Tampa Bay Rays Kevin Kiermaier swings for a ground-rule double during the thirteenth inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Everything to Expect for Tampa Bay Rays Opening Weekend

The back-to-back AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays are back for more this season, and they kick off their 2022 campaign with a series against the Orioles.

The Rays are coming off a season in which they won a franchise-record 100 games and made it to the playoffs for a third straight year. Ultimately, though, they fell short of their goal of a World Series, losing in four games to the Red Sox in the ALDS.

So, will they get it done this year? Fangraphs projected Tampa Bay to finish fourth in the AL East, and many more are still sleeping on the Rays. But all of the pieces are still there for them to be a major threat to the league.

Playmakers

Tampa Bay made a splash move in resigning their young star, Wander Franco, to a 12-year, $223 million contract. But the news of it might have gotten lost in the shuffle of the MLB lockout and all of the drama that ensued after that.

Regardless, though, the Rays resigned their guy, and he’ll kick off his first full season in the MLB in 2022. In just 70 days, Franco rocked a 3.5 WAR, so it seems like the sky is the limit for the young slugger.

On the bump, Shane McClanahan has emerged as a difference maker for the Rays. After Tyler Glasnow saw his season end to injury, McClanahan stepped up as the ace. Now, he’ll get the ball for Opening Day against the Orioles. Bally Sports Florida reporter Kailey Mizelle spoke with Steve Russell about what she thinks McClanahan will mean to this team.

Tyler Glasnow’s return date is still uncertain, as he’s rehabbing from a recent ankle surgery. Their depth at the pitching rotation could be seen by some as a weak link for the team. On top of Glasnow’s injury absence, Shane Baz is sidelined recovering from elbow surgery.

The Rays did land veteran starter Corey Kluber, who returned to action with the Yankees last season.

Stacked Division

The AL East boasts some of the best talent in the entire league, and the Rays will have their work cut out for them if they want to win the division again. The reason Fangraphs projected the Rays to finish fourth is that they projected a four-way tie at the top. Fangraphs forecasted a tie between the Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox and Rays at 88-74. This certainly seems unlikely but it goes to show that the pennant race has never been tighter.

https://twitter.com/MLB/status/1511838661960036352

The Blue Jays upgraded at several positions, landing Matt Chapman from the A’s and José Berríos from the Twins. The Yankees signed veteran slugger Josh Donaldson, and the Red Sox won the Trevor Story sweepstakes.

The Rays have the talent to go deep this season, but they’ll have some stiff competition.

About Parker Fluke

I'm a third-year student at the University of Florida passionate about storytelling and sportswriting. My goal is to work in communications for a professional sports team after I graduate.

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