Threat Level: 10
The Rays always find a way to win. Manager Joe Maddon has taken this club from irrelevant to powerhouse during his stay, even with a minimal budget. The Rays predicate their success on the fundamentals of the game, but they do have some pretty darn good players. Since they have an identity as a team, which is instilled in them by Maddon, they are able to strengthen their lineup, which may not have as many star quality hitters as other teams, but they can all fundamentally hit, which makes navigating the lineup tougher. And their young pitcher staff always seems to get better every year. Thank the coaching. David Price is a top-notch ace and Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, and Chris Archer all have great potential. The Rays will compete against the Yankees for the playoffs and the division crown and don’t expect them to go down without a fight.
Major Acquisition: Grant Balfour “The Rage” has brought his talents to St. Pete, signing a 2 year deal with the Rays. Tampa did their thing by letting Rodney go and signed a cheaper player. And the track record of closers on Tampa is pretty impressive, so expect Balfour to be pretty steady.
Yankee Killer: Evan Longoria Simply put, Longoria does work against the Yankees. He has 25 home runs against the Yanks, more than he has against any other team, and sports a .308 batting average and 67 RBIs in 92 games. 12 of his 25 homers have come in the last 2 years, including 9, count ‘em, 9 long balls in 2013.
Ray Killer: Jacoby Ellsbury To do anything consistently against the Rays on offense is tough, as year after year they have one of the toughest pitching staffs in the league, but Ellsbury’s career numbers against the Rays are good. In 85 games, he has a .282 batting average with 32 RBIs and 47 runs scored. Like usual, it will be tough to score against the Rays, so they need Ellsbury to be his consistent self against Tampa.