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4. TAMPA BAY RAYS.

Evan Longoria, the greatest player in the franchise's history, is in a Giants uniform now, traded in the offseason.

The worst attendance in the majors led to payroll cuts and a rebuild for a Rays team that's never really out of a rebuild. They do have six players on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list, led by righty Brent Honeywell at No. 14. And the major-league team isn't exactly a dumpster fire.

Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell and Nate Eovaldi offer the potential for an intriguing rotation. Denard Span, Kevin Kiermaier in center, Steven Souza Jr. in right and Corey Dickerson at DH make for a possible top-four in the lineup. Both Souza and Dickerson had an OPS above .800 in 2017, and Kiermaier wasn't far off, at .788.

"It's got a chance to be a really special group," manager Kevin Cash said at the winter meetings. The skipper is also optimistic about Matt Duffy's return from Achilles surgery and having defensive whiz Adeiny Hechavarria at short all year following his midseason acquisition in 2017. And catcher Wilson Ramos should rebound after missing the first half following knee surgery.

"I was really excited the way he finished," noted Cash. "Had some ups and downs early on... He got in that comfort zone there with about three weeks to play, and we saw how big of an impact he can be in our lineup. So up-the-middle defense is special and we feel we're very strong."

The Rays are progressive in their bullpen usage--arguably, at points, they went to the bullpen too quickly--but the overall usage pattern is likely to continue.

Alex Colome, entering his age-29 season, is a rock at the back of the bullpen, although his strikeout rate dipped from 11.3 per nine innings in 2016 to 7.8 in 2017. A host of kids, some still in the farm system, will vie for the middle innings, which Cash deems equally critical.

"Everybody looks or talks about the eighth and ninth innings. We have said it for a long time now, there are a lot of games that are won in the fifth through the seventh," he said.

40-MAN ROSTER

Major-league roster on Feb. 4 * Uniform numbers subject to change Manager: Kevin Cash (16)

Coaches: Hitting--Chad Mottola (51), Pitching--Kyle Snyder (44), 1B--Ozzie Timmons (30), 3B--Matt Quatraro (33), Bench--Charlie Montoyo (25), Bullpen--Stan Boroski (41)
NO.   PITCHERS             B/T   HT      WT    BORN

46    Jose Alvarado        LA    6'2"    245   5/21/95
35    Matt Andriese        R/R   6'2"    225   8/28/89
22    Chris Archer         R/R   6'2"    195   9/26/88
63    Diego Castillo       R/R   6'3"    240   1/18/94
64    Yonny Chirinos       R/R   6'2"    170   12/26/93
37    Alex Colome          R/R   6'1"    220   12/31/88
87    Jose De Leon         R/R   6'1"    220   8/7/92
24    Nathan Eovaldi       R/R   6'2"    225   2/13/90
34    Jake Faria           R/R   6'4"    235   7/30/93
59    Brent Honeywell      R/R   6'2"    180   3/31/95
58    Chih-Wei Hu          R/R   6'0"    220   11/4/93
43    Dan Jennings         L/L   6'3"    210   4/17/87
36    Andrew Kittredge     R/R   6'1"    200   3/17/90
65    Jose Mujica          R/R   6'2"    235   6/29/96
23    Jake Odorizzi        R/R   6'2"    190   3/27/90
50    Austin Pruitt        R/R   5'10"   180   8/31/89
52    Chaz Roe             R/R   6'5"    190   10/9/86
57    Jaime Schultz        R/R   5'10"   200   6/20/91
 4    Blake Snell          L/L   6'4"    200   12/4/92
59    Ryne Stanek          R/R   6'4"    215   7/26/91
61    Hunter Wood          R/R   6'1"    165   8/12/93
48    Ryan Yarbrough       R/L   6'5"    205   12/31/91

NO.   CATCHERS             B/T   HT      WT    BORN

40    Wilson Ramos         R/R   6'1"    260   8/10/87
45    Jesus Sucre          R/R   6'0"    200   4/30/88
NO.   INFIELDERS           B/T   HT      WT    BORN
27    Willy Adames         R/R   6'0"    200   9/2/95
21    Christian Arroyo     R/R   6'1"    180   5/30/95
 5    Matt Duffy           R/R   6'2"    170   1/15/91
11    Adeiny Hechavarria   R/R   6'0"    195   4/15/89
 7    Micah Johnson        LVR   6'0"    210   12/18/90
13    Brad Miller          L/R   6'2"    215   10/18/89
29    Daniel Robertson     R/R   5'11"   200   3/22/94
14    Ryan Schimpf         L/R   5'9"    180   4/11/88
18    Joey Wendle          L/R   6'1"    190   4/26/90

NO.   OUTFIELDERS          B/T   HT      WT    BORN

70    Jake Bauers          LA    6'1"    195   10/6/95
10    Corey Dickerson      LVR   6'1"    200   5/22/89
39    Kevin Kiermaier      L/R   6'1"    215   4/22/90
0     Mallex Smith         L/R   5'10"   180   5/6/93
20    Steven Souza Jr.     R/R   6'4"    225   4/24/89
2     Denard Span          LA    6'0"    210   2/27/84
71    Justin Williams      L/R   6'2"    215   8/20/95
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Publication:Baseball Digest
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2018
Words:820
Previous Article:3. TORONTO BLUE JAYS.
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