The second half of the 2013 regular season is underway. Five and a half games out of first place in the AL East and three games behind in the wild-card race, the Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of work to do these next three months.
Without further delay, take a look at my five bold predictions for the second half of the season.
After posting historically good numbers in 2012, the Rays' pitching staff was surprisingly mediocre in the first half of the season. Reigning Cy Young award-winner David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Roberto Hernandez and most of the bullpen struggled in the first half.
However, things appear to be turning in the right direction going into the second half. Hellickson has been sharp in his last three starts, Matt Moore looks to have returned to his early-season form and the bullpen has been excellent as of late.
Also, David Price is returning to the rotation tonight, while Alex Cobb—who led the rotation earlier this season—should return after the All-Star break.
It's been a roller coaster ride of a season for Matt Moore so far. The phenom southpaw was outstanding in April and May but had three straight bad starts in June before returning to form in his last three.
Moore's fastball velocity has been down all year, but he's done great work with his offspeed stuff and is still unhittable when he commands his pitches. He really looks poised for a huge second half.
As usual, I don't expect general manager Andrew Friedman and the Rays to make a lot of noise at the trade deadline later this month, but I do expect to see one small trade.
Ryan Roberts is definitely a possibility. With Wil Myers now in the majors, the Rays don't really have a spot for Roberts on the roster—especially with the offense performing so well. I wouldn't be surprised to see him dealt for some relief pitching help.
Roberto Hernandez is another potential candidate. He'll be a free agent at the end of the year, and there are a few teams in the league that could really use his services. With Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Alex Torres and Jake Odorizzi, the Rays could certainly afford to trade Hernandez.
With just 14 games played, it may be a little early for the "Wil Myers for Rookie of the Year" talks, but it's something to keep an eye on in the second half.
Myers' transition into the big leagues has been a pretty smooth one, as he's swung the bat well—posting a .345 wOBA. As of right now, he's not one of the top candidates. But I think he'll prove in the following months why he was considered the top hitting prospect in baseball.
Can the Rays return to the postseason in 2013? It won't be easy with the Red Sox, Orioles and Yankees in the same division, as well as the Athletics or Rangers as likely serious contenders for a wild-card spot.
If the "Tampa Bay Rays pitching" returns—which I think it will—and the offense remains productive, I believe this team will be playing in October.