The Tampa Bay Rays have shocked the baseball world with a ridiculously hot start to the 2023 season. The Rays tied the modern record for most wins to start a season, going undefeated in their first 13 games. Now sitting at 16-3 through 19 games, Tampa Bay has a chance to make more history this season.
Though the Rays made the playoffs for the fourth straight season in 2022, not many expected them to be among the elite teams in the league this season. The American League as a whole is going to be a bloodbath all season long, not to mention the gauntlet that is the AL East, a division that sent three teams to the postseason last year. Four teams in the AL East are currently above .500.
The Rays have been one of the best teams in baseball over the past five seasons. 2023 looks no different, with the team on pace to win well over 100 games. Tampa Bay has done it with elite pitching and an electric offense. The Rays have the second-best team ERA in the league and have scored a league-high 133 runs through 19 games. A start this remarkable tends to bring out some crazy reactions.
2. Wander Franco will win AL MVP
The Rays have had help from just about everyone on the roster, but Wander Franco has been the engine of their early-season offensive outburst. The third-year shortstop is off to a fantastic start at the plate, with a slash line of .301/.363/.575. He has four home runs, eight doubles and 13 RBIs.
The Rays have never had an MVP in the franchise’s 26 seasons. Franco may have the best chance to become the first. That is if he stays healthy enough to play 100+ games. Franco was limited to 83 games last season due to injury and spent time on the injured list during his rookie season in 2021. He’s played all but one game so far this season.
There’s no denying the star power Wander Franco possesses both in his bat and with his glove. The Rays could be a very good team in 2023 and beyond and want Franco to be a big part of that. Tampa inked Franco to an 11-year, $182 million in November 2021 after he played in only 70 major league games. It’s not absurd to think Franco should win at least one MVP on that contract.
Though Franco is out to an impressive start and could make a run at MVP, he’s not the only one in the race. Favorites Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge picked up right where they left off last season, with Mike Trout, Yordan Alvarez and Adley Rutschman also in the conversation for now. Franco sports the seventh-best odds to win the award according to FanDuel. At just 22 years old, he would be one of the youngest MVPs in MLB history.
1. The Rays will win 100 games
Winning shouldn’t look as easy as the Rays have made it look this season. After starting 13-0, Tampa Bay has stumbled a bit but still holds the best record in the MLB. They’re bound to hit some low strides throughout a long 162-game season, but the Rays have been perennial winners for some time now.
Since 2018, the Rays have the fourth-best record in the MLB with 427 wins. They’ve made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, reaching the World Series in 2020. The Rays were projected to win around 90 games before the season began. They look like they’re going to fly past that with the way they’ve started the season.
Tampa Bay could very well keep this stretch going and push for 100 wins for just the second time in franchise history. The Rays won 100 games just two years ago in 2021. They have yet to play the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles this season though, two teams that figure to be in the running for not only the AL East title but a playoff berth in general.
It is so impressive to see a team with such a low payroll exceed expectations year after year. The Rays have proved that you don’t need money to build a consistent winner, instead relying on scouts and the coaching staff to find the talent where other teams fail to. A team built like the Rays winning 100 games in a season would be a great story for the league.
Baseball is such an unpredictable sport, so knowing where a team is going to be at the end of the year is hard to read. The Rays have the talent though and as good a chance as any team to reach the century mark this season.
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