2023 Tampa Bay Rays Season Preview – Battling in the AL East Division

The Tampa Bay Rays are looking to make some noise in the highly competitive AL East division in 2023. After coming off a successful 86-76 2022 campaign where they finished third in the division, the Rays have retooled their roster with the hopes of unseating the reigning division champion New York Yankees.

With a good mix of veteran leadership and exciting young talent, Tampa Bay appears poised to make a push towards the top of the standings. In this comprehensive season preview, we’ll break down the Rays’ offseason moves, projected lineup and pitching rotation, key factors for success, and reasonable expectations for the 2023 season.

Outline of Tampa Bay’s 2023 Season Preview:

I. Introduction

II. Offseason Recap

  • Key Departures
  • Notable Additions
  • Remaining Needs

III. Projected 2023 Roster and Lineup

  • Catcher
  • Infield
  • Outfield
  • Designated Hitter
  • Starting Rotation
  • Bullpen

IV. Keys to Success in 2023

  • Continued Growth of Young Core
  • Consistent Production from Lineup
  • Strong Starts from Rotation
  • High-Leverage Relief

V. 2023 Season Expectations and Predictions

  • AL East Competition
  • Regular Season Record Prediction
  • Playoff Contention Chances

VI. Potential Breakout and Comeback Candidates

  • Breakout Candidates
  • Comeback Candidates

VII. Biggest Variables and X-Factors

  • Performance of New Additions
  • Injury Risks
  • Unproven Talent

VIII. Comparison to Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox

  • Lineup and Pitching Matchups
  • Head-to-Head Projections

IX. Best Case, Worst Case Scenarios

  • Best Case Scenario for 2023
  • Worst Case Scenario for 2023

X. Final Thoughts on Upcoming 2023 Season

I. Introduction

The AL East figures to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball yet again in 2023. The big-spending New York Yankees are coming off a division title in 2022, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox both possess talent capable of capturing the division crown.

The Tampa Bay Rays have their work cut out for them, but a successful offseason and growth from within positions them well for contention. The Rays have won 86+ games in each of the past 4 full MLB seasons, establishing themselves as an annual playoff contender.

With exciting young stars and savvy veterans up and down the roster, Tampa Bay aims to unseat New York and make their own run towards the AL East title in 2023.

II. Offseason Recap

Key Departures

The Rays lost All-Star outfielder Manuel Margot to free agency, while trading away first baseman Ji-Man Choi. Margot was coming off a career year offensively, and his stellar defense in center field will be tough to replace. Choi provided valuable lineup depth and plate discipline.

Veteran starters Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Springs were also traded away, thinning out rotation depth. Relievers JT Chargois, Colin Poche and David McKay departed as well.

Notable Additions

Despite losing Margot, the Rays quickly signed All-Star center fielder Dylan Bundy in free agency to replace him. Bundy provides Gold Glove defense and 20+ home run power.

Lefty starter Ryan Yarbrough was acquired via trade from the Mariners to add rotation depth. Corner infielder Ji-hwan Bae was signed from Korea to help fill Choi’s role. Reliever Garrett Cleavinger was also brought in to aid the bullpen.

Remaining Needs

The Rays could still use more rotation depth, especially if they plan to limit young arms like Shane Baz and Tyler Glasnow early on. More right-handed power for the lineup would help balance their lefty-heavy offensive attack.

Bullpen reinforcements also can’t hurt for Tampa Bay. Establishing a clear closer and adding more setup/middle relief options should be priorities before Opening Day.

III. Projected 2023 Roster and Lineup


Christian Bethancourt and Francisco Mejia are expected to split time behind the plate. Bethancourt, known for his rocket arm, provides stellar defense. Mejia balances that out as a switch-hitter with some offensive upside. This duo combines to form a solid catching tandem.


1B – Jonathan Aranda / Brendan McKay

2B – Brandon Lowe

SS – Wander Franco

3B – Yandy Diaz

Ji-hwan Bae and Isaac Paredes also figure to get infield reps, while Paredes may serve as the primary DH.

Tampa Bay boasts an intriguing blend of contact-hitting veterans (Lowe, Diaz) and potential future stars (Franco, Aranda) around the infield diamond. Franco’s superstar ability gives them an explosive element at the top of the lineup.


LF – Randy Arozarena

CF – Dylan Bundy

RF – Manuel Margot / Josh Lowe

Phenom Randy Arozarena, fresh off a 20 HR/32 SB campaign, will look to take another step forward in 2023 as Tampa’s leadoff man. Dylan Bundy takes over every day duties in center field after excelling in a part-time role for the Dodgers last season.

Right field could be a platoon situation with Josh Lowe and others until top prospect Pablo Sanchez is deemed ready for the bigs. This unit should provide run prevention up the middle while offering speed and some power.

Designated Hitter

Isaac Paredes / Brendan McKay

Tampa figures to rotate several players through their DH spot in 2023. Paredes and McKay are top candidates for at-bats as they provide much-needed righty power potential. Yu Chang, Miles Mastrobuoni and others may see time there as well.

Starting Rotation

  1. Tyler Glasnow
  2. Shane Baz
  3. Luis Patino
  4. Ryan Yarbrough
  5. Josh Fleming

Tampa’s rotation will be led by a trio of exciting young arms in Glasnow, Baz and Patino. Getting through the season healthy is key for them to establish themselves as the future ace faces of the franchise.

The crafty southpaw Yarbrough helps provide a veteran presence and depth. Fleming, Springs, and prospects like Taj Bradley, Kyle Bradish, and others will compete for starts as well. This is an electric group if the young guns can put it all together.


CP – Pete Fairbanks

SU – Javy Guerra

MID – Garrett Cleavinger, Ryan Thompson, Brooks Raley

LR – Yonny Chirinos, Joe Ryan

Pete Fairbanks likely opens the season as closer after showing flashes in that role before. Set-up man Javy Guerra and mid-relief arms Cleavinger, Thompson and Raley form a solid veteran core.

Chirinos and top prospect Joe Ryan provide valuable long relief and spot start potential. Overall, this pen has upside but establishing roles and hierarchy will be a key early challenge.

IV. Keys to Success in 2023

Continued Growth from Young Core

The Rays will go as far as young emerging stars like Franco, Arozarena, Baz, and Patino can take them. Franco already looks like a perennial All-Star while Arozarena is an electrifying talent. Getting breakouts from Baz and Patino could make Tampa’s staff lethal.

Consistent Production from Lineup

Balancing Tampa’s lefty-heavy lineup will be imperative to maximize run scoring potential. Franco and Arozarena can’t carry the load alone. The Rays need players like Diaz, Lowe, Paredes, and Mejia to provide steady production.

Strong Starts from Rotation

With their bullpen having some question marks, it’s vital for Tampa’s rotation to pitch deep into games. The young arms staying healthy and delivering 6+ innings consistently would go a long way towards stabilizing the staff.

High-Leverage Relief

Fairbanks needs to establish himself as a shut-down closer, while Guerra and others must provide reliable set-up work to maintain late leads. Bullpens can make or break playoff teams, so Tampa must figure out defined roles.

V. 2023 Season Expectations and Predictions

AL East Competition

The Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox all figure to field talented rosters capable of making playoff pushes in 2023. New York is still the team to beat after signing Carlos Rodon, while Toronto’s offense looks fearsome. Boston also could surprise and rebounds with better injury luck.

Regular Season Record Prediction


If the rotation stays healthy and the lineup produces to its potential, 90+ wins seems like a reasonable benchmark. The Yankees and Blue Jays likely finish ahead in the 95+ win range, but 90 wins could put Tampa Bay in Wild Card position.

Playoff Contention Chances

Thanks to the expanded playoffs, the Rays have a strong chance to return to the tournament after missing out in 2022. The third Wild Card spot seems their most likely path back to October baseball. With good health and bounce-back seasons, Tampa should be right in the thick of the playoff race.

VI. Potential Breakout and Comeback Candidates

Breakout Candidates

  • RHP Shane Baz
  • 2B Jonathan Aranda
  • OF Josh Lowe

Baz and Aranda are top prospects who showed glimpses last season. With full-time roles, both could develop into foundational pieces in 2023. Lowe may also finally actualize his power/speed potential given regular at-bats.

Comeback Candidates

  • RHP Tyler Glasnow
  • 1B Brendan McKay

Both Glasnow and McKay have proven their immense talent in the past when healthy. Now over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, Glasnow could regain his ace form in 2023. McKay also looks to rebound from injury and provide valuable lefty power.

VII. Biggest Variables and X-Factors

Performance of New Additions

Dylan Bundy and Ji-hwan Bae are stepping into key roles. Tampa needs both to make smooth transitions. Bundy replacing Margot’s production in center is especially vital. Ryan Yarbrough also needs to stabilize the back of the rotation after coming over in a trade. How Tampa’s new pieces fit in will determine the team’s ceiling.

Injury Risks to Young Arms

Pitchers like Glasnow, Baz and Patino missing time would be a massive blow. The Rays must handle their workloads carefully. Keeping the hard-throwing young guns healthy all season is imperative and will shape the staff’s overall performance.

Unproven Talent Needs to Step Up

Can Jonathan Aranda hit enough as an everyday first baseman? What will Tampa get from the Josh Lowe/Pablo Sanchez platoon in right field? How will Isaac Paredes handle full-time DH duties? The Rays have talent, but many players are unproven in significant roles. Their development needs to happen fast.

VIII. Comparison to Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox

Lineup and Pitching Matchups

The Rays lineup likely falls just short of matching the power and production of division rivals Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox. However, improved seasons from Franco, Arozarena and others could change that.

On the pitching side, Tampa’s staff matches up well, especially if Glasnow regains past form. The high-end potential of Baz and Patino gives the Rays rotations enviable upside. But New York and Toronto still possess more proven frontline arms.

Boston’s staff regressed in 2022 but has the pieces to bounce back strongly as well.

Head-to-Head Projections

  • vs Yankees: 9-10
  • vs Blue Jays: 10-9
  • vs Red Sox: 11-8

The Rays generally play their division foes tough, relying on excellent pitching to keep games close. If their offense comes alive, they could surprise and take season series against Toronto and Boston. But the Yankees’ world-beating pen poses a formidable late-game challenge.

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IX. Best Case, Worst Case Scenarios

Best Case Scenario

Tyler Glasnow and the young staff aces dominate all season, Franco and Arozarena emerge as perennial All-Stars anchoring a deep lineup, and the Rays capture the division title with a franchise-record 98 wins.

Worst Case Scenario

Injuries ravage the rotation, young hitters like Aranda and Paredes fail to develop, and a leaky bullpen undermines a streaky offense. The Rays collapse to their first under .500 season since 2017.

X. Final Thoughts on the Upcoming 2023 Season

The AL East promises to be a dogfight once again, but the Rays have the pitching, defense, athleticism, and youth to thrive in that environment. With good health and reasonable production from unproven talents, Tampa can make serious noise.

Another playoff berth is well within reach. And if absolutely everything goes right, they could challenge New York and Toronto for division supremacy. But in all likelihood, the 2023 Rays will find themselves in the mix for a Wild Card spot if they play up to their potential.

One thing is for sure – this Tampa Bay squad will bring energy, edge and entertainment value every day as they battle with the big boys of the AL East. Rays fans have plenty of reason for optimism and excitement this season.

Frequently Asked Questions About the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays Season

Who are the Rays’ biggest offseason additions?

Center fielder Dylan Bundy and infielder Ji-hwan Bae are two of Tampa’s most notable additions. Bundy brings strong defense and lefty power to replace All-Star Manuel Margot, while Bae adds depth to the infield. Ryan Yarbrough was also acquired to reinforce the rotation.

What does Tampa Bay’s starting rotation look like?

The rotation will be led by Tyler Glasnow, Shane Baz and Luis Patino. Veterans Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming provide depth. Glasnow and the young arms like Baz and Patino form an exciting high-upside group.

How good is Wander Franco?

At just 22 years old, Franco already looks like a future perennial All-Star. He hit .270 with 9 HR and 35 SB last season while playing elite defense at shortstop. His blend of contact hitting, emerging power, speed and defense makes him a cornerstone player to build around.

Who are Tampa’s top prospects to watch beyond Franco?

Pitchers Shane Baz and Taj Bradley headline Tampa’s system along with shortstop Pablo Sanchez. Baz can be a frontline starter if he stays healthy, while Sanchez may be the long-term answer in right field. 16-year-old Bradley has gotten rave reviews and could see MLB time quickly.

What is the Rays’ biggest weakness?

The bullpen has question marks heading into 2023. Beyond Pete Fairbanks, the rest of the relief corps needs to establish roles and consistency. The pen could undermine the rotation’s solid work if the likes of Javy Guerra and others don’t step up.

How much will the DH rule impact Tampa Bay?

Having the designated hitter should benefit the Rays lineup as it allows them to rotate players through that spot rather than playing short-handed. Tampa struggled offensively at times last season, so the DH adds much-needed depth to their lefty-heavy order.

Can the Rays realistically compete with the Yankees and Blue Jays?

The Rays have the pitching to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the AL East. The key will be whether their offense rebounds and provides enough run support. Scoring 4.5 runs per game could make the Rays dangerous contenders. The young talent is there to make that happen.

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