Our Rays opening day GIF to you
Kevin Kiermaier doesn’t stand still in the outfield. Chris Archer isn’t limited to a single facial expression. Evan Longoria’s bat doesn’t stay on his shoulder at the plate. So why should their photos be any different?
Times photojournalist Will Vragovic brought his images of Rays players and coaches to life with these animated .gifs, and beat reporter Marc Topkin added his thoughts on each’s prospects for 2017.
Topkin's take: Emerged as All-Star closer last season, will be counted on heavily again, has shown no signs of letting up.
left fielder/designated hitter
Topkin's take: Hitting 24 HRs in strong finish after struggling with early adjustments has Rays thinking bigger numbers ahead.
Topkin's take: Injury absence magnified value of game-changing ability on field, bases; continued plate gains are next.
Topkin's take: Always smooth defense, rejuvenated offense, steady leadership make him the cornerstone player he is.
Topkin's take: Plan is maintaining 30-homer offense while lessening the impact of shaky defense with a move to 2B.
first baseman/designated hitter
Topkin's take: Unexpected returnee gets chance to rekindle hot ’16 finish before injury, better defender than you think.
Topkin's take: Tremendous second half (7-1, 2.71) showed potential to be a No. 1 starter, working deeper will be key.
Steven Souza Jr.,
Topkin's take: Needs to stay on field and focused to show he can deliver on promise of being five-tool impact player.
Topkin's take: Longtime Brewers 2B showed ability in spring to handle 1B, help with bat vs. lefties, provide leadership.
Topkin's take: Got much-desired opportunity to open season in rotation, onus is on him to show enough consistency to keep job.
Topkin's take: From demotion at end of ’16, gets long-awaited opportunity with unexpected key role as ’17 starting shortstop.
Topkin's take: Chance to show value with strong first full season since May 2015 Tommy John surgery, for Rays or for trade.
Topkin's take: Goes from minor-league deal to key bullpen role based on late-game and AL East experience, strong spring.
third base coach
Topkin's take: If he can get past his youthful inconsistency, has the ability to be a front-of-rotation starter.
Topkin's take: Primed and focused on a bounceback after 19-loss mess, 200 innings nearly as valuable as performance.