What players will be most critical to the team’s 2019 success? Tampa Bay Times staff writer Marc Topkin ranks ’em:


1. Blake Snell, lhp

Rays pitcher Blake Snell. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Blake Snell. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Cy guy gives Rays an advantage in every game he starts, also allows them to bank bullpen innings to make opener plan work.

NO. 4 HT/WT 6-4/215 AGE 26

2018 STATSIP 180.2 W-L 21-5 ERA 1.89 K: 221


2. Tommy Pham, of

Rays outfielder Tommy Pham. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays outfielder Tommy Pham. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Drive and intensity are obvious. Production even close to post-trade levels (1.071 OPS) would put him in league MVP talk.

NO. 29 HT/WT 6-1/215 AGE 30

2018 STATSAvg. .275 HR 21 RBI 63 SB 15


3. Kevin Kiermaier, of

Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
No question how much better Rays are when he is in centerfield and hitting. Big question is how often he can be there.

NO. 39 HT/WT 6-1/210 AGE 28

2018 STATSAvg. .217 HR 7 RBI 29 SB 10


4. Charlie Morton, rhp

Rays pitcher Charlie Morton. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Charlie Morton. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Hired at hefty price ($30 million over two years) to be the second sure thing in rotation, with health likely the key issue.

NO. 50 HT/WT 6-5/215 AGE 35

2018 STATSIP 167.0 W-L 15-3 ERA 3.13 K 201


5. Jose Alvarado, lhp

Rays pitcher Jose Alvarado. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Jose Alvarado. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
In a no-roles bullpen (assuming no Craig Kimbrel), looks to be top choice for closing, or, at least highest-leverage, duty.

NO. 46 HT/WT 6-2/245 AGE 23

2018 STATSIP 64.0 W-L 1-6 ERA 2.39 K 80


6. Brandon Lowe, inf/of

Rays infielder Brandon Lowe. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays infielder Brandon Lowe. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Much is expected from the little guy with power and a new contract, and he’ll get lots of chances at first, second, outfield and DH.

NO. 8 HT/WT 5-10/185 AGE: 24

2018 STATSAvg. .233 HR 6 RBI 25 SB: 2


7. Willy Adames, ss

Rays shortstop Willy Adames. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays shortstop Willy Adames. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Though infield depth is plentiful, is definitely best option at shortstop, and has potential to impact lineup with power.

NO. 1 HT/WT: 6-0/205 AGE: 23

2018 STATSAvg.: .278 HR: 10 RBI: 34 SB: 6


8. Mike Zunino, c

Rays catcher Mike Zunino. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays catcher Mike Zunino. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Ranks this high in part because of what he does at and behind plate, and also because of where they’d be without him.

NO. 10 HT/WT 6-2/235 AGE 27

2018 STATSAvg. .201 HR 20 RBI 44 SB 0


9. Diego Castillo, rhp

Rays pitcher Diego Castillo. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Diego Castillo. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Being counted on, like Ryne Stanek, to emerge as reliable high-leverage option, though could again have opener duty.

NO. 63 HT/WT 6-3/250 AGE 25

2018 STATSIP 56.2 W-L 4-2 ERA 3.18 K 65


10. Ryne Stanek, rhp

Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Served as primary ’18 opener and has limited closing time in minors, but will have dual responsibility with growth room.

NO. 55 HT/WT 6-4/255 AGE 27

2018 STATSIP 66.1 W-L 2-3 ERA 2.98 K 81


11. Ji-Man Choi, 1b/dh

Rays first baseman/designated hitter Ji-Man Choi. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays first baseman/designated hitter Ji-Man Choi. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
2018 small sample size splits vs. RHPs (.908 OPS) led to a pass on bigger bats, but there’s Lowe (Brandon, Nate) options.

NO. 26 HT/WT 6-1/250 AGE 27

2018 STATSAvg. 263 HR 10 RBI 32 SB 2


12. Joey Wendle, inf

Rays infielder Joey Wendle. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays infielder Joey Wendle. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Even without matching 2018 breakout success, is a key piece swinging lefty and able to play second, third, short, outfield.

NO. 18 HT/WT 6-1/200 AGE 28

2018 STATSAvg. .300 HR 7 RBI 61 SB 16


13. Daniel Robertson, inf

Rays infielder Daniel Robertson. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays infielder Daniel Robertson. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Was in team MVP talk until late-July season-ending injury, is slick fielder at multiple positions with power potential.

NO. 28 HT/WT 5-11/200 AGE 25

2018 STATS Avg. .262 HR 9 RBI 34 SB 2


14. Matt Duffy, 3b

Rays third baseman Matt Duffy. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays third baseman Matt Duffy. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Spring hamstring issue aside, projected to bring veteran presence to young lineup, with steady bat, ability to play outfield.

NO. 5 HT/WT 6-2/190 AGE 28

2018 STATSAvg. .294 HR 4 RBI 44 SB 12


15. Austin Meadows, of

Rays outfielder Austin Meadows. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays outfielder Austin Meadows. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Lefty hitter in rightfield platoon, with ability to also play left and center, will get opportunity to show touted five-tool skills.

NO. 17 HT/WT 6-3, 220 AGE 23

2018 STATSAvg. .287 HR 6 RBI 17 SB 5


16. Tyler Glasnow, rhp

Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Third starter, like ex-Pirate mate Meadows, has clear path to majors. Question is consistency, with residual bullpen impact.

NO. 20 HT/WT 6-8/230 AGE 25

2018 STATSIP 111.2 W-L 2-7 ERA 4.27 K 136


17. Yandy Diaz, inf

Rays infielder Yandy Diaz. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays infielder Yandy Diaz. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Much expected given high cost (Jake Bauers, $5 million) with opportunity on corners, but had slow spring start.

NO. 2 HT/WT 6-2/215 AGE 27

2018 STATSAvg. .312 HR 1 RBI 15 SB 0


18. Chaz Roe, rhp

Rays pitcher Chaz Rowe. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Chaz Rowe. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Most experienced member of late-inning relief corps, but has been more of a specialist featuring Frisbee-like slider.

NO. 52 HT/WT 6-5/190 AGE 32

2018 STATSIP 50.1 W-L 1-3 ERA 3.58 K 53


19. Avisail Garcia, of

Rays outfielder Avisail Garcia. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays outfielder Avisail Garcia. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Strong spring good sign of rebound from poor, painful ’18 season will play vs. lefties, compete for ABs vs. righties.

NO. 24 HT/WT 6-4/250 AGE 27

2018 STATSAvg. .236 HR 19 RBI 49 SB 3


20. Michael Perez, c

Rays catcher Michael Perez. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays catcher Michael Perez. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Lefty hitter will get short side of job share with righty swinging Mike Zunino, but still plenty of opportunity following ’18 debut.

NO. 7 HT/WT 5-10 AGE 26

2018 STATSAvg. .284 HR 1 RBI 11 SB 0


21. Yonny Chirinos, rhp

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos
Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos
Worked some behind opener, has higher upside as true starter than Ryan Yarbrough. Consistency is a concern.

NO. 72 HT/WT 6-2/240 AGE 25

2018 STATSIP 89.2 W-L 5-5 ERA 3.51 K 75


22. Ryan Yarbrough, lhp

Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Ryan Yarbrough. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Biggest beneficiary of opener strategy with 14 of 16 wins in relief and 1-run lower ERA, facing some lefty-laden lineups.

NO. 48 HT/WT 6-5/210 AGE 28

2018 STATSIP 147.1 W-L 16-6 ERA 3.91 K 128


23. Wilmer Font, rhp

Rays pitcher Wilmer Font. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Wilmer Font. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Dazzled in Rays debut until season-ending lat strain but had slow spring. Will be used as opener and multi-inning reliever.

NO. 62 HT/WT 6-4 AGE 28

2018 STATS IP 44.0 W-L 2-3 ERA 5.93 K 36


24. Jalen Beeks, lhp

Rays pitcher Jalen Beeks. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Jalen Beeks. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Ex-Red Sox fills role as needed third long reliever, could also be used as opener, resiliency to bounce back a key.

NO. 68 HT/WT 5-11 AGE 25

2018 STATSIP 50.2 W-L 5-1 ERA 5.52 K 42


25. Emilio Pagan, rhp

Rays pitcher Emilio Pagan. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Emilio Pagan. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Strong spring positioned trade pickup for potential swing role in bullpen working middle innings and/or as an opener.

NO. 15 HT/WT 6-3/205 AGE 27

2018 STATS IP 62.0 W-L 3-1 ERA 4.35 K 63


26. Guillermo Heredia, of

Rays outfielder Guillermo Heredia. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays outfielder Guillermo Heredia. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Acquired from Seattle to serve as backup centerfielder when needed, a righty-hitting replacement for Mallex Smith.

NO. 54 HT/WT 5-10/195 AGE 28

2018 STATSAvg. .236 HR 5 RBI 19 SB 2


27. Hunter Wood, rhp

Rays pitcher Hunter Wood. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Hunter Wood. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Had good flow in 2018 working middle relief and as an opener, and is positioned to help when things get hairy.

NO. 44 HT/WT 6-1/175 AGE 25

2018 STATSIP 41.0 W-L 1-1 ERA 3.73 K 42


28. Adam Kolarek, lhp

Rays pitcher Adam Kolarek. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Adam Kolarek. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Much more effective vs. lefties in two seasons in majors. Key will be pitching vs. righties to get through innings.

NO. 56 HT/WT 6-3/215 AGE 30

2018 STATSIP 34.1 W-L 1-0 ERA 3.93 K 19


29. x-Brent Honeywell, rhp

Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Brent Honeywell. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Technically on minor-league IL, but potential for major mid-/late-season impact after rehab from 2018 Tommy John surgery.

NO. 59 HT/WT 6-2/195 AGE 23


30. x-Jose De Leon, rhp

Rays pitcher Jose De Leon. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays pitcher Jose De Leon. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Like Honeywell, slated to complete rehab assignment in late May, could fill in as starter or bulk-inning reliever.

NO. 87 HT/WT 6-1/220 AGE 26


Manager - Kevin Cash

Rays manager Kevin Cash. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Rays manager Kevin Cash. [Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images]
Tampa native enters fifth season with 318-330 career mark, tied for 6th longest tenure among active managers, contract extension through 2024.

Staff

Coaches: Stan Boroski, bullpen; Jonathan Erlichman, process and analytics; Paul Hoover, field coordinator; Rodney Linares, third base; Chad Mottola, hitting; Matt Quatraro, bench; Kyle Snyder, pitching; Ozzie Timmons, first base. Medical: Joe Benge, head athletic trainer; Mark Vinson, Mike Sandoval, assistants; Paul Harker, medical coordinator; Trung Cao, strength and conditioning coordinator; Joey Greany, strength & conditioning assistant; Justin Su’a, mental skills. Front office/baseball operations: Erik Neander, senior VP/GM; Chaim Bloom, senior VP; James Click, VP; Tom Foley, special assistant; Bobby Heck, special assistant; R.J. Harrison, senior advisor; Mitch Lukevics, director, minor-league operations; Peter Bendix, baseball development; Kevin Ibach, pro scouting; Rob Metzler, amateur scouting; Carlos Rodriguez, international scouting; Joe Myers, baseball performance science; Chris Westmoreland, team travel and logistics; Chris Fernandez, video coordinator; Ryan Denlinger, home clubhouse manager; Tyler Wall, home equipment manager.

(x-headed to DL top 30 on roster as of March 18)