Sep 23, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Wil Myers (9) hits a 2-RBI single during the seventh inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to another edition of the RCG Mailbag. Today’s inquiry comes from Landon Howell via the Fancred app, who wondered as to what the 2013 season means for the Rays going forward. Remember that if you have any questions that you would like to have answered in a future mailbag, you can send them to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, via twitter at @rayscologlasses, or feel free to ask in the comment section. You can also provide your questions at our Facebook page.
"What does their (Rays) run this year mean for the franchise as a whole?"
Thank you for the question Landon. The Rays success this year was fairly remarkable given their problems with the pitching staff during most of the season. David Price, Fernando Rodney and the bullpen battled bouts of ineffectualness this season, while Jeremy Hellickson was a disaster for most of the season. Price, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb all missed time with injuries, yet the Rays still finished with the fifth best ERA in the American League, and had the third lowest batting average against in baseball. And that includes the 24 starts that were essentially lit on fire by starting Roberto Hernandez.
Yet, the success from the pitching staff may have actually accelerated the Rays expectations next season. Moore and Cobb were still thought to be a year or so away from being able to step in as candidates for the second starter role for Tampa Bay. In fact, the maturation and growth displayed by both Moore and Cobb, as well as Chris Archer, may be poised to lead the Rays into the second half of the decade.
In fact, the emergence of that trio may have immediate ramifications. Trade rumors have swirled around David Price since last offseason, and the way Cobb, Moore and Archer performed last year may give the Rays another reason to consider moving Price, instead of a possible trade being a strictly financial move. Likewise, should Price stay, it could mean that Hellickson finds himself with a very short leash at the start of the year, and could even find himself on the trade block should he have a good start in 2014.
On offense, there are plenty of question marks. Wil Myers emerged as a potential middle of the order bat; however, there have to be questions as to whether or not he will be able to develop as hoped. Although he was among the leaders for rookies in virtually every offensive category, Myers had plenty of issues with pitches low and away, and had a truly miserable postseason, where he was 2-20 with seven strikeouts and a truly disastrous misplay in the outfield that may have changed the complexion of the series. How Myers is able to come back from his failures on the biggest stage may be one of the most important storylines of the 2014 season.
Likewise, there have to be questions about Desmond Jennings and even Evan Longoria. Jennings has yet to develop into the Carl Crawford clone that he was expected to become, and still strikes out far too often. While he improved his walk rate this season, walking a career best 64 times in 602 plate appearances, he regressed on the basepaths and has yet to turn into the dynamic leadoff hitter that he was expected to be. Longoria battled through his third consecutive injury plagued season. Although he appeared in 160 games, Longoria battled plantar fasciitis for a good portion of the season and it may be fair to wonder if Longoria is going to be able to make it through a season without getting hurt.
Yet, despite these questions, the Rays may be in better shape heading into 2014 than they were this season. The starting rotation is not nearly the question mark it had been prior to last year, and the Rays could have a dynamic middle of the order with Longoria, Myers and Ben Zobrist. As long as the young pitching continues to progress, the Rays could be set up to extend their run for the next few years.