The Tampa Bay Rays are the hottest team in baseball, and the numbers back that up.
They have won 11 straight games and are, as of Tuesday afternoon, in sole possession of the first place in the American League East division.
That’s quite impressive, since the division also boasts three top clubs in the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees were viewed as the favorites to win the division before the season, even though the Rays took it last year.
However, they still might win the AL East, for several reasons.
3. A Well-Balanced Team That Builds From Within
Some teams have amazing pitching but their offense isn’t as good, while others boast a great lineup but can’t prevent runs.
With the Rays, there is a perfect balance: the team has an amazingly (and surprisingly) good offense and great pitching.
Tampa has the fifth-best offense in MLB if use weighted Runs Created Plus, a stat that encompasses offensive production and gives us an idea about how much above or below-average a player or unit is.
Weighted Runs Created Plus, abbreviated wRC+, uses 100 as a value to assign ‘average’ offensive production.
The Rays’ 108 wRC+ is only bested by the Houston Astros (117), Chicago White Sox (113), Los Angeles Dodgers (112), and the Red Sox (111).
Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, Ji-Man Choi, Mike Zunino, Joey Wendle, Mike Brosseau, Brandon Lowe, Francisco Mejia, Yandy Diaz, Manuel Margot, and others have contributed to the team’s offensive success so far.
The pitching has also been quite good, as they are eight in team ERA at 3.61.
Tampa, without a doubt, has top-notch scouts, talent evaluators, and player development departments.
Most of these players have been either developed in the farm system or acquired via trades.
The Rays are excellent at building from within.
2. A Difference-Maker in the Rotation
Tampa wouldn’t be where it currently is without pitcher Tyler Glasnow.
He has a 2.90 ERA and has struck out 36 percent of the batters he has faced.
He has developed into a true ace for Tampa, something they lacked since 2018, which was Snell’s Cy Young season.
With Glasnow in top form, they have a starter that can guarantee quality innings in the regular season.
Tyler Glasnow was on one tonight vs the Yankees 🔥
0 ER and 9 K
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) September 1, 2020
Additionally, they are well-equipped to navigate a best-of-seven series against top offenses with him on the mound.
1. Best Prospect in Baseball Ready and Waiting in the Wings
The Rays have excellent infield depth with Diaz, Wendle, Brosseau, Lowe, and Choi, among others.
However, they have the best prospect in baseball waiting in the wings: Wander Franco.
Franco has had no issues handling Triple-A pitching (.268/.329/.507 with three homers so far) and is about ready to contribute in MLB.
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 3, 2021
Tampa, however, may prefer to give the first shot at the shortstop gig in MLB to Walls, a talented player in his own right.
That would allow Franco to keep getting everyday at-bats.
But when it’s time to promote him, Tampa will be even harder to beat.