MLB Host of the Year 2021: Tampa Bay Rays

The success the Rays had in 2021 starting last year with Zoom sessions and FaceTime calls, as well as instructive and inspirational messages sent across state lines, national borders and beyond is Ocean.

What the Rays have done in the major leagues is clearly impressive. They won the US National Championship and a team record of 100 matches. They won their second straight title — and fourth in 14 years — AL East’s title in the knockout stages for the franchise’s first consecutive third season.

And while the Rays’ season ended in the Division Series, Tampa Bay succeeded it all while navigating a seemingly never-ending string of injuries and a shuffling squad that resulted in their use of 61 players. franchise, including 38 pitchers.

But it was what the Rays did in the minor leagues that raised the organization above the standards of an MLB championship club. Tampa Bay’s domestic affiliates posted a combined win percentage of .653 — the highest on record in more than 30 years — and won three championships plus a near miss. to slide.

The Rays’ prospects have been successful both collectively and individually, with plenty of promotion and an increasingly impressive track record as they continue their 2020 hiatus and canceled mini-season.

“The thing that immediately comes to mind: It’s not the major league section where this is most visible — although we’re especially proud of everything that went on there — it’s the minor leagues, ” said Rays baseball executive chairman Erik Neander.

“It was all our staff and players, from our complexes all the way through. People who didn’t have the game last year – that’s tough. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for many of them.

“You try to empathize, but the reality is that I had games in front of me. A lot of people didn’t. They were at a distance. And to launch this year, and to make the overall achievement of our affiliates as strong as before, is something that I am extremely grateful for, appreciate and proud of all the work that has been achieved. to make that happen, for all of that has been endured by so many people in 2020. ”

As a result of what they did at all levels, for the second time in three years, the Rays were named American Baseball Organization of the Year.

And they feel pretty good about it.

“That’s what I personally consider a really great honor,” Neander said. “Obviously, there are achievements on the field that we are still chasing, that is the elusive World Series championship that we hope to one day experience. But this is up there.

“Baseball America, and the incredible work they have done and continue to do in the game, for such an establishment to recognize our organization, twice in three years — but this time in particular — it has great significance. And that’s something I hope our staff and players are really proud of. ”

The success of the Rays’ minor league affiliates may be unprecedented.

High-A Bowling Green’s .695 win rate is the highest of any domestic minor league member in 2021. Low-A Charleston is second with 0.683 and Triple-A Durham is third with 0.662. Double-A Montgomery finished with a more modest 0.530, but the Florida Complex League Rays rebalanced that by leading all Rookie affiliates in the country with a win percentage of 0.737.

Durham was the American Minor League Baseball Team of the Year. In the absence of playoffs, the Bulls are recognized as Triple-A champions based on their regular season performance. Bowling Green won the High-A East award. Charleston won the Low-A East. Montgomery lost the Double-A South final.

“It’s been tough to win and to do so at the pace that we did this year,” said Carlos Rodriguez, Rays’ vice president of player development and international scouting. “Our process prioritizes individual player development before winning.

“However, we believe that winning the minor leagues this year is the result of our collective process and the incredible efforts of our players, coaches and staff despite despite the season being canceled in 2020 and while navigating the changing protocols. ”

There are also many personal achievements.

The most remarkable is the graduation of the 20-year-old teenager Wander Franco From the #1 lead in baseball to the good and collectible, reaching .368 and winning two home runs and two doubles in four post-season games.

The Rays called Franco, who was top at High-A in 2019 and spent 2020 at the Rays’ alternate training site, after just 40 Triple-A games.

Franco had an impressive debut but only scored 0.197 in his first 15 games. In the second half, he showed the hype was real by hitting .314 / .372 / .500 with 5 home runs, 16 doubles, 19 walks and 22 strikes in 55 battle. He has scored three goals in his last 97 appearances.

Franco finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year vote despite playing in only 70 games. At the end of November, he signed an 11-year extension with the Rays worth at least $182 million.

“I think you could make the argument that he’s the most influential player on any baseball team,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Franco after the season. “Definitely for us.

“Our team has been really good. We were better when he arrived. He stretched our lineup. He made our defense better. He worked really hard defensively, and that made our defense even better. He is a game changer. He will be happy to watch for a long time. ”

The Rays ranch system entering 2021 ranks as the most talented in baseball. The top six potential customers in the network went to Tampa Bay and succeeded, led by Franco. The next five are midfielders Randy Arozarena, the last AL rookie of the year; right wing Luis Patiño, second keeper Vidal Brujan, left Shane McClanahan and the right person Shane Baz. Shortstop Taylor Walls and midfielder Josh Lowe both charted outside the top 10 but also had MLB debuts.

Elsewhere in the Rays’ ranch, you must Taj Bradley won the minor league ERA title, painkiller White promote at all four levels all season and a group of potential customers—Jonathan Aranda, Calvin Faucher, Rene Pinto, Ford Proctor and Tommy Romero—Has made great strides and earned a spot on the 40 list.

Another factor in the Rays’ success is the depth they’ve built and the number of players they have available to help in the major leagues, a credit to Kevin Ibach’s professional scouting work and his staff as well as the team’s research and development department, specifically in the purchasing and stocking of painkillers.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration without a second, and perhaps a third, part, of the depth of our growth cycle that we wouldn’t be leading the division without all of them contributing. ,” Neander said in August. .

But, most obviously, the Rays have amassed a lot of track record in specialized fields.

They entered 2021 without their top two starters from 2020, having declined a selection of Charlie Morton and transaction Blake Snell. Then, before they left spring training, they lost the high leverage reducer Nick Anderson An elbow injury cost him most of the season and led to surgery.

The Rays went 13-14 in April and then lost their ace Tyler Glasnow in June with an elbow injury that Tommy John later had surgery on. Still, they persisted. Tampa Bay has made a series of roster changes aimed at transitioning to a younger core. The moves include a surprise trade in late May for the shortstop and the leader Willy Adames, which initially resulted in Walls being called before he made way for Franco.

And while the Division Series’ defeat to the Red Sox was a disappointment, the Rays still had a lot to celebrate. They appeared for the third time in a row in the playoffs, won the AL East title in a row, and won two of the four writers’ awards. Arozarena was voted top rookie and Cash was top manager for the second consecutive season.

“I am incredibly proud,” Neander said. “I think how widespread this year’s success is only highlights the unrelenting contributions of each member of our staff. And it wouldn’t have been possible without each of us doing our little part.

“Furthermore, to be recognized for something like this, which is really an organizational award, it is the staff and the players. The player is always the key.

“After the 2020 season was interrupted and lost points for the most part. . . all the work that keeps the (small players) going, helping them get the most out of that time and supporting them as best they can — albeit imperfectly by any means — all we’re all more than proud of our staff and the players who played the way they did this year. “

The entire Rays organization, from assistant minor league coaches to major league stars, put the disappointments and disruptions of 2020 behind them and headed into 2021 without reason and goal. fit. Not to say they did it better than most.

“For (the players) to be able to perform as well as they did this year, and compete like they did this year, and thrive like this year, that’s pretty special,” Neander said.

Even better, they think they’re still at the beginning of a long, sustained success, with the arrow pointing in the right direction.

“Up,” Cash said. “Can be frank. I mean, it was a pretty exciting time being Tampa Bay Ray. “

The 2020 Rays made it to the World Series, but it’s the 2021 group of young players that stand out. Arozarena and Franco made it to the final round of ROY. A young Rays pitcher led the AL with an ERA of 3.67. The club’s post-season lineup includes rookies Baz, McClanahan and Patiño.

Neander has more cautious optimism than Cash and a more holistic view of the cyclical nature of the game. But he’s also of the opinion that the Rays’ best chance of winning a championship is to be in the league as often as possible.

“Win 100 games, that’s a lot,” Neander said. “It is an amazing achievement. That’s something we’ve never done. And it’s not necessarily saying that we’re bound to win more games than that, but I believe the arrow is pointing up, only in the collective talent of this group and their experience.

“You see that in the way our minor teams perform. You see it in the way that our big team has performed. Our goal is to run deeper after the season and we feel like we have a team here that will continue to give us real shots to eventually win the World Championship. ”

That will really make for a special year for the whole organization. MLB Host of the Year 2021: Tampa Bay Rays

Jake Nichol

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