Who Are the Most Underrated Players on the 2023 Tampa Bay Rays?

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

“Let’s Talk About Underrated 2023 Orioles” was the subtitle of my Sunday Notes column on September 10, with the opening section having featured a combination of Baltimore broadcasters and scribes opining on that very topic. Today, we’ll head south and talk about underrated Tampa Bay Rays — arguably an even more subjective exercise. Few teams in any sport have enjoyed as much success while getting contributions from as many players who largely fly under the radar from a national perspective.

The six people quoted below — four Tampa Bay broadcasters and a pair of the team’s beat writers — offered their perspectives on Wednesday when the Rays played the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

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Brian Anderson, Rays broadcaster:

“The guy who had the big game tonight: Josh Lowe. Coming into the season, it was Vidal Bruján, Jonathan Aranda, Luke Raley, and Josh Lowe — those four guys for two spots — and it was a battle right to the end of spring training. Raley and Lowe got them. Not only did [Lowe] fight for a roster spot and get it, he turned it into .290 with 20 home runs, and he’s 32-for-35 in stolen bases. He’s third on the team in runs driven in. He plays a good outfield. I mean, he’s gone through the roof for a guy who, until the end of camp, didn’t know if he was going to make the team or not. To be able to do what he did… I don’t think anyone saw him putting together the kind of year he’s put together.”

Adam Berry, MLB.com:

“I think it’s Isaac Paredes. You can make a case for a number of guys being underrated for their contributions on this team, but I think Paredes is probably underrated nationally for the player that he’s been. He’s got 30 home runs. He’s approaching 100 RBI. He’s been one of their most consistent hitters all season; he hasn’t really had the dips that some of the other guys have had. He and Yandy [Díaz] have kind of been the bedrock of the lineup all season. And he’s been a perfectly fine defender at second, third, and first, which provides its own value. I don’t think he’s gotten enough attention for what he’s done.”

Andy Freed, Rays broadcaster:

“There are two guys on this team who I think have saved the season — and I don’t say that lightly. Zack Littell, who you talked to yesterday, and Robert Stephenson. Without them we might not get to 90 wins. We have run out of so many pitchers, and the Zack Littell thing was kind of a ‘Let’s see how it goes.’ We had nobody else to pitch. I mean, his numbers don’t even come close to reflecting how well he’s pitched. He’s gone seven, eight innings in some of his starts, and he’s the one guy who never gets the run support. He’s 3-6 and should probably be 6-3. And then there is Robert. Our bullpen blew out so much at the beginning of the year. There was nobody left, and we had to reinvent it. It was almost a trade deadline situation in May. We had cycled through so many guys, and getting him from the Pirates saved the ‘pen. Those two guys should get a lot of attention, and probably don’t, for actually saving this season.”

Neil Solondz, Rays broadcaster:

“On a national scale, I would say Bob [Robert] Stephenson. I don’t think people realize how good he’s been the last two or three months as a relief pitcher. I mean, he’s been as dominant as anyone in the game. And he’s been used in every kind of role that you can imagine. On the pitching side, it would him. On the position player side, I don’t know that enough people realize how good Isaac Paredes has been. We’re talking about close to 30/100 with a well over .800 OPS at 24 years of age. He’s near the top 10 in the American League [in OPS]. Nationally, if you ask people how productive he’s been, most of them wouldn’t come up with that level of production.”

Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times:

“Given the number of injuries to the rotation and the quality of the pitchers who got hurt, I think you have to go with Zack Littell. He’s basically saved the rotation. They’ve lost [Shane] McClanahan, [Drew] Rasmussen, [Jeffrey] Springs. Then Taj Bradley was having some inconsistencies and they ended up sending him down. They added [Aaron] Civale. They were trying to trade for another starting pitcher, but the deal blew up at the deadline. Zack Littell, kind of out of nowhere, stepped in. And he was kind of a fringy reliever. I’m not sure he stays on the team if he’s still in the bullpen. He takes the opportunity they gave him, to go into the rotation, and ends up saving them for a good part of this season.”

Tricia Whitaker, Rays broadcaster:

“I would definitely go Zack Littell. This is a guy who was claimed off of waivers. He came to the Rays not even remotely expecting to be a starter, and out of complete necessity, they took him out of the bullpen and turned him into a starter. Now, the Rays are known for doing that with guys — it happens a lot — but Littell, at least in my opinion, has exceeded expectations. When Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, and Shane McClanahan went down there was a lot of concern. While we might talk about Zack a little around here, it’s not as much as we should. Nationally, he’s definitely not talked about as much as he should be. Without him, I’m not even sure where this team would be.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Ivan_Grushenkomember
9 months ago

That’s a lot of people. I don’t think Yandy Diaz gets a lot of credit for having the best season of any AL 1B and being the best hitter on a near 100 win team

Jimmember
9 months ago
Reply to  Ivan_Grushenko

You know, Ivan, I’ve been reading all your comments and you are a well-informed, intelligent guy, Keep contributing!

Ivan_Grushenkomember
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim

That’s nice of you to say. Thank you.