HomeMLBTampa Bay Rays Season Preview 2024 Odds and Predictions

    Tampa Bay Rays Season Preview 2024 Odds and Predictions

    Adam Burke's season preview for the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the VSiN 2024 MLB Betting Guide.

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    Tampa Bay Rays 2024 preview

    Shame on me. I did the unthinkable last season and bet against the Tampa Bay Rays. By this point, you would think somebody as sabermetrically-inclined and analytically-in-tune as myself would know not to pick against this crew. They’ve consistently defied the odds of a low payroll, bad attendance, and unfortunate geography that put them in the AL East to be one of the most consistent and impressive franchises in all of sport.

    If you had told me before the season that the Rays would lose Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, and Wander Franco, I’d have been thrilled with my season win total Under 88.5. All of those things happened and the Rays still won 99 games, the second-most in the AL by NINE GAMES.

     

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    I’m not sure any team in sport is better at figuring out a way than the Rays. They’ll have to figure out a lot early in the season while Springs and Rasmussen recover and they’ll miss McClanahan for the season. Franco will never play an MLB game again. They even traded away Tyler Glasnow. But, they’ll probably find a way. And I’ve learned my lesson.

    The Rays have three losing seasons since taking “Devil” out of their name starting with the 2008 campaign and nine playoff appearances, plus two AL pennants in that span. Kevin Cash will become the winningest manager in Rays history in either April or May with the team’s 16th win of the season.

    The obvious caveat here is that the Rays started the season 13-0 and went 23-6 in April, but they were still 19 games over .500 the rest of the way and come into the season with a rather low win total line in my estimation.

    2024 Tampa Bay Rays Odds

    (odds from DraftKings as of Mar. 1)

    World Series: +3500

    AL Pennant: +1600

    AL East: +650

    Win Total: 84.5 (-105/-115)

    Make Playoffs: Yes +130 / No -150

    Tampa Bay Rays Preview: Offense

    We think of the Rays as a pitching factory. That’s certainly not untrue, but consider what their offense did last season. This was a group that ranked in the top five in nearly every important offensive category, including wOBA, wRC+ (second to the Braves!), batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and stolen bases. They were sixth in home runs, just one behind the Angels in terms of cracking the top five.

    Given the extreme disadvantage of Tropicana Field, which ranks 28th in Statcast’s Three-Year Park Factors, it is incredible that the Rays were able to put together a top-five offensive season. Admittedly, I do think some negative regression may be coming, as the team ranked ninth in Hard Hit% and 12th in Barrel%, but the top nine guys in plate appearances ranged from a 106 wRC+ to a 164 wRC+.

    Franco was among that group and his offensive contributions (127 wRC+) will be missed, but the Rays have maybe the best prospect in baseball in Junior Caminero, another unnecessary present from the Cleveland Guardians organization, who also supplied Yandy Diaz a few years ago. Curtis Mead is another top-15 prospect knocking on the door to replace a lesser hitter in the lineup.

    DH Jonathan Aranda hit 25 HR at Triple-A and posted a 165 wRC+ and new SS Jose Caballero, who was acquired from the Mariners, has hit at basically every minor league level, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field enough.

    The bench is also set up to leverage platoon opportunities. Harold Ramirez slashed .387/.411/.555 against lefties in 124 PA last season. Amed Rosario has been a potent bat against southpaws in his career with a .298/.339/.467 slash and a 121 wRC+. Jonny DeLuca was another trade target with good minor league numbers at every level, as he came over in the Glasnow trade with the Dodgers. As a righty, he actually hit righties better across three levels last season with a .975 OPS in 253 PA compared to an .823 OPS against lefties in 118 PA. Still, I expect him to be deployed in some platoon situations.

    This lineup isn’t big on household names or big-ticket free agents, but it looks like another top-10 group to me.

    Tampa Bay Rays Preview: Pitching

    To me, this is an area where the Rays will be undervalued. There is obviously a chance that Taj Bradley doesn’t make the leap or that Aaron Civale and Ryan Pepiot don’t pan out as expected. There is also a chance that all three of those guys exceed expectations and it seems likelier than not that at least one or two of them do because it’s the Rays and this is what they do.

    Tampa Bay just pulled a career year out of Zach Eflin, who threw his curveball and cutter more and his other pitches less to rack up 4.8 fWAR with a 3.50 ERA and a 3.01 FIP. All of those stats were career-bests for him and so was his career-high of 177.2 innings. I will admit that I have concerns about how many Rays pitching prospects have needed Tommy John surgery and do wonder about Eflin’s durability moving forward, much like I do every Rays starter.

    Beyond Eflin, it truly is an unassuming group of arms, but let’s run through this and I’ll tell you why I like these guys. Civale never really stayed healthy in Cleveland, but he has a 3.92 ERA with a 4.01 FIP in 475.1 career innings. The park factor will help here, but what also helps Civale is that he has allowed a 36.9% Hard Hit% and a 6.7% Barrel%, which are both well above average. He’s added a little more swing-and-miss over the last two seasons as well and the Rays bumped his K% to 29.3% in his 45.1 innings with them.

    I’m normally skeptical when a super smart team gives up a player, but I think the Dodgers are in World Series or Bust mode to the extreme, so they were willing to give up Pepiot in the Glasnow deal. Once again, health and durability are questions and that seems to be one area where the Rays may not have as many answers, but Pepiot’s limited MLB sample size over 78.1 innings is impressive with over a strikeout per inning and some other standout numbers. The Rays are having Pepiot work up in the zone with the fastball in the Spring, which will make his 94 mph play up and probably cut down on his home runs, as hitters won’t get under the ball as much.

    As pitchers and catchers were reporting for duty, the great Eno Sarris penned a piece for The Athletic about five breakout candidates among starting pitchers ($). Bradley was in that group on account of the raw quality of his stuff. He misses bats. He gets swings and misses. He’s got the tools and he’s only 22 years old. I won’t pretend to know that it will all come together this season for him, but the projection systems collectively have him around a league average starter and that’s plenty good enough as the No. 5 in this rotation.

    Plus, the Rays always find useful arms. Whether that means Japanese import Naoyuki Uwasawa, prospect Mason Montgomery, former top prospects Shane Baz or Brendan McKay, or somebody they pick up during the season, they’ll work their devil magic.

    The bullpen looks solid once again, which is just a given. Last year’s group underperformed a bit as the injury bug bit them hard as well, causing the group to fall from the top 10 in ERA, but I really like the Phil Maton addition as a bridge to Jason Adam and Pete Fairbanks.

    Tampa Bay Rays Player to Watch

    3B/OF Junior Caminero

    Caminero won’t make the Opening Day roster, but he hit 31 home runs across High-A and Double-A in his age-19 season before making his MLB debut late in the year. FanGraphs has Caminero as the fourth-best prospect in baseball this season, trailing Baltimore’s Jackson Holliday, Texas’s Wyatt Langford, and Milwaukee’s Jackson Chourio. Chourio just signed an eight-year, $82 million contract before even playing a MLB game.

    For a huge power bat consistently playing up a level or two, the high contact rate for Caminero has been a surprise. He may never excel defensively, but he makes extremely violent contact and hits the ball a long way. The Rays have always found power by stacking 15-20 homer guys. This is a legit 40-homer bat at his peak, which won’t come in 2024, but I bet he has a big impact later this year.

    Tampa Bay Rays Season Win Total Odds & Prediction

    I am very much a believer in the Rays this season. They outscored the opposition by nearly 200 runs last season while dealing with the major injuries on the pitching side. The offense absolutely looks poised to continue and maybe even surpass what it did last season and I do believe that the pitching staff has more upside than the futures and season-long prop odds would imply.

    The Rays are in a tough division and the Yankees absolutely look better, while the Orioles are also poised to maintain the gains from last season, but the Rays should continue to find a lot of success outside the division and still match up well with their AL East brethren. I like Over 84.5 wins and also feel like +650 to win the AL East is a decent value. Shop around for the best line you can find, but I think this team is absolutely live to win this division.

    I won’t call 85 wins the floor for this team, but with that dominant of an offense, a team built to win at home (53-28 last season), and a pitching staff that could be a big surprise, I’m not sure I see many paths to this team hovering around .500. Their win total last season was 88.5, they won 99 games, and, outside of McClanahan, I’m not sure they’re any worse. 

    Pick: Over 84.5

    Get all of our preseason coverage in the 2024 MLB Betting Guide.

    Adam Burke
    Adam Burke
    Adam Burke is the Managing Editor of VSiN.com and has spent well over a decade in the sports betting content creation space. He has been with VSiN since 2021 and covers a wide range of sports, along with hosting the VSiN Daily Baseball Bets podcast.

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