Rebuilding season or not, falling short of the playoffs and finishing with a losing record probably means that more things went wrong than went right for a team. This series, however, will focus on those silver linings that each team can take away from an otherwise disappointing season.
[Related: “Top Bright Spots” archive]
Here are the biggest bright spots for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Note: Evan Longoria’s terrific season does qualify as a bright spot, but not a major one in regards to what was expected and how it affects the team moving forward. His trade value has risen, but it was already high and it’s likely the team holds on to their star third baseman with an eye on contending in 2017.
1. Brad Miller, 1B
When the Rays traded for Miller in the offseason, the hope was that he could give them at least adequate defense at shortstop to go along with 15-20 home runs. As the Mariners had already concluded, the 26-year-old was not very good at shortstop. But, as the Rays discovered, Miller proved that he was capable of much more at the plate, allowing them to hold off on a fallback plan to use him as a super-utility man who could start a handful of games per week.
With 20 homers and an .809 OPS, Miller made his debut as the Rays’ starting first baseman on August 8th. He would go on to hit 10 more homers and finish the season with a total of 30. It was the first time since 2009 (Carlos Peña, 39 HR) that a Rays’ hitter other than Evan Longoria finished the season with at least 30 homers. Versatility is still a key component of Miller’s value, but his breakout season at the plate has him locked in as the team’s first baseman for the foreseeable future.
2. Alex Colome, RP
After being moved out of the rotation in mid-2015, Colome proved that he could handle a late-inning relief role and possibly fill the closer’s role sometime in the future. When Brad Boxberger landed on the disabled list to start the 2016 season, “sometime in the future” came much sooner than expected.
By the time Boxberger, who saved 41 games for the Rays in 2015, would return from the disabled list in late May (he would return to the disabled list after just one appearance), it was already apparent that he had been Wally Pipp’d. The 27-year-old Colome earned an All-Star bid on his way to a brilliant 37-save season with a 1.91 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 11.3 K/9. Finding a closer is not on the team’s agenda for the upcoming offseason.