Reflections on the 2019 Rays

Rays finish season strong, looking forward to 2020

Ari Dolgin, Staffer

The Tampa Bay Rays of 2019 will be a team to remember in the Tampa Bay Area for years to come. This year, the Rays finished with a 96-66 record, good enough for the American League’s second wild card spot. They defeated the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game on the road, but their season unfortunately came to an end after losing in five games to the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series. 

The Rays have experienced success because of very well-run management. Look at their team: Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows, Willy Adames, Tyler Glasnow, Ji-Man Choi, Emilio Pagan Joey Wendle, Yandy Diaz, Ryan Yarbrough, Nick Anderson and Chaz Roe. All these players were acquired in trades in the past five years. The Rays built their team by trading, with exceptions to homegrown talent such as Blake Snell, Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe, Diego Castillo and Yonny Chirinos. 

The Rays also have one of the most versatile teams in baseball. They have multiple players who can play multiple positions which gives them a lot of depth. In 2018, the Rays started using a strategy called “The Opener,” which means that relief pitchers started games. It has proven to be a successful strategy and other teams are starting to use it. 

The Rays also finished with the best Earned Run Average in the American League, only second in the MLB behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Charlie Morton, who was signed to a two-year $30 million contract in December of 2018, was the best of the bunch. He was one of three Rays players selected to the 2019 All Star Game and finished with a 16-6 record with a 3.05 ERA. He struck out 240 hitters in 194.2 Innings and led Rays pitchers in almost every stat. 

Other pitchers such as Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos also put up great seasons; however, Blake Snell, who was their best pitcher going into 2019, did not. All three of these pitchers were lost to injuries at the same time at one point in the season and the Rays were left with only two starting pitchers. With the emergence of Ryan Yarbrough, Brendan McKay and the bullpen, the Rays made a big push late in the season and were spoiled with amazing pitching. 

The Rays also had the best bullpen ERA in baseball. If you look at the names in the bullpen, they will most likely not be recognized. Chaz Roe, who has the nastiest slider in baseball, was acquired for cash considerations in 2017. Oliver Drake, who played with five teams in 2018 and got designated for assignment twice in the offseason, put up great numbers. Nick Anderson, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline, had a pace of striking out 17 batters per nine innings. He was untouchable. 

Diego Castillo was expected to perform well in the bullpen, and he did just that. Jose Alvarado was expected to be the closer. However, that couldn’t happen. In December, the rays acquired Emilio Pagan from the Oakland Athletics. He put up 20 saves in the regular season and was a huge part to the Rays success. 

 The offense is not as good as the pitching, but it still has a lot of fire power. The lineup is filled with diversity such as homegrown talent like Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Lowe, players acquired from trades such as Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham, Willy Adames and Yandy Diaz. They even had players who were let go by their teams such as Travis D’arnaud, Ji-Man Choi and Avisail Garcia.  

No matter where they came from, all these players had very successful seasons. They were a great group of guys who gave 110% every day. They were disappointed that their season ended earlier than they wanted but everyone is excited for 2020. 


Team Awards 


Rookie of the Year: Brandon Lowe 

At the beginning of the season, the Rays signed Lowe to a six-year, $24 Million contract extension. He became the starting second baseman after Joey Wendle went down with injury. He won AL Rookie of the Month in April and was selected to the All Star Game and was the favorite to win AL Rookie of The Year until July when he bruised his knee. He was out until the last week of the season. Overall, Lowe hit .270 with 17 Home Runs and 51 RBI. By the way, these were his stats in one half of a season. Imagine a full year of this guy.  


Most Improved Player: Willy Adames 

The Rays acquired Adames in July of 2014 when they traded fan favorite David Price to the Detroit Tigers. He made his debut in 2018 and was one of three Rays players to play a full season this year. Over the course of the year, his defense improved and was very energetic in the clubhouse. Hitting ninth in the batting order, he hit .254 with 20 Home Runs and 52 RBI. 


Biggest Surprise: Travis D’arnaud 

The Rays came into the 2019 season with two catchers: Mike Zunino and Michael Perez. When both were lost to injuries, the rays were in need of a catcher. They picked up D’arnaud, who had just been let go by the Mets after seven years. He then played one game for the Dodgers and then was traded to the Rays and absolutely re-invented himself. In July, he hit his first career walk-off home run, his first career grand slam, and hit three home runs in one game. He made history this year being the first catcher ever to hit three home runs in a game while batting leadoff. Overall, he hit .263 with 16 Home Runs and 67 RBI. 


Best Pitcher: Charlie Morton 

The Rays signed Morton to a multi-year deal in the offseason and was projected to be the number two starter behind Blake Snell. When half of the rotation was lost due to injuries, Morton took over and solidified the rotation. The 35-year-old was selected to his second straight All Star Game and went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA. He led the Rays in strikeouts with 240 and pitched 194.2 Innings. The Rays might be nowhere near where they are right now without Charlie Morton. 


MVP: Austin Meadows 

On July 31, 2018, the Rays traded Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and Shane Baz. Meadows played briefly in 2018 and was named the starting right fielder in 2019. In his first at bat of the season, he hit a home run. He was the hottest hitter in baseball in April but then slumped in the middle of the season. He was selected to the All Star Game and after that, he went back to being one of the best hitters in baseball. He won AL Player of the Month in September finishing with a .291 average, 33 Home Runs and 89 RBI.