You read that correctly: the Tampa Bay Rays will take home the AL East crown this season. Despite being 15 games back just under a month ago, the Rays have turned things around and are now 8.5 games out of first place. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and riding the hot streaks of some young talent.
Since the injury to Wil Meyers, rookie Kevin Kiermaier has stepped up big. He is batting .285 with seven homeruns and 17 RBI in just 42 games. Kiermaer has provided the Rays with firepower and a will to win that was lacking in the first few months of the season.
Another call-up who took over second base duties when Ben Zobrist hit the DL is Logan Forsythe. He has produced timely hitting and came through with big hits in big situations. The second baseman continues to see playing time now that Zobrist has moved to shortstop with the injury to Yunel Escobar and is likely to remain on the roster when Escobar returns. Joe Maddon will have some decisions to make once the roster returns to full strength in the coming months.
Brandon Guyer has given Maddon another right-handed bat to platoon with Matt Joyce in both left field and the DH spot. Guyer is hitting just .250 but fits into the Rays’ mold with lefty-righty matchups and is another option outside of utility man Sean Rodriguez.
The heart of the Rays lineup, including center fielder Desmond Jennings, third baseman Evan Longoria, and Zobrist, have been outstanding during the Rays’ current winning ways. All have an on-base percentage of at least .424. Offense is usually one of Tampa Bay’s struggles, but scoring has come early and often as of late.
Ace David Price won’t be going anywhere unless the Rays receive a once-in-a-lifetime offer from another team. Price is 8-7 and leads the MLB with 159 strikeouts. He is much too important to the pitching staff and chances of winning to deal for anything less than a future guaranteed All-Star or two. Price is the lone Rays’ ASG representative this season; if Tampa Bay continues its hot streak through the All-Star break, the cost to obtain Price will only get higher.