There’s usually a legitimate reason to write off the Tampa Bay Rays.
This season feels different.
As hard as it is to believe, it’s been 11 years since that Tampa reached the World Series and made the transformation from expansion disaster into winning franchise.
With the Rays in the midst of a five-year postseason drought – after getting to the playoffs four times in six seasons from 2008-2013 – it’s easy to roll your eyes at the quirky way the organization operates and just feel like the club’s magic has run out.
Even coming off a 90-win season with a 26-year-old Cy Young winner, the Rays didn’t enter 2019 with particularly high expectations, assumed to lag behind the Red Sox and Yankees.
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The club’s success in past years has felt like a bit of an accident at times, but the architects of the 2019 team knew exactly what they were doing.
This team doesn’t have the flaws that may have sunk its predecessors. They’re deep across the board and are going to make a real run at the AL East crown this season.
Here’s how our eight-person panel voted this week:
RANK (movement from last week)
1. Houston Astros (+5)
- Top prospect Kyle Tucker off to a slow start (4-for-33) in Class AAA.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (+2)
- Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows making the Chris Archer trade look like a steal.
3. Milwaukee Brewers (-1)
- After breakout 2018, Jesus Aguilar struggling to start the season.
4. Seattle Mariners (+5)
- Broke major-league record with homers in straight 15 games to start the season.
5. San Diego Padres (+10)
- Fernando Tatis Jr. (5 HR in 16 games) showing his power is for real.
t-6. New York Mets (+2)
- Pete Alonso becomes first player since 1900 with 11 extra-base hits in first 10 career games.
t-6. Philadelphia Phillies (-3)
- Bullpen is looking even worse than we thought it would.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (-7)
- Six-game losing streak erased the team’s 8-2 start.
9. Atlanta Braves (+4)
- How did they convince Ozzie Albies to take seven years for $35 million?
10. Minnesota Twins (+1)
- Byron Buxton is partying like it’s the second half of 2017.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (+5)
- After injury-hampered 2018, shortstop Paul DeJong on fire to start the year.
12. Washington Nationals (+2)
- Anthony Rendon is finally getting to be the star of the show.
13. New York Yankees (-8)
- DJ LeMahieu is going to compete for another batting title.
14. Oakland Athletics (-2)
- Khris Davis first in the majors to reach 10 home runs.
15. Cleveland Indians (-8)
- Hoping Carlos Gonzalez can inject some life into sputtering offense.
16. Boston Red Sox (-6)
- Starters had an 8.09 ERA through 15 games.
17. Pittsburgh Pirates (+2)
- Rotation had an NL-best 1.78 ERA through 13 games.
18. Chicago Cubs (+1)
- Yu Darvish has a 7.50 ERA and 11 walks in 12 innings through three starts.
19. Detroit Tigers (-1)
- Matt Boyd struck out 29 in his first 17 ⅓ innings.
20. Los Angeles Angels (+2)
- Matt Harvey’s first three starts: 14 ⅓ IP, 16 ER.
21. San Francisco Giants (+5)
- Bullpen had an MLB-best 1.86 ERA through 16 games.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (-2)
- Adam Jones thriving in his new home.
23. Cincinnati Reds (+5)
- Sonny Gray (2.03 ERA in three starts) looking better than he has in years.
24. Texas Rangers (-1)
- Rookie manager Chris Woodward making a good first impression.
25. Colorado Rockies (-4)
- Nolan Arenado didn’t hit his first homer until game No. 16.
26. Toronto Blue Jays (-1)
- Freddy Galvis through 16 games: .351, 5 HR, 11 RBI
27. Baltimore Orioles (–)
- Chris Davis finally snaps his 0-for-54 streak.
28. Chicago White Sox (-4)
- Small sample size but Tim Anderson is coming into his own.
29. Kansas City Royals (+1)
- Alex Gordon has seemingly remembered how to hit.
30. Miami Marlins (-2)
- Jorge Alfaro, acquired in the JT Realmuto trade, thriving with regular playing time.