The Tampa Bay Rays enter the 2023 MLB season looking to build on their successful 2022 campaign where they finished 86-76, good for third place in the ultra-competitive American League East division. With a revamped roster led by budding superstar Wander Franco, the Rays have their sights set on winning their third AL East title in franchise history and making a deep run into October.
The Rays have several areas of strength that should help propel them to contention in 2023:
Strong Young Core
Tampa Bay boasts an impressive collection of young talent, headlined by shortstop Wander Franco. Despite being just 21 years old, Franco has already established himself as one of the best hitters in baseball. Joining Franco is 23-year-old second baseman Vidal Brujan, who brings elite speed and defense up the middle. Outfielders Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot, both 27, provide an excellent blend of power, speed, and defense.
Deep Pitching Staff
Even after trading away Tyler Glasnow, the Rays still possess one of the deepest pitching staffs in MLB. It’s led by 24-year-old Shane McClanahan, who emerged as an ace in 2022 by going 12-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 182 strikeouts. Veterans Corey Kluber and Chris Archer provide stability, while young arms like Shane Baz, Drew Rasmussen, and Luis Patino give Tampa Bay enviable pitching depth.
Innovative Front Office
The Rays have perfected the art of maximizing value thanks to GM Erik Neander and his creative front office. They excel at identifying undervalued players, developing talent, and assembling a competitive roster on a shoestring budget. This allows Tampa Bay to consistently outperform expectations.
However, the Rays do have some potential weaknesses that could derail their season if not properly addressed:
Uncertainty at First Base
First base is a major question mark after trading Ji-Man Choi. Tampa Bay will likely rotate several options like Yandy Diaz, Isaac Paredes, and Xavier Edwards. But none are proven commodities at first base, putting pressure on the Rays to find production from this key position.
The Rays bullpen was lights out in 2022, posting a 2.70 ERA that ranked 2nd in MLB. But top relievers Pete Fairbanks, JT Chargois, and Colin Poche all significantly outperformed their FIP. If that luck regresses in 2023, it could expose some cracks in the bullpen.
Increased Competition in the AL East
Winning the division won’t be any easier in 2023. The Yankees are World Series contenders. The Blue Jays are rising fast with a lethal offense. And the Orioles and Red Sox have both improved. The Rays will need to raise their game to keep pace.
- Teoscar Hernandez, OF (trade with Blue Jays)
- Zach Eflin, SP (free agent)
- Kolten Wong, 2B (free agent)
- Tyler Glasnow, SP (traded to Cardinals)
- Ji-Man Choi, 1B (traded to Pirates)
- David Peralta, OF (free agent)
- Kevin Kiermaier, OF (free agent)
Acquiring Hernandez from the Blue Jays was a sneaky-good move, giving the Rays lineup some much-needed pop. Eflin boosts the rotation depth while Wong provides elite defense at second base. But trading Glasnow and Choi does leave some holes to fill.
Predicted 2023 Lineup
- Yandy Diaz, 1B
- Wander Franco, SS
- Randy Arozarena, LF
- Teoscar Hernandez, DH
- Manuel Margot, RF
- Isaac Paredes, 3B
- Francisco Mejia, C
- Kolten Wong, 2B
- Jose Siri, CF
This lineup has the potential to be dangerous if Franco makes the leap to superstardom and Hernandez adds the 30-homer power bat the Rays have been missing. Arozarena, Margot, Mejia, and Paredes are all capable of posting above average offensive seasons as well.
2023 Rotation Preview
- Shane McClanahan
- Corey Kluber
- Tyler Glasnow
- Drew Rasmussen
- Luis Patino
McClanahan looks to build off his breakout 2022 and emerge as a true #1 ace. The veteran Kluber provides stability as the #2 starter. But the key is Glasnow returning from Tommy John surgery – if he regains his dominant form, it completely changes the outlook of this rotation. Rasmussen and Patino both have electric stuff and breakout potential.
5 Key Questions for 2023
- Can Wander Franco make the jump to elite status? Franco has shown flashes of brilliance, but taking the next step to stardom would elevate the entire Rays lineup. His development is pivotal.
- Who will step up at first base? Replacing Choi’s production won’t be easy. The Rays need one of their first base options to provide above average offense.
- Will Glasnow return to form after Tommy John? Getting anything close to his 2019/2020 performance would give the Rays a lethal 1-2 punch atop the rotation. Big if, but possible.
- Can McClanahan avoid a World Series hangover? Dominant as a first-time All-Star in 2022, McClanahan needs to prove he can repeat that performance. Avoiding fatigue/injuries is key.
- Is the bullpen due for regression? Nearly every Rays reliever outperformed their FIP last season. That kind of luck is unlikely to repeat, putting pressure on the bullpen to maintain dominance.
If the Rays get positive answers to these questions, an AL East title is within reach. But there are plenty of variables at play in determining just how good Tampa Bay will be in 2023.
Tampa Bay Rays 2023 Season Prediction
The Rays appear poised to contend again in 2023 based on their young core, pitching depth, and innovative front office approach. A few key factors will determine whether they can overtake the Yankees and Blue Jays to claim their first AL East crown since 2010:
- Franco’s development: If he makes the leap to 6+ WAR superstar, it changes everything.
- The health of Glasnow and others: Keeping their best arms off the IL is always a challenge.
- Bullpen regression: Some dropoff from 2022’s dominance seems likely. Can they overcome it?
- Full seasons from Paredes and Arozarena: Both have 30-homer upside if they stay healthy.
Prediction: 91-71 record, 2nd in AL East.
The Rays will fall just short of the Yankees due to concerns around their offense and bullpen. But they should snag one of the three AL Wild Card spots and make the playoffs for the fourth straight season. McClanahan and Franco will emerge as two of the AL’s biggest stars while leading a pesky and competitive Rays team deep into October once again.
Tampa Bay Rays Players to Watch in 2023
Wander Franco – Shortstop
- 2022 Stats: .260/.347/.392, 7 HR, 23 SB
All eyes are on Franco as he looks to fulfill his potential as a generational talent. Even incremental improvements in power and plate discipline could make him an MVP candidate.
Shane McClanahan – Starting Pitcher
- 2022 Stats: 2.54 ERA, 182 Ks, 147.1 IP
After finishing top 3 in Cy Young voting last season, the sky is the limit for McClanahan in 2023. The Rays need him to anchor the rotation as a true ace.
Randy Arozarena – Outfielder
- 2022 Stats: .274/.345/.459, 20 HR, 32 SB
Arozarena brings an electrifying combination of power and speed from the left side. If he stays healthy, a 30/30 season could be in store.
Teoscar Hernandez – Designated Hitter
- 2022 Stats: .267/.316/.475, 25 HR with Blue Jays
The Rays are betting Hernandez can add a much-needed power threat to the middle of their lineup after hitting over 25 homers three straight seasons in Toronto.
Isaac Paredes – Third Base
- 2022 Stats: .215/.292/.399, 20 HR in 105 games
Paredes flashed huge raw power last season. The Rays believe he’s poised for a breakout if he can cut down on the strikeouts and play daily at third base.
Tampa Bay Rays 2023 Season Preview FAQ
Who are the top prospects to watch for the Rays in 2023?
The Rays farm system is loaded with talent. Top prospects to watch this season include:
- SS Greg Jones (ETA 2023) – Elite speed, developing power
- LHP Taj Bradley (ETA 2023) – Potential mid-rotation starter
- OF Kameron Misner (ETA 2024) – Raw power/speed combo
- RHP Seth Johnson (ETA 2024) – Future closer candidate
- SS Carson Williams (ETA 2025) – Strong all-around tools
What is the Rays’ biggest strength heading into 2023?
The Rays’ biggest strength is their deep stable of starting pitchers. Anchored by Shane McClanahan, they have enviable depth with Glasnow, Kluber, Rasmussen, Patino, and several top prospects. This pitching depth allows Tampa Bay to overcome offensive deficiencies.
What is the Rays’ biggest weakness?
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Lack of power bats in the lineup. The Rays ranked just 22nd in home runs last season. Trading for Teoscar Hernandez should help, but they still lack proven middle-of-the-order sluggers. This offensive weakness could prevent Tampa Bay from keeping pace offensively with the Yankees and Blue Jays.
What was the Rays’ biggest offseason move?
Trading for outfielder Teoscar Hernandez from the Blue Jays. Acquiring Hernandez cost the Rays valued prospect Mitch Bratt, but it gives them a much-needed power bat. Hernandez hit over 25 home runs each of the past three seasons in Toronto and helps solidify the middle of Tampa Bay’s lineup.
How much will the Rays miss Tyler Glasnow?
Losing Glasnow via trade is a blow, but the Rays are positioned to withstand it thanks to their pitching depth. If Glasnow made a full recovery from Tommy John surgery, his absence would loom much larger. But given the uncertainty around his return to form, Tampa Bay can turn to several promising young arms to replace his production. A healthy Glasnow could have given the Rays two bonafide aces; without him, it puts more pressure on McClanahan to anchor the staff.
What rookie could make an impact for the Rays in 2023?
Shortstop Greg Jones enters 2023 rated as the Rays’ top prospect. His elite speed gives him a chance to be an impact table-setter offensively and defensively as early as this season. On the pitching side, left-hander Taj Bradley is nearly MLB ready and could seize a rotation spot at some point in 2023. Both Jones and Bradley have the talent to play key roles for a contending Rays team as rookies.
The Tampa Bay Rays have the pitching, defense, athleticism, and coaching to be right in the thick of the AL East race this season. Developments from young stars like Franco and McClanahan will determine whether they can overtake the Yankees and Blue Jays to return to the top of the division standings. Rays fans should expect some October baseball once again in 2023.