
Suffice it to say, the Rays could use the Baz peak this season. He has the makings and minor league track record to be a true No. 1 in the TB rotation. Here’s what our RJ Anderson had to say about him very recently when he ranked Baz as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball:
“Baz is the only top-20 member to have already reached the majors. He appeared in three regular-season contests with the Rays in 2021, racking up a 2.03 ERA and 6.00 strikeout ratio in a small sample of 13 innings Baz demonstrated on his major league appearance that he had three swing-and-miss pitches, including a 90s superior fastball (with movement and release point characteristics that rival those of Gerrit Cole) and a pair of breaking balls since being acquired from the Pirates as part of Chris Archer’s ill-fated trade, allowing him to go just 16 walks in 92 combined innings between majors and minors last season. That would be impressive for anyone, let alone someone who was giving off a walk every two innings before the pandemic. Between Baz’s pure tricks and his newfound control, he’s the favorite to eventually take over from T yler Glasnow (who also came into this trade) as the Rays ace.
Given the depth issues in the Rays’ rotation right now, they need Baz to get closer to realizing that potential when he returns, and they need that return to happen on schedule.
Wander Franco for the first full season
Shortstop Wander Franco has made the most of his rookie campaign in 2021. In 70 games, he’s reduced 0.288/0.347/0.463 (129 OPS+). It’s a solid production, especially for a plus outfielder who is in a prime position. These numbers become even more impressive when you consider that Franco was only 20 years old. At the same time, these results come as no surprise given Franco’s scouting pedigree and outstanding underage performance.
Now that Franco is still a year older and has his first 308 plate appearances behind him, it’s expected he’ll get even better. Career arcs aren’t always linear and predictable, but it’s very likely that Franco will find himself squarely in the AL MVP discussion over the next few seasons. Will 2022 be such a year? Very probably.
Contributed by Corey Kluber
The Rays’ concerns about rotation depth were duly noted. These concerns, however, will become more pronounced if Kluber is unable to be both efficient and generally healthy in 2022. Kluber’s recent history runs counter to these hopes:
- He hasn’t pitched more than 80 innings in a season since 2018.
- Since the end of this 2018 season, Kluber has been on the injured list for a fractured forearm, a torn shoulder muscle and a sprained shoulder. These three stays in IL ended up being 60 days.
- As a result, Kluber has only worked a total of 116 2/3 innings over the past three seasons, including just one inning during the abbreviated 2020 season.
- It continued a trend of losing momentum year over year.
Early spring returns have been encouraging for Kluber, but his failure to stay healthy in recent years looms large, especially at the start of his campaign at 36.