Tampa Bay Rays 2018 season preview.

The Tampa Bay Rays are officially in rebuilding mode as the 2018 season begins Thursday afternoon against Boston at Tropicana field.

Just like the Houston Astros and the Oakland A’s in prior seasons,  and the Pittsburgh Pirates this off-season, the Rays gutted the team to dump salary and get in a position to challenge for an AL East crown in 2020.

You will need a program if you are planning on attending a Rays game this season. Gone is the most popular player in franchise history Evan Longoria. Also cut lose or traded this off-season were Steven Souza, Jake Ordorizzi, Alex Cobb, Corey Dickerson, and Logan Morrison.

The Rays have 10 new faces on the roster to begin the season that were not here in 2017. Denard Span comes in from the Giants, Joey Wendle from the A’s, and C.J. Cron from the Angels.

Today, the Rays acquired OF Rob Refsnyder from the Indians for cash considerations. Refsnyder will have to stay on the roster as he is out of options and will have to pass through waivers to be sent to the minors.

Matt Duffy who has been on the roster since 2016  will finally see his first real extended playing time with the Rays since appearing in 21 games in 2016. Duffy missed the entire 2017 season as he recovered from two heel surgeries. Duffy is penciled in to start at 3B for the Rays

The IF first to third will look like this: 1B C.J. Cron, 2B Joey Wendle/Brad Miller, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, 3B Matt Duffy.

Wilson Ramos will be the starting catcher with Jesus Sucre as the back-up. I would think that with the Rays dumping salary, Ramos may be traded around the all-star break. The Rays would then go with a Sucre/Curt Casali platoon at catcher.

In the OF, Denard Span, Kevin Kiermaier, and Carlos Gomez/Mallex Smith will be the starters. Look for Brad Miller and Carlos Gomez to platoon at DH to start the season.

Daniel Robertson, Rob Refsnyder, are the IF/OF utility players.

The big concern is the offense. Get used to seeing a lot of little ball at the trop this season as the Rays do not have a legitimate HR threat except for Carlos Gomez. Gomez has 133 career HR’s  in his 10 year career.

If the Rays are to be respectable this season, the pitching will have to exceed expectations. The Rays will begin the season with a four man rotation of Archer, Faria, Snell and Eovaldi.

In the pen, Yonny Chirinos, and Ryan Yarborough are on a MLB roster to begin the season for the first time. Those guys beat out the likes of Dan Jennings, Anthony Banda, and Jonny Venters for a roster spot.

Sergio Romo, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Andrew Kitteredge, and Matt Andriese round out the pen. This pen will be tested early as Kevin Cash will go with the bullpen to start the game on Saturday in game 3 of the series against the Red Sox.  They call it a bullpen day. This was set up to give Eovaldi an extra day of rest between starts early in the season as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Alex Colome will begin the season as the closer.

The Rays plan to go with this rotation until mid-May.

Vegas has the Rays over/under at anywhere from 76.5 to 77.5 wins this season. That may be a bit high as I don’t think this team will win more than 72. That is the best case scenario in my opinion as the Rays will finish last in they AL East.

The offense will struggle to score runs, the pitching will wear down by the All-Star break, causing the 2018 fire sale to begin. Alex Colome and Wilson Ramos will get traded and Chris Archer may go as well.

Hope springs eternal every year unless you’re a Rays fan. By mid April, we will be focusing on the Lightning Chase for the Stanley Cup and counting down the days till the Buccaneers take the field in August.

USA Today Sports Jonathon Dyer