We’re going to look at how the Rays match up against other teams in the American League on a position by position basis.
Let’s start with the man behind the dish. Some notable AL catchers include Yasmani Grandal and Gary Sanchez. Grandal was acquired by the White Sox in the offseason, but he’s spent his whole career thus far in the National League. He’ll transition nicely though as he’s notched over 100 hits each of his last 3 seasons. Sanchez is a reliable power threat for the Bronx Bombers. He crushed 33 homers with 90 RBIs in 2017 and a career-high 34 long balls last season. The Rays lost Travis D’Arnaud in a trade with the Braves this offseason, so they have Mike Zunino as the most reliable option. Zunino had a down year with the bat in 2019 as he had a dismal .165 BA. The UF alum showed he can swing it with Seattle in 2017 as he put up a .251 BA and 97 hits. He is second to none defensively though as he’s posted a plus .990 fielding percentage each season of his career so far.
The first basemen in the AL are a strong group with names like DJ LeMahieu and Matt Olson. LeMahieu hit .327 and was 3 hits shy of 200 in his first season with the Yankees. Olson had a productive season with Oakland in 2019 as he hit 36 homeruns and had a .545 slugging percentage. He’s also a Gold Glove defender as he’s won the award his last 2 campaigns. The Rays first baseman, Ji-Man Choi hit a respectable .261 with 19 homers to go along with 107 hits. He’s also an underrated defender as he can stretch with the best of them.
The 2B position is where the Rays have a solid argument for the best in the league in Brandon Lowe. Lowe slashed .270 with an .850 OPS and was named an All-Star despite an injury ridden season. Jose Altuve is another solid AL second baseman as he hit .298 in 2019 and won MVP in 2017. Tommy La Stella is a guy who deserves more respect as he broke out with a .295 average in his first season with the Angels.
The best American League shortstop is Xander Bogaerts hands-down as he came in 5th in MVP voting after posting a .309 BA with 33 homeruns. He’s a manager’s dream at the position and he has all the tools he needs if not more. Carlos Correa and Fransisco Lindor are also very good options at short. The Rays have a bright future though in Willy Adames. In only his second season with Tampa Bay, he hit .254 with 20 homers and missed only 10 regular season games. He’s becoming a fan favorite with the Rays already and I’m expecting some more solid numbers from him in 2020.
The hot corner is a stacked position in the AL especially after the addition of Anthony Rendon to the Angels. He hit .319 with 126 RBIs as he helped lead the Nationals to their first World Series title. Other notable players include Alex Bregman, Matt Chapman, and the young phenom, Yoan Moncada. Bregman came in 2nd in MVP voting as he hit .296 and led the MLB in walks. Chapman also had a very good offensive season in 2019 as he hit 36 homeruns and had an OBP of .342. He’s more known for his incredible defensive skills as he has won the AL Platinum Glove, award given to the best overall fielder in the division, 2 years in a row. The Rays have had a number of guys play 3rd base throughout the 2019 season, but Yandy Diaz was most reliable. Despite only playing in 79 games due to injury, he collected 82 hits with 14 long balls. His defense was relatively reliable as he had a .962 fielding percentage at the position.
It doesn’t appear that the Rays’ infielders match up with their counterparts in the AL, but they play very well together and make a solid component of a contending team