The Tampa Bay Rays enter the 2023 MLB season looking to build on their 86-76 record from 2022 and compete for another AL East division title. With a talented young core and shrewd front office, the Rays have proven they can hang with baseball’s big spenders despite one of the league’s lowest payrolls.
This in-depth 2023 Rays season preview will analyze Tampa’s roster, prospects, pitching staff, offensive outlook, and chances of making the playoffs and winning the World Series.
Tampa Bay Rays 2023 Roster Outlook
Projected Starting Lineup
The Rays will deploy their typical versatile lineup, with players slotting in at multiple positions. Here is the projected everyday starting nine:
- LF – Randy Arozarena – After a breakout 2021 postseason, Arozarena followed up with a 20 HR, 32 SB 2022 campaign and will lead off.
- DH – Manuel Margot – Margot enjoyed a career year in 2022 and provides speed, defense, and contact skills near the top of the order.
- 3B – Yandy Diaz – One of the Rays’ few power threats, Diaz provides elite bat-to-ball skills with strong OBP.
- 1B – Ji-Man Choi – Choi gives Tampa a patient left-handed bat, strong glove, and clubhouse leadership at first base.
- 2B – Brandon Lowe – Lowe will look to rebound from an injury-plagued 2022. At his best, he’s a middle of the order run producer.
- RF – Jesus Sanchez – Acquired from Miami, the young slugger will bring power potential to the middle of the lineup.
- C – Christian Bethancourt – Bethancourt had a breakout 2022, providing rare power from the catcher spot along with strong defense.
- SS – Wander Franco – One of MLB’s top prospects, Franco will try to stay healthy and unlock his 5-tool potential as a franchise cornerstone.
- CF – Jose Siri – Siri brings elite speed and defense to cover the outfield gaps in Tampa’s spacious park.
- C Francisco Mejia
- IF/OF Miles Mastrobuoni
- IF/OF Jonathan Aranda
- OF Roman Quinn
- IF Yu Chang
Tampa’s versatile bench provides the roster flexibility that enables their innovative platoons and lineups. Top prospects like OF Josh Lowe and C Rene Pinto could also contribute.
Projected Starting Rotation
The Rays pitching staff is the backbone of the team. They consistently develop and acquire undervalued arms while keeping them healthy through innovative usage and limiting innings. Here is the likely starting five:
- RHP Shane McClanahan – The 2022 All Star is one of the AL’s top young aces after finishing top 5 in Cy Young voting.
- RHP Tyler Glasnow – Glasnow has ace stuff when healthy. He’ll be eased back from Tommy John surgery but should bolster the rotation by midseason.
- LHP Jeffrey Springs – One of 2022’s biggest breakouts, Springs figures to be a high volume innings eater in the middle of the rotation.
- RHP Drew Rasmussen – Rasmussen had an excellent 2022 and will look to refine his splitter and continue missing bats with his riding fastball.
- RHP Luis Patino – The electric young righty has top of the rotation upside if he can hone his control and stay healthy.
Tampa’s bullpen production has become a given under their innovative late-inning strategy. Key relievers include:
- RHP Pete Fairbanks – Overpowering closer has elite stuff but needs to improve consistency and control.
- RHP Jason Adam – Adam is a high leverage workhorse coming off a career 2022 season.
- LHP Brooks Raley – Veteran lefty excels against left-handed bats and limits hard contact.
- RHP JT Chargois – When healthy, Chargois provides strong ratios with a wicked slider and funky delivery.
- RHP Ryan Thompson – Thompson generates grounders with a heavy sinking fastball and provides multi-inning potential.
With no designated roles outside of Fairbanks at closer, manager Kevin Cash leverages the bullpen optimally using data and matchups. Bulk innings will be key, especially early on, to cover for a rotation that lacks depth. Overall the talented and flexible pitching staff should keep Tampa competitive in 2023.
Tampa Bay Rays – Position Player Prospects
Tampa’s farm system ranks in the top half of MLB, headlined by several exciting hitting prospects who could contribute at the major league level in 2023.
CF Evan Edwards
Edwards, 21, exploded onto the prospect scene in 2022 by batting .332 with 26 HRs across A and AA. His elite bat speed, power, discipline, and center field defense give Edwards future perennial All-Star potential, though he may begin 2023 in AAA.
SS Carson Williams
Williams, 22, brings an exciting power/speed combo up the middle. He swatted 27 HRs while swiping 35 bases in the minors last season. Williams’s impressive plate discipline also points to a high OBP hitter in the mold of Wander Franco.
C Rene Pinto
Pinto’s lightning quick pop time and strong framing skills make him an elite defensive backstop. He also showed increasing power in 2022 by mashing 19 home runs in AA. Pinto, 24, is ready to contribute as Christian Bethancourt’s backup.
OF Josh Lowe
A flawed but tooled up athlete, the 24-year-old Lowe can impact games with his legs, defense, and raw power. Cutting down on strikeouts will be key as he competes for MLB at bats in left field.
This next wave of Rays position prospects is versatile, athletic, and patient at the plate – prototypical Tampa Bay developmental success stories. Several could see significant MLB time by 2023 and help keep the Rays pipeline flowing.
Tampa Bay Rays – Pitching Prospects
While known for maximizing value by developing unheralded arms, the Rays system actually features several promising pitching prospects.
RHP Taj Bradley
Bradley, 23, induced a ton of weak contact and grounders in 2022 with a heavy sinking fastball and sharp slider. The control artist profiles as a mid-rotation starter soon, though he may open 2023 in AAA.
RHP Seth Johnson
Armed with an explosive mid-90s fastball and plus curve, Johnson dominated across A/AA in 2022. The 25-year-old has closer stuff but could also excel as a starter if his changeup develops.
RHP Mason Montgomery
Montgomery flashes four legit pitches including a riding four-seamer up to 98 mph. Though he struggled with command in AA last season, the upside as a frontline starter remains. He’s 23 and likely needs more seasoning.
LHP John Doxakis
Doxakis, 24, is an under the radar name who generates a ton of ground balls with a low-90s sinker. After reaching AAA in 2022, Doxakis profiles as a crafty back-end rotation piece who can eat innings.
The Rays system excels at developing control specialists, ground ball generators, and maximizing velocity through analytics. Arms like Bradley, Johnson, and Doxakis could help replenish the MLB staff in 2023.
2023 Tampa Bay Rays Season Outlook
After previewing Tampa’s MLB roster, prospects, and pitching, what can we expect from the 2023 Rays season? Here are the key storylines to watch:
Offense – Margot, Franco, and Lowe Bounce Backs?
In 2022, Tampa’s offense finished just 12th in the AL in runs scored. They’ll need bounce back seasons from Margot, Franco, and Lowe to drive more scoring and support the pitching staff. A full healthy season from Franco especially could be franchise-altering.
The additions of Jesus Sanchez and Jonathan Aranda add much needed right-handed power. But this group still lacks prototypical middle of the order thump unless Lowe or Franco break out. Manufacturing runs will remain critical.
Pitching Staff – Glasnow’s Return
Despite finishing 7th in ERA, the rotation lacks depth behind McClanahan. Glasnow returning strong around midseason could change the outlook. The Rays will lean heavily on their excellent bullpen and strategic deployment of multi-inning bulk guys to compensate early on.
AL East Competition
As always, the AL East presents a daunting obstacle. The Yankees and Blue Jays are arguably MLB’s two most talented rosters on paper. And the Red Sox and Orioles both made major offseason improvements.
Yet the scrappy Rays always manage to hang around the race by maximizing platoons, staying healthy, and winning close games. 93-95 wins seems possible. But with improved competition, a Wild Card berth may be more realistic than the division crown.
Bottom Line – Contender Once Again
Betting against the Rays has proven unwise, even when they trade away stars or operate on a shoestring budget. The young core is improved, the pitching infrastructure remains elite, and the front office is one of baseball’s best.
Tampa Bay will deploy versatile platoons, creatively leverage the staff, and combine young stars with undervalued veterans. Rays fans should expect another scrappy, competitive 2023 team that pushes the Yankees and Blue Jays for a playoff spot. This club is simply too well-run to ever forecast a losing season. The Rays will be right back in the mix.
Frequently Asked Questions About the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays
Rays fans have plenty of questions about what to expect from the team this season. Here are answers to some of the most common 2023 Rays FAQs:
Will Wander Franco make the leap to stardom this year?
The former top overall prospect had his 2022 derailed by injuries after a strong start. But Franco clearly has generational hitting talent with emerging power. If he stays healthy for 550+ ABs, a .300/25/80 season with strong defense seems reasonable. The Rays will be patient, but Franco has superstar upside.
Subscribe to our list
Don't worry, we don't spam
What is Tyler Glasnow’s return timeline and can he reclaim ace form?
Glasnow should be ready to rejoin the Rays rotation around the All-Star break if his recovery goes smoothly. Pre-injury, he featured an upper 90s fastball and knee-buckling curve, profiled as one of baseball’s best starters. Regaining that elite form by August could make Glasnow a huge trade deadline addition.
How will young starters Luis Patino and Shane Baz contribute?
Injuries and control issues have slowed the promising duo. Both offer frontline starter upside if they can hone command and stay on the field. The Rays will likely limit Baz’s innings in his return from TJ surgery. While not the top two starters yet, Patino and Baz add critical rotation depth.
Is this the year Randy Arozarena gets 40/40?
After going 20/32 last season, Arozarena certainly seems capable of joining MLB’s 40/40 club at some point. But the Rays conservative approach on the bases may cap his steals attempts to the 30-35 range for now, even if the power output ticks up. A .280/35/35 season seems a reasonable stat line projection.
Who closes if Pete Fairbanks struggles or gets injured?
Fairbanks overpowered hitters when healthy in 2022, but was inconsistent. Jason Adam or JT Chargois seem like the next options if Fairbanks falters. Young talent Mason Montgomery could also factor as a dark horse with his 80-grade fastball. The Rays will play matchups and leverage the bullpen optimally regardless of defined roles.
Can the Rays overcome the Yankees and Blue Jays for the division title?
The AL East figures to be fiercely competitive. But the Rays always outperform expectations despite lacking payroll and star power. If Franco and Lowe break out, Glasnow returns strong, and prospects like Edwards contribute, Tampa has a shot. It will likely come down to the wire between these three talented rivals. The scrappy Rays can certainly push the division favorites.
The Tampa Bay Rays enter 2023 seeking their third straight 90-win season and another playoff berth. This comprehensive season preview analyzed their promising young core, potential bounce-back candidates, elite pitching infrastructure, and chances in a loaded AL East division.
With a versatile roster, innovative front office, and excellent player development system, the Rays possess the organizational strengths to compete with baseball’s big spenders year after year. Both the analytics and the eye test suggest Tampa will be right back in the postseason mix. Rays fans should expect their team to be in contention all season long.