Tampa Bay Rays First Quarter Report Card

Tampa Bay Rays

After taking three out of four from the New York Yankees, The Tampa Bay Rays season is a quarter over. The Rays sit with a .500 record of 8-8 and now head into possibly the toughest stretch of their season. How do the Rays grade out in the major components of a baseball team? What is the outlook for the next quarter of the season? Let’s jump right into it.

Starting Pitching Grade:  C

The Good

Ryan Yarbrough has been fantastic. A guy who many would have labeled as the Rays number five starter. Yarbrough has done everything they have asked for him, and more. The worse thing to happen to him is the lack of run support. How bad has it been? The Rays have yet to score with him on the mound. He has given up only seven earned run in three starts, yet has an 0-2 record.

Yonny Chirinos had two great starts but has found his way to the Injured List with a sore tricep. Through his two starts, he only gave up one earned run while looking sharp in both starts.

If the Rays can get this kind of productivity from its back end starters, they will take that and compete with anyone.

The Bad

Injuries and control have been worrisome when it comes to the Rays starting pitching. Charlie Morton had two lackluster starts to begin the season but returned to form in his third start of the season. He went five and two-thirds innings in that game with five strikeouts and allowing only one run on a solo home run in the second inning. Unfortunately, the Rays have placed Charlie Morton on the Injured List following his short outing on Sunday versus the Yankees. Two starters on the IL is not the way the Rays wanted to start the season, especially for a team that is known for its pitching.

Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell have been very promising, despite their numbers not being very impressive. Glasnow’s stuff is exactly where he wants it to be. Fastball is in the upper 90’s and his curveball has the sharp finish it always has. His control has gotten him into trouble. Eight walks in just over 11 innings are something he will need to fix.

Blake Snell on the other hand has more pitches in his repertoire than Glasnow. With Snell, his success and failure reside in his fastball command. When he gets strike one and can go to his secondary pitches, he is as tough as anyone. The Rays would also like to see him get stretched out more since has he hasn’t pitched into the fourth inning in any start this season.

Outlook

The Rays are always built behind their pitching. The injuries are a problem, but Glasnow and Snell will be better. Once those two step up, the pitching staff will be right where the Rays need them. With Morton and Chirinos on the shelf for the next two weeks, expect some bullpen days and some shuffling with the taxi squad to take place. Brendan McKay still needs to get his strength back up. When that happens, he will be able to provide some length. Except him to be an option going forward. Trevor Richards and Jalen Beeks are two bullpen arms who are no strangers to starting. Depth at pitching is one of the Rays big strong points.

Bullpen Grade:  A

The Good

Pretty much every aspect of the bullpen has been even better than advertised. A lot of it has come from the long and middle relievers. Ryan Thompson and Jalen Beeks have really impressed. Thompson, a rookie, even started the “bullpen” game in the second game of the Yankee doubleheader on Saturday. He has allowed just one run through his first nine innings. Peter Fairbanks is another arm that isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. He is averaging nearly two strikeouts per inning with a 16.9 K/9 rate through his six innings of work. A weapon the Rays will gladly have on display more as the season continues.

The back end of the pen was said to be a strong point for the Rays and it has disappointed. But Nick Anderson has picked up right where he left off. He has recorded the last two saves and has yet to allow an earned run.

The Bad

The only negative is the recent IL trip for Oliver Drake. The Rays will miss his reverse splits as he is dominant against left-handed hitters. Hopefully, his injury isn’t long-lasting as his arm is one the Rays would rather not do without. Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado will need to step up to continue the bullpen’s success.

Outlook

If the bullpen can stay healthy, they will be one of the best in all of baseball. This is one aspect of the game where the Rays may not have a clear weakness.

Hitting Grade:  D

That may be harsh but as a team, this has been the talk not only this year but years in the past. The team has an overall batting of .208 which ranks 14th in the American League, ahead of only the Cleveland Indians. Their 13 home runs also rank only one spot above the league-worst. With that being said, the team has some optimism to look forward to.

The Good

Brandon Lowe has continued to punish the baseball despite his lack of size. His tying home run on Sunday gave him the team lead at three long balls this season. He is also 100 points higher than anyone in the slugging department. Also, a fun fact, all three of his homers have come off of left-handed pitching, proving he can hit southpaws just as well as righties.

Jose Martinez has gotten into a nice groove as of late. While he does strike out a bit, he finds himself near the top of most hitting categories for the team. His two home runs have been loud, and something the Rays hope will continue.

The Bad

When the team has an average of .208, there are many directions that the finger can point to. Calling out names is quite simply easier to do for another day. While many players would love to see their averages climb 50 points, it’s the lack of power and consistency that has Rays fans alarmed. If you take out the 14 run, five homer outburst in the fourth game of the season, the Rays are averaging less than 3.5 runs per game and only eight home runs in those 15 games.

Outlook

The Rays need to and will hit better. Having Austin Meadows back in the lineup will really help as he missed the first 10 games of the season. Once the power comes in with the likes of Yoshi Tsutsugo and Hunter Renfroe, the lineup will really take shape. Hitting always seems to take a back seat when it comes to the Rays so none of this should be entirely shocking. When the team starts to hit, there is no reason to think they are not one of the favorites in the American League.

Bottom Line

In many aspects, the Rays have been pretty poor. As disappointing as that is, they still find themselves just two games back of the Yankees for tops in the AL East. When the starting pitching gets up to par and hitting becomes more comfortable, this team is primed for a big run. Too much talent up and down the roster to play mediocre baseball. Rays fans should be excited for the next quarter to take place.

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