The Rays won 99 games last season, which was one shy of the franchise record that was set in 2021. There have now been four 95+ win seasons in franchise history and three of those four came in the last five years -- a span during which the Rays went 40-20 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. Simply, this is the Golden Era of Rays baseball. 

Will it continue?

Conventional wisdom following a 99-win season would be yes, but there are circumstances to consider with this roster. The Rays started 13-0 and then were 51-22 at one point last year. They played like an 87-win team the rest of the regular season and went 0-2 in the playoffs. They lost their arguably three best starting pitchers to major surgery and their best position player to some abhorrent off-field stuff that the team couldn't have possibly seen coming.

One of their other talented starting pitchers, Tyler Glasnow, was traded in the offseason. 

How much is left? Let's take a look. 

Win total projection, odds

  • 2023 record: 99-63 (second place in AL East, wild-card spot)
  • 2024 SportsLine win total over/under: 84.5
  • World Series odds (via SportsLine): +3300

Projected lineup

  1. Yandy Díaz, 1B
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  3. Randy Arozarena, LF
  4. Joshua Lowe, RF
  5. Isaac Paredes, 3B
  6. Jonathan Aranda, DH
  7. Jose Siri, CF
  8. José Caballero, SS
  9. René Pinto, C

As we know with the Rays, they love to cycle players through the starting lineup based on matchups. We'll see plenty of utility player Amed Rosario and DH/1B Harold Ramírez in particular. 

Projected rotation

  1. RHP Zach Eflin
  2. RHP Aaron Civale
  3. RHP Zack Littell
  4. RHP Ryan Pepiot
  5. RHP Taj Bradley

Drew Rasmussen (internal brace surgery on elbow) and Jeffrey Springs (Tommy John surgery) will have realistic chances to return late in the season. Shane McClanahan didn't have his Tommy John surgery until late August, so he will not. 

Righty Shane Baz will heavily factor here, too. 

Projected bullpen

The Rays aren't one of those teams obsessed with the save stat, but Fairbanks will still get the majority of save chances. 

Offense isn't that much different

Among the 15 AL teams last season, the Rays ranked second in batting average, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, second in OPS and second in runs scored. Nice consistency, huh? They were also fourth in home runs and second in stolen bases. They do lose the production from the aforementioned off-field problem, but almost everything else is back.

  • Díaz hit .330 with a 158 OPS+ and he's still within his likely prime age range at 32 this year. 
  • Brandon Lowe hit 21 home runs in just 377 at-bats and he's 29 this year. 
  • Parades was only 24 and hit 31 homers with a 131 OPS+.
  • Arozarena is still only 29 and had a 120 OPS+ with 23 homers and 22 steals.
  • Josh Lowe hit .292 with a 129 OPS+, 20 homers and 32 steals at age 25. 
  • Ramírez is deployed strategically and hit .313/.353/.460 in his 434 plate appearances.

That's a lot of returning production and there's more upside toward the bottom of the lineup. Aranda hasn't gotten an extended look in the majors yet, but he's obliterated Triple-A pitching (.339/.449/.613 last season). Rosario and Caballero seem like the type of players the Rays grab from others and then almost immediately fix, too. 

Further -- yes, there's always more coming with this franchise -- there are prospects who will impact this season. Infielders Junior Caminero, Curtis Mead and Carson Williams are poised to make an impact very soon. For more on that trio, CBS Sports prospect expert R.J. Anderson has you covered.

Rotation has lots of upside

What they did for Eflin compared to his previous stop falls in line with the reputation of this ballclub working with pitchers. The suggestion, then, would be that a full season in working with Civale helps him take things to the next level. Injuries and a lack of opportunity held Pepiot back with the Dodgers, so he's a breakout candidate. On the flip side, injuries probably sped up the process with Bradley, who was a rookie last season and showed flashes of major upside at age 22. 

And then there's Baz. He was a top-10 prospect in all of baseball before the 2022 season, which ended with him having Tommy John surgery after a year full of elbow issues. He and the team are are taking things slowly, but the expectation is that he'll return at some point toward the middle of the season. Assuming he comes back full-go and only needs to produce for a half season, he's got ace upside.

As the Rays know all too well after the injury history these last few years, everything isn't going to go right with every single pitcher here. There is, however, enough talent in this group to believe it ends up being a strong one this season. 

What would make for a successful season?

Given where the Rays are and how they continue to hold on even when it looks like they might not be able to, the easy and obvious answer here is winning the World Series. Considering everything they went through after last season's historic start, though, coupled with a touch lower expectations and in such a crowded division, I'm willing to say it's at least a mildly successful season if they simply make the playoffs. I'm sure some Rays fans would want more, so we can also say winning the division and advancing to the ALCS -- they've only been to the ALCS twice and one of those years was 2020 -- is a reasonable area to land here. 

Still, I think I just want to say winning the first Rays World Series title. They have enough here for that, so why settle?