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(Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

The Rays Should Be Favorites To Win The AL East In 2020

The Tampa Bay Rays should be favorites to win the AL East in 2020. If Tampa’s question marks hit, they might run away with the race. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Before the start of every year in each sport, I survey the landscape for the best possible bets. Storylines that aren’t being talked about enough. Let’s just cut right to the chase here. The Tampa Bay Rays have to be favorites to win the AL East in 2020, right? NOPE. Tampa isn’t just underdogs to win the division. They’re a +500 underdog to win the division. Not only is that insane, Tampa Bay realistically should be favorites to win the division in 2020.

Projecting a 162 game season is really hard. Record in one run games and injuries are tough to predict. I think it would be fair to say that neither the Yankees are Rays were healthy last year. Both sides suffered injuries. The only difference is, it doesn’t appear to be a fluke on the New York side of things. Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino, James Paxton, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton have already been ruled out for Opening Day. It looks like Gary Sanchez could be next and is dealing with some back issues. The Rays are having no such issues at the moment.


Fangraphs has the Yankees projected to win 92 games. Right underneath them are the Rays at 90. I don’t know if Fangraphs have factored in the early season injuries but the fact that it’s close exemplifies my point.

The other thing to do is to see what is transferable from year to year. DJ LeMahieu was an MVP candidate last year and maybe should have won it. He was that good. The year before, he hit .276 with Colorado with little power. Is the truth somewhere in the middle? Which Masahiro Tanaka are you getting? The difference between good and bad Tanaka is massive. It’s hard to know which one is coming in 2020. What are the Yankees actually putting in the outfield? Clint Frazier can’t defend a lick. What are you getting with Miguel Andujar? Are you sure Gerrit Cole will repeat his elite 2019 season? Was Luke Voit just a flash in the pan because they need him.

With Tampa Bay, the questions they have feature more upside. Can Blake Snell recover his form? Well, the Rays won 96 games with a bad and hurt Snell. What happens if he’s actually good? Can Tyler Glasnow pitch 180 innings? Can you imagine if he actually does? Tampa won how many games and he gave them 60 innings last year. The Rays have more arms than anybody. The question is whether the horses deliver.

What Tampa needs is someone to take a step forward at the dish. New York led MLB in runs scored in 2019. Tampa ranked 18th. If the Rays close that gap even a little, they win the division. That’s where the questions come from. Will the offense come through? Worst case, don’t you feel like they can improve from 18th?

Young gun Austin Meadows should take a step forward. There is reason to believe Yandy Diaz will have a breakout season too. Jose Martinez as a full time DH will help. There’s no questioning his bat. It’s guys like Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Lowe, Willie Adames, and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo that will determine the season. If those are hits for Tampa, chalk up the division. If they’re big hits, the race might not be close. Oh, and the Rays have the number one farm system in the sport. That means reinforcements are coming either through call ups or trades.


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