With a couple weeks of games remaining in the 2016 MLB season for your Tampa Bay Rays, looking back through the last five to six months will draw more headaches than smiles. Especially that June to forget. However, just as there can be room for improvement in a World Series contender, there can absolutely be bright spots on a last place team.
Just hear me out. Here’s the top five bright spots for this year’s Tampa Bay Rays…that hopefully give fans some encouragement heading into the off-season:
- 3B Evan Longoria – He not only has become a bit more outspoken this season about the franchise’s willingness to spend money to win, he’s also had a career year nearly across the board. Over the weekend, he set a new career high in homeruns, is on pace for over 100 RBI for the third time in his career and first time since 2010, and has been pretty consistent all season at the plate. Remember hearing those mumbles about Longo probably on a decline? All we’re hearing is crickets from those people now.
- 1B/SS Brad Miller – Surprise! The “protection” everyone has been begging for has arrived! Longo finally has that dangerous bat hitting behind him that teams must account for. Miller has destroyed his career high in home runs as he could very well reach the 30-HR milestone, himself, this year, after his previous high of 11 in 2015 with the Mariners. His adjustment to first base from shortstop could lead to some headaches but – the Rays seem to have a true #4 hitter in their lineup, now.
- SP Alex Cobb – After returning from a 17-month recovery from Tommy John surgery, Cobber struggled mightily in his rehab assignments. Since being brought back to the MLB roster – he’s been back to his old self and ready to possibly re-take the “ace” role that Chris Archer has admirably he
ld down the last two seasons.
- SP Blake Snell – He’s had some ups and downs in his first season at the MLB level, but Snell has shown how dominant he can and will be as he matures in the big leagues. Plenty of experts have pegged him to possibly be even better than David Price.
- CF Kevin Kiermaier – His defense speaks for itself year in and year out. But finally, his bat has come around as he’s secured his spot nicely in the two-hole in the lineup. He’s set career highs in homeruns, stolen bases, and has significantly boosted that on base percentage into the .330s since slotting into that second spot.
Honorable mention: Alex Colome, Jake Odorizzi, Logan Forsythe
There are a few other spots to be encouraged with – but those are probably the most important heading into the new season. All five of these guys should be with the club in 2017 and they make up a pretty good nucleus to go along with the others who will be returning and possibly prospects that may crack the Opening Day roster come April. Once again, injuries have played a role in the Rays disappointing year. That isn’t a good excuse – but it’s a reality. For those of you already calling for Kevin Cash’s head after two seasons – relax. In any sport, a coach/manager should be allowed at least 3 years to really get his team ready to contend again or even back to the playoffs. Cash is rounding out his second season as a manager at any level of baseball. In my eyes – that deserves a bit longer of a leash.
Maybe I’m in the minority.
Sit back and try to enjoy the remainder of the 2016 season, fans. Don’t be afraid to look ahead.
You might see a few things you like.