With the Super Bowl behind us, that lets us know that spring is just around the corner and it wont be long till the sound of the crack of the bat will be heard as spring training will soon be under way.
The Tampa Bay Rays pitchers and catchers will report to Port Charlotte on Thursday February 13th, with the rest of the squad reporting on February 18th.
The first exhibition game will be in Fort Myers on February 22 against the Boston Red Sox.
The Rays are coming off a 96 win season and a berth in the American League playoffs, eventually falling to the Houston Astros in five games in the division round.
At fanfest held at Tropicana field over the weekend, owner Stuart Sternberg thinks the Rays can win between 85-90 games this season and some believe that the Rays can challenge the Yankees for the AL East crown.
The Rays starting rotation which was hit hard by injuries last season returns intact with everyone healthy and ready to contribute in 2020.
Charlie Morton returns as the number one starter followed by Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow.
Snell and Glasnow were hobbled by injuries last season and both pitchers missed the majority of the season. A healthy Snell, and Glasnow joining Charlie Morton gives the Rays one of the best rotations in baseball.
There has been some talk the Rays may abandon the opener strategy and go with a standard five man rotation. Robinson Chirinos and Ryan Yarbrough could begin the season as the number four and five starters if the Rays go that route.
Brendan Mckay, Trevor Richards, and Brent Honeywell could also be in line for a spot in the rotation at some point during the season.
The bullpen will one again be the question mark of this Rays pitching staff.
With the trade of Emilio Pagan over the weekend, it looks as of the Rays will begin the season going with a closer by committee approach with Nick Anderson, Chaz Roe, Diego Castillo, and Andrew Kittredge all getting an opportunity.
Brendan Mckay who also could tart some games this season, Colin Poche, and Oliver Drake should Round out teh rest of teh bullpen.
Offensively, the Rays lost some firepower in the offseason with Avisail Garcia and Travis D’Arnaud, signing with Milwaukee and Atlanta respectively.
Tommy Pham, a fan favorite and one of the leaders on this Rays team was traded to San Diego.
The Rays traded with the St. Louis Cardinals acquiring IF/OF Jose Martinez for top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore.
The Rays also picked outfielder Hunter Renfroe from San Diego in the Tommy Pham deal. Renfroe hit 33 home runs with San Diego last season and will start in Right field for the Rays barring an injury.
Yoshi Tsutsugo comes to Tampa on a two year $12 million deal. Tsutsugo has played his entire career in the Japanese league and will primarily DH and will also see some time at 1B and in the outfield.
The Rays added another outfielder and a right handed bat in the Pagan trade picking up Manuel Margot.
Margot has some pop in his bat as he hit 12 home runs and is very good defensively as he was second among National League center fielders in fielding percentage with a .992 percentage.
Mike Zunino will start training camp as the teams starting catcher with Michael Perez agin backing up Zunino.
The Rays will bring 64 players to Port Charlotte, but the majority of the roster is pretty set. There will not be a lot of roster spots available on this team.
Ji Man Choi will start at 1B and get some tine at DH. A healthy Joey Wendle/Brandon Lowe should start at second, with Wily Adames at short, and Yandy Diaz at third.
Daniel Robertson will come off the bench and spot start. Robertson is very versatile and can play a multitude of positions both in the infield and outfield.
Austin Meadows, Kevin Keirmaier, and Hunter Renfroe will start in the outfield from left to right. Yoshi Tsutsugo, Manuel Margot, Jose Martinez, and Brandon Lowe will all see some time in the outfield.
Two Rays prospects to keep an eye to male their big league debut this season, shortstop Wander Franco, and pitcher Brent Honeywell.
Franco, rated the number one prospect in all of baseball should make his debut at some point this season. There is talk that with Adames firmly entrenched at short, that if Yandy Diaz gets off to a slow start, Franco could come to the big leagues and possibly play third base.
Honeywell who was a top five prospect two years ago, will be trying to get to the big leagues after having two arm surgeries that derailed his last two seasons.
Honeywell tore a ligament in his elbow in 2018, and then fractured a bone in his elbow in 2019.
Honeywell will start the season at AAA, but will be in Tampa sometime in 2020.