A season after capturing the AL pennant and subsequently losing to the Dodgers in the World Series during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, the Tampa Bay Rays naturally entered 2021 eager to prove their championship mettle over a full 162-game marathon.
By and large, things went about as smoothly as could be expected during the regular season. Kevin Cash’s squad posted an AL-best 100-62 record to comfortably capture the AL East by eight games over the Red Sox and Yankees.
However, Tampa Bay would go on to win only one postseason game once its AL title defense began in earnest as the Rays were eliminated by the Red Sox in four games in the ALDS.
Despite the sour end to the 2021 campaign, team brass and coaches clearly believe in the group that was good enough to hit the elusive 100-win mark last season. The Rays had minimal turnover this offseason, as they are projected to open the season with the same starting nine that finished 2021.
One notable exception on the pitching side is the addition of former 20-game winner Corey Kluber to a staff that once again has a chance to be among the top groups in the AL.
Rays Top Betting Odds 2022
Tampa Bay Rays MLB betting odds are current as of March 23 at Caesars Sportsbook.
- World Series Winners: +1500
- Win American League pennant: +750
- Win American League East title: +280
- 2022 Win Total Over/Under: 89.5 (-110)
Given the aforementioned continuity on their roster, the Rays may seemingly be undervalued from a betting perspective across the board.
That’s particularly true when factoring in that one of the most talented prospects in decades, Wander Franco, was able to get a very valuable 70 games of MLB experience last season, sending him into the 2022 campaign potentially poised for a true breakout season.
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If Tyler Glasnow (elbow), who started a throwing program in February, is able to make a return at some point in the latter portion of the season and contribute down the stretch, the Rays could pay handsome dividends on at least some of the above futures.
Rays Futures Bets 2022
Rays To Win World Series (+1500) at Caesars
WAGER: 0 Units
The Rays have proven highly adept at taking teams with lower payrolls and collectively less impressive names than division mates New York, Boston, and Toronto and exceeding expectations.
Tampa Bay has also done a good job developing some of its homegrown talent, with Brandon Lowe (career-high 39 homers in ’21) and Franco serving as two prime examples.
However, the competition from the National League will be stiff, especially if the Mets’ revamped staff lives up to its billing and with the Dodgers adding Freddie Freeman to their already lethal lineup.
As such, while this price is undeniably very appealing, it’s a wager I wouldn’t see as very realistically viable.
Rays To Win AL East (+280) at Caesars
WAGER: 1 Unit
As just alluded to, the Rays have successfully found their way around the Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees the last two seasons to nab the division crown. Cash and his staff have done a masterful job with personnel decisions and strategy, and Tampa Bay is a combined 78-38 against the division over the last two seasons, including 54-30 versus Boston, Toronto, and New York.
All three of Tampa Bay’s division rivals have retained the majority of their core pieces from last season. What’s more, the Yanks and Jays made big power-hitting additions at third base leading up to the start of the exhibition slate in Josh Donaldson and Matt Chapman, respectively.
Nevertheless, the Rays are a group that has thrived with the whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts principle and boast a coaching staff that knows how to extract every last bit of upside out of the current group.
Consequently, I’d roll the dice on this wager, especially considering the Rays’ main rivals haven’t proven capable of getting to the division mountaintop with many of the same players they’ll be trying to do so with again this season.
Rays OVER 89.5 Wins (-110) at Caesars
WAGER: 1 Unit
The Rays’ 100-win season last year came with Franco playing less than half the season and Randy Arozarena arguably underachieving relative to his potential.
Moreover, promising southpaw Shane McClanahan posted a 10-6 mark with a 3.43 ERA despite never having pitched in the majors before last season, and he should be all better for the experience afforded by his first 25 big-league starts.
Kluber also showed he still had plenty left in the tank when healthy for the Yankees last season, while Drew Rasmussen was a revelation after coming over from the Brewers. Flamethrowing Shane Baz also made his MLB debut in ’21 and quickly flashed the electric arm that usually overwhelmed hitters in three levels of the minors.
Those four arms are expected to head up what could be one of the best rotations in the AL if good health prevails.
Consequently, the Rays, on paper, have the combination of hitting and pitching to author at least a 90-win season, as they amply proved last season. The fact they went 85-57 in AL play in 2021 only serves to further cement my conviction in this wager.
Rays Player Prop Bets 2022
Wander Franco To Win AL MVP (+2000) at BetMGM
WAGER: 2 Units
The Rays naturally didn’t hand Franco an 11-year extension this offseason that could be worth up to $223 million without good reason – the 21-year-old boasts an elite all-around skill set that saw him befuddle pitchers at every level of the minors.
Franco took just three-plus seasons to work his way to the majors from Rookie ball and never hit below .313 at any stop.
The 308 plate appearances Franco logged against big-league arms last season likely equate to a greater number in terms of the precocious shortstop’s learning curve. Known for quickly correcting mistakes at the plate, Franco corroborated as much by slashing .343/.391/.520 over his final 25 regular-season games.
With that seasoning under his belt and the potential to play all 162 games in 2022, Franco makes for an excellent value at this price.
Shane McClanahan To Win AL Cy Young (+2000) at BetMGM
WAGER: 1 Unit
As mentioned earlier, McClanahan was a quick study in his first taste of big-league action in 2021 after making the jump from Double-A, in some ways serving as the pitching equivalent of Franco in terms of his ability to produce immediate results. The young southpaw’s impressive body of work over 123.1 innings should arm him with ample confidence heading into the 2022 season.
McClanahan brings the elite strikeout upside usually necessary to complement a strong win/loss record and sway Cy Young voters a pitcher’s way. The lefty has never posted a K/9 below double digits at any professional stop, and he handled himself particularly well against fellow contenders Boston and Toronto last season (32 Ks, 2.99 ERA over 30.2 innings across six starts).
With Glasnow potentially set to miss the majority of the season and the team likely to manage Kluber’s innings carefully, McClanahan is set to open the season as the ace of the rotation, ostensibly giving him the stature and extra opportunities to take the hill and make a strong case for the award if he remains healthy.
Brandon Lowe To Lead MLB In Home Runs (+6600) at BetMGM
WAGER: 1 Unit
Lowe displayed eye-opening power last season, uncorking a career-high 39 home runs across 615 plate appearances. The 27-year-old also slugged a combined 31 across 551 plate appearances in the prior two seasons, helping dispel any notions of 2021 being a fluky year that he’ll have a difficult time replicating.
Lowe finished last season tied for sixth in homers in all of MLB, and he could well be entering his prime in 2022. The left-handed basher played in 149 games last season – implying Cash is likely to let him take his hacks in same-handed matchups more often than not – and although he struggled against left-handed pitching in 2021, it’s worth noting 22 of his 76 career round trippers have come versus southpaws.
Despite Lowe’s home digs at Tropicana Field serving as one of the biggest homer-suppressing parks in either league, it didn’t seem to bother the prolific second baseman as 19 of his 39 homers last season came at home, pushing his career total there to 35 across 676 PAs.