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Tampa Bay Rays 2022 Season Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off the best season in franchise history with 100 wins and their third consecutive postseason appearance.

The Lions enter Week nine as slight underdogs against division rival the Green Bay Packers. Both teams are battling injuries and sporting two of the worst rush defenses in the league. So which team will leave Ford Field with the win?

The Tampa Bay Rays are coming off the best season in franchise history with 100 wins and their third consecutive postseason appearance. They will try again to get over that mountain and win the World Series in 2022. The Rays have been close, losing to the LA Dodgers in the 2020 series. They also lost to the Phillies in the 2008 series.

The Rays will also be trying to win the American League East for the fourth consecutive season.

The American League East is the toughest division in baseball. Four teams have an excellent chance of making the playoffs: Toronto, the Yankees, Boston, and the Tampa Bay Rays.

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The good news for Rays fans is that the everyday lineup remains intact, minus Joey Wendle, who was traded to the Marlins, and DH Nelson Cruz.

Early Moves

The Rays picked up outfielder Harold Ramirez in a trade with the Cubs to take the place of Cruz in the lineup. Ramirez will be the primary DH but can also play the outfield. Rookie infielder Taylor Walls is expected to be in the lineup every day against right-handers. He will platoon at third with Yandy Diaz.

Since early in the Kevin Cash era, the Rays have a five-man starting rotation this season. With the Rays short on starters the last few seasons, the Rays used an opener strategy where a closer pitched the first inning, and then a starter or long reliever would come in the second inning to throw into the middle innings.

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This season, the Rays will have less reason to use that strategy with Corey Kluber, Ryan Yarbrough, Luis Patino, Shane McClanahan, and Drew Rasmussen as starting pitchers.

Opening Day Lineup

The opening day lineup for the Rays should look like this.

LF Randy Arozarena
SS Wander Franco
2B Brandon Lowe
3B Yandy Díaz
DH Harold Ramirez
RF Manuel Margot
1B Ji-Man Choi
C Mike Zunino
CF Kevin Kiermaier

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Shane McClanahan will be the starter on opening day.

Three Bold Predictions

-The Rays will win the American League East for the fourth-consecutive season. With Wander Franco in the lineup every day, the offense will be better than it’s ever been and be able to go bat for bat with Toronto and the Yankees in the division. The Rays will again have one of the best bullpens in baseball and a solid starting five.

-Wander Franco will win the American League MVP. It will be fascinating to watch Franco compete with Vlad Guerrero Jr. of Toronto in the coming years for best player in the division. In 70 games last season, Franco hit .288 with seven homers and drove in 39 runs. According to Steamer projections, Franco will hit .288 with 20 homers and 86 runs batted in. Last season, Franco reached base in 43 consecutive games, which tied Frank Robinson for the longest streak in baseball history by a player 20 years old or younger.

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My 2022 Franco projections. A .330 batting average with 25 home runs and 120 runs batted in.

-The Rays will win the 2022 World Series. This team will have revenge on their minds as they will face the Dodgers in the 2020 World Series rematch. However, the Rays pitching staff will be the difference-maker in the series and shut down one of the best offenses in baseball. Once again, the Rays will be massive underdogs and get zero respect during the regular season. But this team will shock the world by beating the Dodgers in seven games.

2022 Best Bets For The Rays

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-Wander Franco +1500 to win the American League MVP. Franco is the new face of the franchise. When the Rays win the AL East, all of baseball will focus on the Rays and realize that Franco is the most talented player on the team.

–Shane Baz +650 to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. Baz dazzled in his September debut last season, going 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA, walking three, and striking out 18. However, he will miss the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from off-season elbow surgery. Baz is the number one prospect in the Rays organization,

–Rays win the World Series +1300. There is so much upside with this team. Add in two of the best young players in baseball in Wander Franco and Shane Baz, and this bet is a no-brainer. Lay the $100 to win $1300.

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With Wander Franco and Shane Baz promoted to the Rays last season, the minor-league system continues to reload and produce excellent prospects. This season, the following three players in the Rays pipeline should see time in Tampa.

-Outfielder Josh Lowe. Lowe hit .291 with 22 homers and 78 runs driven in at Durham last season. Lowe is ready to play at the Major League level; the Rays need to open up a spot for him. With Austin Meadows and Manuel Margot on the trading block, Lowe could be in Tampa sooner rather than later.

Trade Update & Other Best Bets For The Rays

The Rays have traded outfielder Austin Meadows to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for SS Isaac Paredes and a player to be named later. This trade opens the door for Josh Lowe to start the season in Tampa.

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-Infielder Vidal Brujan. Brujan had a rough initiation to the big leagues last season, hitting .077 in ten at-bats. Brujan hit .262 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs at Durham last season. He is expected to start the season at Durham but will be the first infielder called up in the event of an injury.

-RHP Taj Bradley. Bradley will be one of the next big arms to get promoted to Tampa. Bradley is the number two pitching prospect in the organization behind Shane Baz. At Class A Charleston last season, Bradley went 9-3 with a 1.76 ERA, with 20 walks and 81 strikeouts. Although it will be a year or two before Bradley is in Tampa Permanently, his future looks bright with the Rays.

American League East

-The Tampa Bay Rays. 96 wins. Wander Franco, one of the most exciting players in baseball, coupled with a solid bullpen and everyday lineup, propels the Rays to the top of the AL East standings

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-Toronto Blue Jays. 92 Wins. The Blue Jays will get a postseason berth this fall. The Blue Jays have some excellent young talent, including MVP candidate Vlad Guerrero Jr. Offense is solid, pitching will be their achilles heel.

-New York Yankees. 92 Wins. Another playoff team from the division, as the Yankees, will sneak into the 2022 postseason but have an early exit. An old roster, coupled with inconsistent pitching, will hurt the Yankees.

-Boston Red Sox. 86 Wins. The Red Sox were lucky to get as far as they did last season, losing to the Astros in the ALCS. The Red Sox will not be as fortunate this season as this division remains the best in baseball. Chris Sale will miss the start of the season. And the Red Sox have the oldest starting rotation in the division.

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-Baltimore Orioles. 61 Wins. The Orioles are improving. The bad news is they play the Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Rays 72 times. The Orioles have some exciting young players in catcher Audley Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez. However, it looks like another last-place finish in Baltimore.

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