Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays sit five games out first place in the American League East and three and half games out of the league’s wild card spot.
Considering the team lost key players such as: Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Matt Garza this past offseason, few could have expected the Rays to be giving the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox a run for their money in baseball’s toughest division.
What does the second half of the season have in store for the resilient Rays? Here are nine bold predictions.
Matt Joyce will be appearing in his first career All-Star Game next week in Arizona.
Joyce has been the team's best offensive player this season, leading the team with a .293 batting average and ranking second on the team with 11 home runs.
Joyce will blast two home runs and make a spectacular catch in the field, helping the American League win the game.
Thus far, the Tampa Bay Rays have played much better on the road than they have at Tropicana Field. The team is 26-18 in opposing team’s ballparks, while posting a 21-21 mark at home.
The Rays road warrior mentality will continue, as the team fights for a playoff spot.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a stretch of eleven straight games against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox coming up.
The Rays will go 8-3 during the grueling 11 game stretch against their division rivals.
It’s fully expected the Tampa Bay Rays will call up Desmond Jennings from Durham sometime during the second half of the season.
When the Rays bring up Jennings, they will likely have to demote Sam Fuld or Justin Ruggiano, assuming they don’t trade B.J. Upton.
This will likely leave the Rays with an outfield consisting of: B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings.
I understand this is not necessarily a bold prediction, but one will be hard pressed to find a better defensive outfield in baseball.
Since the Tampa Bay Rays became perennial contenders in 2008, they have failed to make any big deals at the annual trade deadline.
Look for history to repeat itself. Their two biggest trade chips, James Shields and B.J Upton, are too valuable in my eyes to consider trading. Therefore, there likely won’t be a deal out there they Rays can't live without.
Expect the roster you see now to keep the Rays in contention as the summer progresses.
Kyle Farnsworth has done a tremendous job as the closer for the Tampa Bay Rays. Farnsworth has converted 17 of 19 save opportunities and has a 2.08 ERA. Not bad at all, when you consider he has only converted 44 of 82 career save opportunities.
Something tells me Farnsworth won’t be as sharp in the second half of the season. This will leave the door open for Jake McGee to possibly become the Rays' closer. McGee has nine saves this season for the Durham Bulls, after being sent down by the Rays at the end of April.
B.J. Upton has failed to hit 25 home runs in a season, since becoming a mainstay in the Rays’ lineup in 2007.
He will finish the season with 30 home runs (he currently has 12) and 40 stolen bases.
His second half surge will play a big role in the Rays being in playoff contention at the end of the season.
After a disappointing 2010 season, in which he gave up 34 home runs and had an ERA over five, James Shields is having a memorable first half to the 2011 campaign.
On Sunday, Shields was named to his first All-Star Team. The right hander currently has a 2.47 ERA and has pitched 6 complete games.
Look for Shields' stellar pitching to continue into the second half of the season.
Although he won’t win the Cy Young award, Shields will finish in the top three in voting.
Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays have a 47-39 record, trailing the New York Yankees by five games in the American League East in addition to trailing the Boston Red Sox by three-and-a-half games for the American League Wild Card spot.
The Rays will have a good second half to the season and the Boston Red Sox's pitching will fall apart, allowing the Rays to catch them for the Wild Card.