Rays Inbox: What Will the 2021 Rays Look Like?

Ryan Yarbrough (center) will be a key piece to the Rays' rotation during the 2021 season. (Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays)

We are somehow almost halfway through spring training, with Opening Day right around the corner. So, what better time than now for our second Rays Inbox! Let’s dive in:

Starting rotation please? I heard they could just have an opener on opening day, why wouldn’t Glasnow pitch? – @Suzanne543 via Twitter

As much as the young guys such as Shane McClanahan and Luis Patino have impressed, it seems the rotation is pretty much set. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays will be eyeing a veteran rotation.

Manager Kevin Cash told Topkin, “I think we’re pretty much in line,” he said. “Assuming that we’re healthy, we’ve got our guys. But it’s always good to see the young guys throw.”

Those five guys seem to consist of Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, Michael Wacha, Chris Archer and Rich Hill. So far nothing definite has come out in regards to the makeup of the rotation, though it looks more and more likely that Glasnow will start on Opening Day.

After him it will most likely be Yarbrough, with Wacha, Arch and Hill filling out the starters. Archer and Hill will probably start the season throwing four-to-five innings an outing until fully stretched out, but Tampa Bay’s success will ride on their collective successes.

Do you think Honeywell will get a chance to throw in Spring Training? – @DylanLane_02 via Twitter

On Saturday morning, Brent Honeywell faced live batters for the first time this spring as he continues his recovery from right arm nerve compression surgery that sidelined him in 2020.

According to Cash he sat at 95 mph, which is up from his usual 90-93 mph the Rays have seen in the minors. Despite all that, Cash said it’s “pretty unlikely” he will pitch in an actual game this spring, but this was a big step forward that Honeywell took.

He’s a big name to keep tabs on, and he should make an impact this season. However, due to the build-up plan the Rays have laid out for Honeywell, we probably won’t see him pitch this spring.

What under the radar pitcher has impressed you the most and you think deserves a shot at the opening day roster? – @austin_sewell33 via Twitter

A couple weeks ago I highlighted Joey Krehbiel in my takeaways from the Grapefruit Opener. For the sake of avoiding repetition, I’ll give you another guy who is deserving of a second look: Brian Moran.

Last season Aaron Loup was Tampa Bay’s lefty specialist, posting a stellar 2.52 ERA. Moran could be Loup 2.0, as his delivery is just as funky. So far this spring, Moran has thrown three one-hit innings of baseball, striking out three.

Tampa Bay needs lefties in the bullpen, and we all know the Rays love unorthodox pitching motions. Moran could check both those boxes and be the lefty specialist this season, but only time will tell if he earns the spot.

Out of Wander Franco, Luis Patino, Shane McClanahan, Vidal Brujan, Josh Lowe, and Kevin Padlo who do you see making the biggest impact? – @RakinRandy via Twitter

As far as 2021 goes, several players mentioned above could make significant impacts, but McClanahan is the guy.

He was reassigned to the minors to start this season, but he can be called up after May 1st to give the Rays an extra year of control over the young lefty. McClanahan should make make his 2021 debut in May, probably as a long reliever or spot starter.

It’s still unclear whether Wander will make his awaited debut this season, but out of all these guys he’s the clear pick to make the biggest long-term impact. Brujan, Lowe, Patino, and Padlo should be solid players, with Patino having the biggest upside.

However, Franco is MLB’s No. 1 prospect prospect for good reason. He is the future of the Rays, so expect him to be the guy for years to come.

What should we expect from Austin Meadows this season? – @atombomb418 via Twitter

It’s safe to say Meadows is Tampa Bay’s x-factor this season. If Meadows returns to his 2019 All-Star form, the Rays’ offense will be greatly improved.

However, if his 2020 struggles persist, the pressure will be put on this veteran pitching staff. Meadows’ spring has created optimism among fans evidenced by his OPS of 1.298 so far.

The Rays need big things from Meads in 2021, hopefully those being a season of at least 25-30 home runs with a .900+ OPS.

It’ll be incredibly interesting to see how the Rays play out this season, but one thing’s for sure: if Meadows is healthy, Tampa Bay is going to be very successful.