I would not be surprised in the least to look up at the end of the 2013 MLB season and see the Tampa Bay Rays victorious as World Series Champions. From top to bottom the Rays posses a great balance of youth and experience which will pay dividends come playoff time.
The biggest loss this offseason is starting pitcher James Shields, who was a strikeout king and an absolute inning eater for the Rays in his seven year tenure with the club. A big reason the Rays were able to deal Shields was because of the plethora of talent that they have in the starting rotation and bullpen.
With Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore garnering another year of big league experience, the rotation is shaping up nicer than any other team in the American League. Reigning Cy Young winner David Price is the ace that every playoff team needs — he has already shown the ability to win big games.
Evan Longoria is the face of the franchise and he played in just 74 games in 2012–this didn’t stop the Rays from winning 90 games which is absolutely remarkable. With Longoria back for a whole season, the stress will be off of players like Matt Joyce and Luke Scott who both hit under .250 in under-achieving seasons.
B.J. Upton is now out of the mix, and if you ask me, that is a good thing as younger players like Desmond Jennings will take more of a leadership role–not to mention Upton’s attitude was a large burden to everyone.
Look for Joe Maddon to work some magic on this highly-gifted team as they work their way towards the first World Series trophy in franchise history.