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BettorIQ’s MLB Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

MLB

BettorIQ continues with its 2020 MLB betting previews. We will be breaking down all 30 teams from a betting perspective leading up to the start of the season.

Tampa Bay Rays 
2019 Record: 96-66 
2019 Profits: +2.3 units 
2020 Win Total: 34
2020 Odds to Win AL East: +260
2020 Odds to Win AL Pennant: +750
2020 Odds to Win World Series: +1500

Betting Positives: Perhaps no team in MLB is better equipped to deal with a 60-game race-to-the-finish than Tampa Bay. The Rays own the top-projected bullpen in baseball with a considerable amount of depth and flexibility. The unit is projected to throw the 2nd most innings, rank 1st in ERA and FIP after leading MLB with a WAR of 7.7 in 2019. Manager Kevin Cash will hardly be phased by the new three-batter minimum rule given the weapons at his disposable. On the offensive side, the Rays added Japanese slugger, Yoshi Tsutsugo, a 28-year-old left-handed hitter who belted 139 home runs over the last four seasons in the Japanese League. He’s expected to add extra pop from the DH spot. While no singular star stands out in the everyday lineup, there are no weak links either. Each Rays player offers a positive WAR projection, while untapped upside remains in players such as Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames and Austin Meadows. And there are reinforcements on the way if needed with the organization boasting seven top 100 prospects including Wander Franco (SS, no. 1) and Brendan McKay (LHP, no. 15). 

Betting Negatives: The biggest subtraction for Tampa Bay was outfielder Tommy Pham who was dealt to San Diego in exchange for outfielder Hunter Renfoe. Pham produced a WAR of 3.8 last season which was the third highest mark on the team. Pham’s loss is likely to be compounded early on with the absence of Meadows who after a breakout 2019 tested positive for COVID-19 and will likely miss at least the first handful of games of the season. Rotation wise, both Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow boast premium stuff but also have a history of arm injuries. And at some point 36-year-old Charlie Morton is going to suffer some regression after tossing 194.2 IP and posting an incredible 2.81 FIP. Defensively, the Rays looked to upgrade in the outfield with additions of Manuel Margot and Renfoe but the group ranked just 17th in FanGraphs’ overall defensive metric a year ago.  

Handicapper’s Take: Few teams around MLB have proven to be as forward thinking and adaptable as the Rays. That bodes well for the 2020 season which will feature many unusual components. Cash is also one of the more valuable commodities in terms of the managerial position thanks to an analytically inclined approach that the players have embraced. And while the AL and NL East don’t lack contenders, the Rays will play MLB’s 24th ranked schedule thanks in large part to six games vs. the Marlins. But for a team that has far more strength than weakness the market may keep them from being a clear cut “bet on” outfit. In 2018, Tampa went 90-72 and banked +25 units with an average moneyline price of +104. In 2019, including the postseason, Tampa went 99-69 with only +5 units of profit due to an average moneyline price of -147.