Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The Rays vs. The Setbacks


The Rays winning 95 games this year is impressive enough in itself. The Rays winning 95 games with only 3 games of Jeffrey Springs, a half season of Shane McClanahan, partial seasons of Brandon Lowe, Manny Margot, Drew Rasmussen and Andrew Kittredge, and their star player who they were trying to build future iterations of the team around gone thanks to his postgame habits. 

This is the power of the Kevin Cash Rays teams. They can still be one of the best teams in the league without half the powerful assets you might think they'd need to be great. 

Honestly, the Rays' depth has kept them great this year. If they didn't have Taylor Walls to once again fill the void defensively at short after Franco's departure, I don't know what they'd do. Walls is probably the bridge to Junior Caminero, the 19-year-old shortstop prospect that just landed in the majors. Walls will get the starts until Caminero proves he's 100% ready to take the reins, and that he has no intention of dating any high-schoolers. 

This same depth has kept the outfield strong despite big injuries taking out Jose Siri and Manny Margot for a lot of the year. Luke Raley, before his injury, was an excellent utility option with great bench perks and decent power numbers. Josh Lowe actually became an excellent starting OF option in the wake of Margot's injury, and has held onto the position as Harold Ramirez takes the majority of the OF reps in Siri's absence. And then you look around this lineup and realize that only Lowe and the infield fill-ins [Aranda, Walls and Caminero] are actually homegrown. Everybody else was either nicked for a big piece or came over as a small free agent helper. And it's built this surprisingly useful soon-to-be-postseason lineup.

The starting is where some of the depth runs out, because while bullpen games can continue to be the Rays' specialty, they're using Taj Bradley as a starter again. Bradley has some good perks but hasn't had a wholly inspiring season, and needs to grow into himself. At the very least Eflin, Civale and Glasnow are less liable, but you're putting a lot on the bullpen, especially one that isn't as well-trusted as previous versions. The lineup has all the depth in the world, but the pitching depth is beginning to run out, and it could sink this team long-term.

The Rays will probably do some damage this postseason. I'm not sure if they really have enough to intimidate the bigger guns this year, and may need to hope some momentum comes their way, because this team pales in comparison to their last few to me. They could surprise me, as they're very good at doing that, but I'm not really seeing the 'oh no' factor from them as much this year. And after their April, that's a sad turn of events.

Coming Tonight: A hard-hitting third baseman who just helped his team get back to October.

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