Team Record: 99-63 (.611)
2nd Place, AL East
Team ERA: 3.87 (6th)
Team OPS: .776 (4th)
What Went Right
The Rays put together a top-five offense, with leadoff man Yandy Díaz setting the tone. Díaz had his best season, setting career-highs in home runs and runs scored with 22 and 95, respectively, while hitting an incredible .330/.410/.522 over 600 plate appearances. Isaac Paredes enjoyed a breakout season, leading the team with 31 home runs and 98 RBI as he continues to get the most of his extreme pulled fly-ball tendencies. While Josh Lowe was limited in his exposure to left-handed pitching, he made the most of his opportunity to lead a strong-side platoon with 20 homers, 71 runs scored, 83 RBI, and 32 steals while slashing .292/.335/.500 over 501 plate appearances. Of course, the heart and soul of the team, Randy Arozarena, put together another solid campaign. He hit .254/.364/.425 with 23 homers and 22 steals.
It's impressive the team finished sixth in ERA, given the amount of injuries the rotation endured. This was thanks in large part to Zach Eflin. Eflin was incredible, tossing 177 2/3 innings with a 3.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 186 strikeouts while winning 16 games. Tyler Glasnow was excellent once he returned from an early-season oblique issue, pitching to a 3.53 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 162 strikeouts across 120 frames. It also helped to have a strong bullpen led by Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam. Fairbanks converted 25 saves with a 2.58 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 68 strikeouts across 45 1/3 innings. And Adam stepped in for 12 saves while posting a 2.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 69 strikeouts across 54 1/3 innings.
What Went Wrong
As good as the Rays' pitching was, they took too many hits throughout the season. The injuries were simply too much to overcome. It started with Tyler Glasnow suffering an oblique injury in the spring that delayed his season debut until late May. Jeffrey Springs appeared to be on the outset of a breakout season, allowing just one run with 24 strikeouts across 16 innings over his first three starts. But his campaign was cut short due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Drew Rasmussen was pitching well, posting an excellent 2.62 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 47 strikeouts across 44 2/3 innings. But he, too, was knocked out with an elbow injury that required season-ending surgery.
The biggest blows came in early August. The injury curse continued, as the staff ace, Shane McClanahan, also suffered a season-ending injury that required Tommy John surgery that will knock him out for the entire 2024 season. The 26-year-old was putting together another excellent season, with a 3.29 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 121 strikeouts across 115 innings. And on the hitting side, the lineup took a hit at the top when Wander Franco's season ended due to legal troubles.
** Arozarena has now put together three consecutive seasons with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. As one of the only players that should remain in the lineup every day, he'll be the first Rays hitter taken in drafts. Arozarena isn't the most efficient runner on the basepaths, with a 68.7 percent stolen base success rate. But he displayed better patience at the plate with a career-high 12.2 percent walk rate, which should give him plenty of opportunities to continue running. He also made strides in his ground ball rate, with a career-low 43 percent. It helped increase his barrel rate to 12.3 percent. This kind of profile makes the 28-year-old a solid five-category contributor in the outfield worthy of a pick in the top five rounds in 2024 fantasy drafts.
** With McClanahan out for the year, the team will rely heavily on Glasnow as the team's top starter, barring any significant offseason additions. It'll be a tall task for the 30-year-old left-hander, as the 120 innings he posted was a career-high as he's dealt with various injuries throughout his career. He's been excellent when able to take the mound for the last several seasons now. Glasnow posted an elite 25.8 percent K-BB rate and induced a 16.4 percent swinging-strike rate that was among the best marks of his career, regardless of sample size. You just have to know you're assuming plenty of risk when making Glasnow one of your top fantasy starters.
** Lowe made some incredible strides at the plate, cutting his strikeout rate to 24.8 percent. His speed props up his BABIP and helps his efficiency on the bases, as he stole 32 bases on 35 attempts. And an 11 percent barrel rate supports the 20 home runs he hit. He'll be a 20-30 threat once again, hitting in the middle of the Rays' order. But while his limited exposure to left-handed pitching will help his batting average, it could suppress his counting stats in the runs and RBI categories.
** One of the top infield prospects in baseball, Junior Caminero, made his major league debut, getting a seven-game tryout to end the season at just 19 years old. He had an outstanding season in the minors, hitting 31 homers across two levels. Caminero had no problems in Double-A, slashing .309/.373/.548 as he displayed elite contact and power skills that will make him an exciting speculative pick in the middle rounds of 2024 drafts.
** Shane Baz generated tons of excitement as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball before his 2022 Tommy John surgery that kept him out for all of 2023. Now set to return, he could be an important part of the team's starting rotation that will be missing some significant pieces in 2024. The 24-year-old right-hander dominated the minor leagues in 2021, posting a 1.76 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 64 strikeouts across 46 innings in Triple-A. The team will likely be careful with his workload. But Baz has the tools, including low walk rates and elite strikeout upside, that could make him an excellent late-round pick next season.
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Key Free Agents
Francisco Mejia, Christian Bethancourt
There aren't a lot of needs for a 99-win Rays team. The offense is in good shape, with expected contributions coming from prospects such as Caminero. The success of this team in 2024 will likely come down to the starting rotation. If there's a need on this team, it's starting pitching capable of eating some innings. The health of their current starters will be pivotal, but adding a starter that can give them some volume could go a long way to helping this team sustain their success.