The Tampa Bay Rays season preview is here. Fans have waited long and hard for this day to come, and now that it has, the 2023 season is upon us. This afternoon, the Rays will return the 1998 vibes to open the year against the Detroit Tigers. The team not only celebrates their 25th anniversary but will be playing the same team it opened up against in 1998.
Although that will be interesting, there will be a lot of intrigue with this 2023 team for the Rays this season. Beyond that, there will also be some intriguing off-the-field talks and discussions involving the stadium and other team move that could happen throughout the year. That said, let’s jump in and look at some things to look forward to for Rays season preview.
Rays Season Preview for 2023
25 Looks Good On You
If you’re a uniform fan, then you’re in luck. The Rays announced they would bring back the Devil Rays uniforms for a consecutive season. However, the team is adopting them as an alternate uniform this time, dropping their traditional road greys out of the rotation due to the new Nike 4+1 rule.
Other major anniversary events that fans will expect will be the introduction of a Rays Hall of Fame. That will feature an inaugural class of the late Rays bench coach Don Zimmer (April 2nd induction), Mr. 3,000 and MLB Hall of Famer Wade Boggs (July 9th induction), and All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford (August 26th induction).
This move by the Rays to start up a team hall of fame was great, allowing the team to honor still the past players who helped shape the foundation for the entire organization without, per se retiring their numbers. However, Boggs and Zimmer have already retired their numbers from the team.
Beyond the Hall of Fame and the Devil Rays uniforms, which will be worn on Devil Rays Days on every Friday home game, the team will have multiple giveaway dates that will feature throwback-inspired looks, and the team will be bringing back some concession items that were featured at the beginning when the Rays first debuted at Tropicana Field.
Fine on Time
The Rays had a unique setup for spring training that may have put them ahead of schedule heading into the 2023 season.
With some of the new rules being implemented in the big leagues, such as the pitch clock, the Rays are already “ahead of the clock,” if you will, in terms of learning and understanding the watch being used at their big league home.
While this may be a temporary advantage with teams coming now, it should give the team a bit more comfortability in terms of knowing the location and placement of the clocks in the stadiums, which may give them more awareness and responsiveness to the clock than some of the teams who may have to try and get used to locating the clock and keeping aware of the time.
The Rays of Sunshine Under the Dome
This year’s team is shaping up to be competitive and sneaky in the always dangerous American League East.
The pitching staff may be at its peak and shows shades of the days when David Price and James Shields were on the bump for the club. Tampa Bay’s rotation features Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffery Springs, free agent signee Zack Eflin, as well as Opening Day starter Shane McClanahan. When healthy, this is arguably one of the best and maybe even the sneakiest rotations in baseball.
Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, and Randy Arozarena will remain big pieces. Most notably, Arozarena could have a breakout campaign in 2023 after his memorable World Baseball Classic.
The team will also feature some returning bats and gloves in the form of Isaac Paredes, who was tied for the team home run lead with 20 last season, Harold Ramirez, and Jose Siri, who will be the replacement for Kevin Kiermaier, who left for the AL East foe, the Toronto Blue Jays, this offseason.
Siri will be someone who should greatly benefit from the rule change for bigger bases, stealing for ten bags this spring, including that steal home versus the Boston Red Sox just last Saturday, showing shades of Arozarena in the ALDS in 2021.
It will also be interesting to watch Josh Lowe and Luke Raley. Both players had standout performances during Spring Training. Raley swung for a.326 batting average and five home runs in the spring, which led the team. Lowe hit three home runs, leading the team at camp.
Bursting onto the Scene
Beyond your 26-man roster, the Rays will give some of the other options a shot throughout the year, whether a player gets hurt or even if a player is cold in the big leagues.
There will be a definite battle between shortstops Vidal Brujan and Taylor Walls. One that will be over who would be the “sexier” switch-hitting option for the Rays. In the original thinking, the team would have wanted that option to start the year. Both players have flaws at the big-league level, especially on the offensive side. So giving them a chance to battle in Triple-A with Durham will be a key storyline piece early in the year. It could make one of them expendable here in 2023.
With that, some more intriguing players may not need to battle their way for a spot if the big-league ball club requires it.
Three Possible Standouts
The three that should stand out are Taj Bradley, Curtis Mead, and Jonathan Aranda.
Taj Bradley, currently the top Rays prospect in the system, didn’t see much time in Durham. He must get his footing first at the highest levels of the minors. However, Bradley put together a terrific 2022 season. He went 3-1 in 16 starts in the Southern League and held under a 2.00 ERA.
Although Bradley’s big drawback is his lack of Triple-A time, Curtis Mead has the makings to be the next in line to make his MLB debut. Having hit just south of.300 last season in Durham, Mead has enough Triple-A time to make him a more conservative call-up than Bradley. Mead hit very well in his split time between Durham and Montgomery. Despite 20 games with Durham, the sample of his work was much more consistent with what we saw in Montgomery early in the 2022 season.
As for Jonathan Aranda, most fans know what he brings to the table. Having had some big-league time last season, he could still be a valuable asset if someone like Isaac Paredes or even Harold Ramirez underperforms this season.
Beyond those three, Greg Jones is an interesting shortstop option. That is a factor, especially if neither Brujan nor Walls become what the organization hopes they can become.
Rays Season Preview Final Thoughts and Predictions
The Rays season preview for the 2023 season is shaping up to be historical and fun for this Ray’s bunch.
With a tough, competitive division in the AL East, the Rays must cut their way through the New York Yankees. Then, there are the Blue Jays, and that’s not all. Tampa Bay will get into chess matches with the Boston Red Sox and an intriguing Baltimore Orioles ball club this year.
If you are making predictions, a safe assumption is that the Rays will be a playoff team this season. It could be the first time in franchise history that the Rays will have made the playoffs for five straight seasons. But only time will tell if this team has it in them to get to that next level and compete for the World Series title for the third time.
Photo Credit: © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Don Zimmer, Wade Boggs, Carl Crawford, David Price, James Shields, Tyler Glasnow, Drew Rasmussen, Shane McClanahan, Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena, Isaac Paredes, Harold Ramirez, Jose Siri, Kevin Kiermaier, Josh Lowe, Luke Raley, Vidal Brujan, Taylor Walls, Taj Bradley, Curtis Mead, Jonathan Aranda