The Tampa Bay Rays lost the ALDS to the Boston Red Sox 3-1, but they won’t go away anytime soon.
There are a lot of reasons to believe the team will again be in the thick of things in October next year.
Here are three of them.
3. Fantastic Player Development
It’s not a secret that the Rays are perhaps the American League’s premier organization when it comes to player development.
They may not have the payroll of other powerhouses, but they more than make up for it with top-notch skill improvement professionals all around the organization.
While other big-market teams shop for the big fish, the Rays rarely spend large sums of money on a free agent.
Instead, they build from within, make savvy trades, and use free agency for high-upside lottery tickets and to fill specific roles.
They have a myriad of resources available to help these lottery tickets, and also their own players, get the most out of their potential.
They work individually, identifying things to correct and work on, to help both minor and major leaguers reach their ceiling.
This season, for example, they turned Andrew Kittredge into a top reliever (1.88 ERA in 71.2 innings) after years of obscurity.
They turned Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz into legitimate major league pitchers, they made Dietrich Enns a usable bulk reliever, they helped Mike Zunino reach 33 homers, and they made Joey Wendle a 2.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) player.
2. A Sneaky-Good Offense
Tampa Bay often gets recognized by its good, deep pitching, and rightfully so.
But their offense will be really scary in 2022 and is a big reason why this team won’t go away.
— MLB (@MLB) October 2, 2021
Zunino hit 33 blasts, and Randy Arozarena, who was excellent in the playoffs, had a 20-20 season with a .274/.356/.459 line this year.
Perhaps most importantly, shortstop Wander Franco showed he belongs in the show.
He had a bright showing in the playoffs despite Tampa’s early exit, and hit .288/.347/.463 during the regular season.
Brujan and Josh Lowe are ready to contribute from the start of 2022, and we can’t forget Austin Meadows’ powerful lefty bat.
This offense led the majors in runs per game during the regular season, with 5.3.
There is no reason to think they will slow down in 2022.
1. Analytics-Heavy Approach
The same managing style that led manager Kevin Cash to pull Blake Snell in 2020’s World Series start after just 73 pitches when he was about to face the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup for the third time is what took the organization to the Fall Classic in the first place.
You could argue a similar thing about the decision to face Kike Hernandez instead of Rafael Devers on Monday night.
Tampa uses numbers to be a step ahead of everything: lineup construction, bullpen usage and management, pinch-hit decisions, and even big league call-ups.
More than a managing style, it is a way of doing things that extends through the whole organization.
The Rays haven’t won a World Series, but there is a lot of luck involved in the playoffs.
They should get there eventually, as long as they keep embracing their own style.
They have a good, deep organization that continually feeds them quality players.
This #Postseason is the type of ending that will lift the #Rays up to a #worldseries Banner closer than ever. It’s not like others that let go of many players. We let go of some but also call up better, and the young stars just get even more better. Future is bright #Raysup
— Sebastian Alvarez (@castlehill814) October 12, 2021
The future is bright in Tampa.