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Ray of Hope in Tampa Bay’s 2016 Season

When you think about the American League East, the last team that comes to mind is probably the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees get all the attention and plaudits in what promises to be a competitive division, the 2016 Rays may slide under the radar but ultimately turn some heads come the fall.

The Rays finished 2015 with an 80-82 record; 13 games back of the pennant-winning Blue Jays. Much like this season, however, nobody gave the Rays a chance to do much of anything in 2015. They had the fifth-longest odds to win the World Series (66/1) at online shop Bovada this time last year and many expected them to finish last in the competitive American League East.

Granted, the Rays did finish next-to-last, but there were a lot of takeaways from what has to be considered a promising season.

The Rays enter the 2016 campaign at +4000 to win the World Series at online book Bovada; much better odds than they had in 2015. While the odds and the squad, on paper at least, may not scream “contender”, there is much to like about both the value and the club.

If you are someone that is a mark for patterns, consider the American League East in recent years. The division has had a different pennant winner in each of the previous four seasons with the Yankees in 2012, Sox in 2013, Baltimore Orioles in 2014 and Jays last year. Naturally, that means this is the Rays’ year, right? Well, if you are inclined to believe in such trends, the Rays can be had at +750 to win the East pennant; tied for the longest odds with the Orioles.

Sure, some “out there” trend is not really the best proof you need to slap down your hard-earned cash, but where things get interesting when looking at Rays futures is that 81.5-win total. The Rays have not eclipsed that mark in the previous two seasons but many experts feel they could surpass that with ease. Popular baseball site Baseball Prospectus predicts that the Rays will win the American League East with a record of 91-71 – 4.0 games up on the Sox.

The pitching staff is buoyed by Chris Archer. Archer put up a ho-hum 12-13 record, but had a 3.23 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and fanned 252 batters in 212 innings of work. Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly round out the front end of the staff, but guys like Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Moore does not evoke the same type of confidence. Normally, Alex Cobb would feature at the front end of the rotation, but the righty will be sidelined until August.

Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria are easily the best hitters in this lineup and they would be an excellent fit in most batting orders. Kiermaier, the 25-year-old, highlight-reel dominating center fielder, really broke out in 2015; mostly for his glove, but he’s no slouch at the plate either and many expect his number to improve this season.

Pitching, defense, timely hitting and patience at the plate is what is going to get this team over the hump this year. They are basically adopting the Kansas City Royals path to success. Whichis a good place to start!

Beyond Longoria and Kiermaier, the Rays field a solid, if unspectacular team that does few things amazingly, but everything solidly. You could consider the team a jack of all trades, but master of none. In baseball, that could go a long way, so don’t be surprises if the Rays are one of those teams that flies under the radar and ends up cashing one or two of those futures wagers.

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2016 Tampa Bay Rays Futures Odds
World Series+4000
American League Pennant+2000
American League East+750
Win Totals81.5

Odds as of April 1 at Bovada