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MLB Tampa Bay Rays

5 Questions the Tampa Bay Rays Must Answer During Spring Training

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Questions the Tampa Bay Rays Must Answer

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are one of those teams that will just not go away. Even though the Rays are a small market team, they are arguably one of a half dozen teams that opponents hate to see on the upcoming schedule. Tampa is a team that grinds out ball games and is becoming a team that has postseason aspirations each season. Tremendous credit has to go to manager Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman for their success. But just what is in store for the 2014 season down in Tampa Bay?

What has made the Rays so competitive is their ability to turn out talent within their minor league ranks. Tampa has found success with players like B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, David Price, Matt Moore, and Desmond Jennings. However, could the Rays potentially hit a rough patch down the road? According to ESPN's farm system ranking, the Rays rank 23rd in the league after being in the top three the last two seasons. Could a perceived weaker minor league class be an x-factor in a possible trade of Price?

When the 2014 season starts, the Rays will be setting out to reach the playoffs for the second straight year and their fourth postseason trip in the last five years. It is no secret that the AL East is one of the toughest divisions in baseball each season. Come September, it could be quite a three team race with the Rays, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees.

Tampa is set to open up camp with pitchers and catchers on February 15, 2014. With stiff competition around them, here are five questions that the pesky Rays must answer during spring training.

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5. Can Evan Longoria Continue to Stay Healthy?

Evan Longoria
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Longoria is the key bat in the Rays' lineup. He will be entering his seventh year in the league and is coming off his first year playing in at least 160 games. After missing time in 2011 and tons of time in 2012, Longoria appeared to be healthy all season last year. Can that continue for the All-Star third basemen?

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4. How Will Grant Balfour Fare in His Return to Tampa?

Grant Balfour
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After a deal with the Baltimore Orioles was shut down due to an apparent failed physical, Grant Balfour was able to agree to a deal with the Rays. It will be Balfour's second stint with the club after playing in Tampa from 2007-10. He is penciled in as the closer for the Rays, and should put up solid numbers even in the AL East. Balfour is an intense competitor, but will anything come about from that failed physical during the season?

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3. Can Wil Myers Continue to Develop?

Wil Myers
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Wil Myers was brought over from the Kansas City Royals in the James Shields trade back in December 2012. Myers was a highly touted prospect before being called up to the big leagues mid-last year. While only playing 88 games, Myers was named the Rookie of the Year last year. Myers put up nice numbers in just over a half a season with 13 home runs and a .293 batting average. But in the playoffs, he was just 2-20. Myers has tremendous upside, and how he adjusts to his first full season in the pros will be a huge key to the Rays' season.

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2. Do the Rays Have Enough for Another Postseason Appearance?

MLB Tampa Bay
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox are the defending champions and the New York Yankees went out on a giant spending spree this winter. Do the Rays still have enough to compete within the AL Beast? They are a pesky team that performs the fundamentals well. Will it be enough to get Tampa back to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons?

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1. How Long Will David Price Be in Uniform?

David Price
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

David Price will be a free agent after the 2015 season. It has been no secret that the Rays were fielding trade offers for the lefty this winter, but nothing has hooked the line just yet. Will the price eventually be right for the organization to make a move on the ace pitcher, or will Tampa be able to sign him to a long-term deal?