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Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: The walking wounded enter KC in second place

The Rays have A LOT of players on the IL, but they just keep winning.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With all of baseball fresh off four days off for the All-Star Break, the Royals find themselves with a handful of players even fresher than that as they return to the field to take on the Tampa Bay Rays for the first time in 2022. The Rays find themselves in a familiar position, the thick of the postseason race. If the season ended today, that’d be weird, but the Rays would be the fourth seed, which is important since the three and four seeds host the entire Wild Card round. They’re doing it with a solid but uneven offense and a pitching staff that does a lot well. The offense is uneven because if you look at the lineup from top to bottom, you can definitely see the spot where it shifts and a pitcher can theoretically relax. Injuries have made that jump a little bigger, but where they’re good, they’re very good. They have power, they can run a little and they can score some runs. The pitching staff is led by the favorite for the AL Cy Young, Shane McClanahan, but has some solid starters behind and their usual good bullpen. The issue is injuries. They have five regular position players currently on the IL, four starting pitchers and five relievers. Not all the starting pitchers would be starters for them, but still, any time any team uses injuries as an excuse, show them the 2022 Rays. It’s impressive that they’re in the position they are.

Royals vs. Rays Matchup Stats

Category Royals Rays
Category Royals Rays
Winning % .391 .554
Team wRC+ 94 103
Team xFIP 4.54 3.76
Run Differential -110 29
Highest fWAR Andrew Benintendi, 1.9 Shane McClanahan, 3.2

Rays Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Yandy Diaz DH 337 .294 .407 .390 14.5% 10.4% 142 2.3
Randy Arozarena LF 370 .254 .314 .431 6.2% 25.4% 116 1.0
Ji-Man Choi 1B 257 .278 .385 .449 15.2% 28.0% 145 1.8
Brandon Lowe 2B 142 .246 .324 .452 9.2% 24.6% 126 0.8
Isaac Paredes 3B 182 .226 .297 .506 8.8% 17.6% 130 1.5
Josh Lowe CF 164 .199 .258 .338 7.3% 33.5% 72 0.0
Taylor Walls SS 268 .178 .257 .295 9.0% 26.1% 64 -0.5
Francisco Mejia C 173 .241 .249 .412 1.2% 26.0% 88 0.2
Brett Phillips RF 191 .147 .219 .259 6.8% 41.9% 42 0.3

Rays Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Christian Bethancourt C/1B 193 .244 .292 .389 5.2% 22.8% 98 0.7
Yu Chang INF 79 .181 .253 .264 5.1% 44.3% 53 -0.1
Roman Quinn OF 40 .173 .306 .288 9.7% 30.6% 69 0.3
Luke Raley OF 23 .050 .174 .050 4.3% 29.1% -18 -0.2

Rays Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Colin Poche 33 30.2 2 0 23.6% 8.9% 2.35 4.38 -0.3
Jason Adam 42 38.1 1 2 32.6% 5.7% 1.41 3.05 1.1
Brooks Raley 33 29.0 1 0 33.1% 8.3% 2.79 3.24 0.9

Royals vs. Rays Projected Pitching Matchups

July 22 - RHP Drew Rasmussen vs. RHP Brad Keller, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Drew Rasmussen 15 72.2 5 3 20.8% 7.0% 3.22 3.66 1.0
Brad Keller 17 97.2 4 9 16.4% 7.8% 3.96 4.14 1.0

The Rays drafted Rasmussen in the first round of the 2017 draft, but he didn’t sign with them. Instead, he went back to school and the gamble did not pay off as the Brewers took him in the sixth round the next season. He worked out of the Milwaukee bullpen in 2020 and last year before the Rays acquired him as part of the Willy Adames deal. He was a reliever with the Rays at first as well, but his last nine appearances were as a starter and while he didn’t give innings, he has fantastic with a 1.46 ERA and a nearly four to one strikeout to walk ratio. And he’s been a starter this season as well with similar, but slightly worse, peripherals. He strikes out enough because he doesn’t walk too many. He’s been pretty stingy with hits too. He has a four-seamer that he runs up about 95-96 and he throws that as often as he throws his cutter. And he rounds out his repertoire with a slider that is usually more good than great, but he doesn’t hang it often. He remains a non-threat to get deep into games. In his 15 starts, he’s pitched into the sixth in just four and into the seventh in just one. But he does throw strikes, so he could be looking at some early-count outs.

Career vs. KC: 2 G, 2.0 IP, 1-0, 0.00 ERA

At least Brad Keller should be fresh. His last outing was the first game of the doubleheader to start the Tigers series, which might not be great for him. Even so, after a rough stretch, Keller has a 2.15 ERA in his last five starts while averaging just under six innings per start. He seems to have found his slider though it has a slightly different shape. It’s a little more vertical movement and a little less horizontal, so I guess it’s probably more of a slurve. That’s similar to what we saw from him during his 2020 season when he was so good. He’s given six or more innings in 11 of his 17 starts and in three of his last five. His home/road splits aren’t quite as drastic as Greinke’s, but he has a 3.48 ERA at home compared to 4.50 on the road. He has more strikeouts and fewer walks, so that bodes well for him here.

Career vs. TB: 5 G, 4 GS, 21.0 IP, 1-3, 6.86 ERA

July 23 - RHP Luis Patiño vs. RHP Brady Singer, 6:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Luis Patiño 2 4.0 0 1 0.0% 5.3% 6.75 7.96 -0.3
Brady Singer 14 71.2 4 3 23.4% 6.1% 4.02 3.52 0.8

The Rays got Luis Patiño from the Padres as part of the deal that sent Blake Snell over and while he struggled a bit in 2020, he had a nice year for them last season. He has spent a lot of time on the injured list this year with an oblique injury and he made his return to the active roster on Friday before the break. He only threw 56 pitches, so he’s not likely ready for a full workload just yet, but should be good for 70 or so pitches I would think. When he’s healthy, he lives on a four-seam fastball and a slider mostly, though in his very small sample of 2022, he has thrown a sinker as well. The fastball is good, sitting at 95-96 last year and his slider can be downright nasty. There’s not much to glean from this year, but as a two-pitch pitcher without a changeup, he had some problems familiar to Royals fans last season. He struggled mightily against lefties while righties were sort of helpless against him. He also really struggled away from Tropicana Field. This bodes well for guys like Vinnie Pasquantino and MJ Melendez in this game.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

Brady Singer ended the first half as arguably the Royals best starter. He’s averaged exactly six innings per start in his 11 starts this season with a 3.82 ERA, a 23.4 percent strikeout rate and a 6.3 percent walk rate. That feels like a pretty solid number three starter to me and I think there’s room to grow there for him. I’d still like to see more changeups, but he’s thrown it 9.2 percent of the time this year and it’s been both a successful pitch and I think it’s helped to boost his slider quite a bit. But of course, what matters the most is if he’s able to start his sinker glove side with it coming back over the plate because those called strikes are his lifeblood. The Rays will put a lot of lefties in there against him, and he’s struggled with them, even with his changeup, but if he’s willing to throw it a bit more, I think he could have a nice start.

Career vs. TB: 1 GS, 2.2 IP, 0-1, 20.25 ERA

July 24 - LHP Jeffrey Springs vs. RHP Zack Greinke, 1:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jeffrey Springs 19 64.0 3 2 27.7% 5.9% 2.53 3.18 0.9
Zack Greinke 15 77.2 3 6 12.7% 4.5% 4.64 4.66 0.6

Jeffrey Springs is a fun story for the Rays. He’s pitched in the big leagues every year since 2018, but hasn’t gotten consistent starts since this season. He’s also not going to give big innings, but he has a 3.00 ERA in 10 starts since joining the rotation full-time. He’s only pitched 51 innings, but he has 56 strikeouts and 12 walks in those innings. A change he’s made with the Rays is that he’s throwing his fastball less and less, though that started before he was in Tampa. It hasn’t been hit a ton, but he has allowed a .500 SLG on it. His slider has been the money pitch. He’s allowed a .175 average and .193 slugging percentage on that pitch. It’s very impressive. He does tire and generally pretty quickly. He has allowed a .572 OPS on the first 25 pitches and then .641 on the next 25. From that point forward, though, he’s allowed a .727 OPS, which still isn’t huge, but it’s better. And he’s allowed a .195 ISO. That’s where the Royals can get to Springs, though he doesn’t get terribly deep into games regardless.

Career vs. KC: 4 G, 4.1 IP, 0-0, 4.15 ERA

Zack Greinke’s first half ended with a bit of a thud in his outing against the Blue Jays in Toronto. That’s sort of a theme for him this season. He’s allowed more than two runs in six of his 15 starts. All six of those starts have been on the road. He has a 1.86 ERA at home and 7.38 on the road. Of the 11 home runs he’s allowed, 10 have been on the road. Some of that could be a quirk of the schedule. He’s had to pitch in Colorado and Arizona, both great hitter’s parks, as well as against the Blue Jays and Astros on the road while he missed both those teams at home. The Rays lineup is kind of torn up by injuries, so he’ll get a shot to continue his home dominance here against a team that should theoretically be struggling to score some runs given how many regulars are injured.

Career vs. TB: 17 G, 14 GS, 96.1 IP, 4-6, 3.36 ERA

Royals vs. Rays Prediction

While the Rays are very beat up right now, I still think they’re pretty clearly better than the Royals. I also wonder a bit what the return to the clubhouse will be like for the 10 guys who chose not to be with the team in Toronto. And while they were playing pretty good baseball before that Blue Jays series, there’s been a long time between the last time this group played together and now. All that said, I think I’m going to predict one win for the Royals this series, but I think I feel like two out of three is very possible.


How does Royals vs. Rays shake out this weekend?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Royals sweep.
    (7 votes)
  • 24%
    Royals win two of three.
    (29 votes)
  • 48%
    Rays win two of three.
    (58 votes)
  • 21%
    Rays sweep.
    (26 votes)
120 votes total Vote Now