The Tampa Bay Rays have always been built on the back of great pitching. The starting rotation will be key to them staying in the majority of games this year, especially with the loaded lineups the AL East has to offer.
The Rays lost more than likely their top arm in Tyler Glasnow in a trade back in December with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That leaves the ace spot in the rotation up for grabs, which may go towards Zach Eflin. He had a great first season in St. Pete with a very low walk rate of 3.4, and has a good chase rate due to his variety of breaking balls. In Tropicana Field, Eflin had a great ERA of 3.30.
Another starter back will be Aaron Civale, who the Rays acquired from the Cleveland Guardians at the trade deadline. Much like Eflin, he is another big time breaking ball specialist with a good cutter and curve in his arsenal. Although his ERA went up once he was with Tampa Bay, he showed he could rack up strikeouts with 58 in 45.1 innings pitched.
A big story to watch will be Ryan Pepiot, who the Rays got in the Glasnow blockbuster with Los Angeles. He only has a 42-inning sample size to look at with the Dodgers, but he would be a solid third piece to the rotation. Over his 2023 season, he had an 0.76 WHIP and a 2.14 ERA. His mid-90s fastball is his main pitch, and has been the go-to for him so far in his MLB career.
It was no secret in 2023 that the Rays had tons of starters out due to long-term injuries. Shane McClanahan has incentive from the arbitration process to come back in 2024, but that is tough due to extensive Tommy John surgery. Shane Baz, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rassmussen could all come back, but are coming off of Tommy John surgeries themselves. Springs' return could be huge, since the Rays do lack a southpaw starter. He had a sub-2.50 ERA in 2022, but his imminent return is unlikely.
Another player that could be in and out of the minor leagues like last season is Taj Bradley. Despite problems giving up the home run ball, he showed moxie in his 23 starts for Tampa Bay, putting up a 1.39 WHIP and 129 strikeouts in 104 innings of work.
Per usual, the Rays' starting rotation can be great, loaded with experience and breaking ball masters even without Glasnow. They have young players like Bradley coming up through the farm and lots of other key starters waiting for their returns to play in Tropicana Field.