Tampa Bay Rays vs Atlanta Braves

Tampa Bay Rays vs Atlanta Braves | 2021MLB Expert Analysis

Written by on March 24, 2021

The 2020 World Series nearly featured the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Atlanta Braves. While the Rays got there, the Braves blew a 3-1 NLCS lead to the Dodgers. The Rays and Braves meet in Grapefruit League action Thursday as their spring schedules wind down. Atlanta will be favored on the MLB odds.

How to Bet Rays at Braves MLB Odds & TV InfoWhy Bet on Tampa Bay? | 2021MLB Expert Analysis

No one seems to give the Rays much chance of repeating as AL East champions this season, much less as American League champions after they traded away ace pitcher Blake Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young winner, to San Diego and let another very good starting pitcher, Charlie Morton, walk in free agency.

Since becoming the Rays in 2008, the Rays own the 5th-best record in baseball at 1,081-924 (.539) and have made six trips to the postseason, incl. three AL East division titles (2020, 2010, 2008) and two World Series appearances (2020, 2008). Kevin Cash has announced Tyler Glasnow as the Opening Day starter, the first of his career. It will be his fifth straight Opening Day roster, fourth as part of a starting rotation.

It’s not clear who the Rays will use on the mound in this game. The secret to success for the Rays has not been much of a secret at all. Tampa Bay puts more emphasis on preventing runs from scoring than any team in the American League.

The Rays entered camp with a club-record 77 players on their spring roster: 42 pitchers, 8 catchers, 15 infielders and 12 outfielders. Prior to 2021, their largest camp roster was 76 players (1999). The 77 players included four rehabbing pitchers on the 60-day injured list. In 2020, three players who entered spring training as non-roster invites made the Opening Day roster. Including postseason, nine non-roster invites spent time on the Rays active roster last season.

On Tuesday, the Rays reassigned RHPs Stetson Allie, Chris Ellis, Adrian De Horta, and Joey Krehbiel, LHP Dietrich Enns, OF Ryan Boldt, INF Tristan Gray, and C René Pinto to minor league camp.

As of this writing the Rays and Braves are the only two Grapefruit League teams without a tie. Tampa Bay hasn’t gone an entire spring without a tie since MLBAM data is available (2006).

The Rays enter 2021 ranked by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN and The Athletic as the No. 1 farm system in the game. The system is led by INF Wander Franco, the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the minors. However, he will not open the season in the majors.

Why Bet on Atlanta? | 2021MLB Expert Analysis

Atlanta is 3-1 vs. Tampa Bay this spring. The teams last played Sunday and the Braves romped 11-1. Tampa’s Ryan Yarbrough surrendered six runs (five earned) over four innings. Yarbrough was tagged for five hits, including a two-run homer by Dansby Swanson in the third inning.

Max Fried recorded five strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball for the Braves. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud went 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI in the win. D’Arnaud singled and scored a run in the second inning, ripped a two-run single to center field off Yarbrough in the third inning, and capped off the three-hit performance with a two-out single off reliever Brian Moran in the fifth inning.

The Braves’ big offseason move was re-signing outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a four-year contract worth $64 million. Ozuna, 30, hit 18 home runs and drove in 56 runs to lead the National League in both categories last season, his first with Atlanta. Ozuna became the first Braves player to lead the league in either home runs or RBI since 2005.

He had a league-high 145 total bases, while finishing third with a .338 batting average and a 1.067 OPS. He started all 60 games for Atlanta in 2020, splitting time between left field (19 games), right field (two games) and designated hitter (39 games). Ozuna finished 6th in the MVP voting and won his second career Silver Slugger award in helping the Braves to the NLCS.

A franchise-record four Braves – OF Ronald Acuña Jr., d’Arnaud, 1B Freddie Freeman and Ozuna – were recipients of 2020 National League Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger awards. Atlanta was the only team in the majors to have four winners. Freeman played in all 60 games in 2020 and hit a career-best .341/.462/.640 (73-for-214) to earn National League Most Valuable Player honors.

It’s not clear who will be on the mound here for the Braves. Atlanta has 20 pitchers (seven left-handers and 13 right-handers), four catchers, 11 infielders, and seven outfielders remaining in camp. Thirty-four players from the 40-man roster are in camp, along with eight non-roster invitees. The Braves have two of MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects remaining – OF Cristian Pache (No. 10) and RH Ian Anderson (No. 34).

The main battles in camp are for the final two bullpen roles. The Braves may choose to keep a non-roster invitee like Carl Edwards Jr. or Nate Jones, instead of starting the year with Sean Newcomb or Jacob Webb in their bullpen. Because Newcomb and Webb both have options remaining, they can be sent to the minors without risk of being lost to another club.

Expert Prediction
  • Braves 7, Rays 5

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