The Tampa Bay Rays have managed to stay competitive in the American League East over the past few seasons despite being a small market team playing against big dogs like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. 2022 has been the same story, as the Rays are still squarely in the thick of the AL wild card race, despite being dealt a number of untimely injuries throughout the season.
Despite that, the Rays currently sit a half game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild card spot in the American League, meaning they could potentially miss the postseason entirely if things continue to not go their way. That would certainly be less than ideal for a Rays team that always seems to find it’s way into the postseason.
The good news is that there is a lot of time for Tampa Bay to make up that half-game deficit as the 2022 season has less than two months to go. There are also some moves that the Rays could make to help their cause, so let’s take a look at what those moves could be as Tampa holds on for dear life.
3 moves the Tampa Bay Rays need to make
3. Promote Jonathan Aranda
The Rays have a deep farm system that they should look to tap into down the stretch of the 2022 season. One guy who appears ready to be promoted is Jonathan Aranda. Aranda has already made a brief appearence with the Rays earlier this season, and he could help out an infield that has been depleted by injuries all season long.
Aranda started the season a Triple-A with the Durham Bulls, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s hitting .318 with 15 home runs and 67 RBIs, showcasing his potential as a hitter. Aranda is also hitting .375 in limited time with the Rays this season, so it may make sense to give him another shot down the stretch of the season.
Even if the Rays don’t want to take anyone out of the equation in their infield right now, they could use another solid bat as a designated hitter for the time being, and Aranda could certainly help with that. Tampa Bay clearly needs some help as they deal with all their injuries, and it makes a lot of sense to give Aranda a longer look down the stretch of the season.
2. Promote Taj Bradley
At the top of the Rays farm system is Taj Bradley, who is the 30th overall prospect in the MLB right now. Bradley has made his way to Triple-A after dominating at Double-A earlier this season, and he may be the solution to the Rays recent pitching struggles this season.
Bradley posted a 1.70 ERA and 88 strikeouts over 16 starts with at Double-A this season, helping him earn a promotion to Durham midway through the season. Bradley has been a bit less consistent early on with a 4.50 ERA over four starts, but his upside is still clear as day. Bradley could help a Rays pitching staff that has been looking for help all season long.
Manager Kevin Cash loves to use an opener to fill the final spot of his rotation, but it hasn’t worked out too well this season, and the Rays may benefit from adding another true starter to their rotation to fill it out. Bradley could also slot into the bullpen if Cash didn’t want to fully throw him into the fire. Either way, Bradley may be the solution to Tampa’s pitching struggles, and it wouldn’t hurt to call him up and give him a shot down the stretch of the season.
1. Bench Taylor Walls
As previously mentioned, injuries have killed the Rays all season long. But easily the biggest absence has been Tampa’s young phenom Wander Franco. Franco has only played in 58 games this season, meaning that Taylor Walls has been forced to start more than he was expected to this season. And it may be time to send him back to the bench, even though Franco isn’t ready to return.
Walls has been pretty horrible during his time filling in for Franco. He’s hitting just .170 with five home runs and 19 RBIs despite playing in 98 games, and he’s also committed nine errors in the field as well. It’s tough to believe that Tampa can’t find a more serviceable option to take at-bats away from Walls.
Walls was meant to exist as a utility infielder rather than a starter this season, and it’s clear he’s in over his head. Tampa Bay has other options they can call upon to send Walls to the bench, and based on how poorly he’s played this season, it seems like it would be a wise decision to get him out of the lineup.