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The Tampa Bay Rays Need Taylor Walls To Be Sharp At The Plate

On Friday, the Tampa Bay Rays announced that they were designating DH and outfielder Harold Ramirez for assignment to make room for shortstop Taylor Walls on the roster.


Ramirez had been a strong contact hitter in the Rays lineup the last two seasons. But once that bat went south, and his inability to play in the field, it was clear he would be the odd man out.


The Rays value Walls' defense; his return was a r for them. However, they can't rely as much on him exclusively for defense this season. With the offense dropping off as hard as they did, they need him to take more of an initiative at the plate.


Walls Always Starts Strong, Then Goes Quiet

Walls played in three games during the Rays series against the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend (he sat out the finale on Monday). He went 2-for-4 in his first game back but was hitless in the next two games. He's reached base three times in 11 plate appearances, along with a walk. Walls scored once but didn't bat in a run. His lack of offense contributed to the Rays suffering a four-game sweep at the hands of a dominant O's team.


He then went hitless again in the 5-2 win against the Chicago Cubs.


What stood out the most about his lack of offense was how quickly it happened. Walls typically looks great out of the gate. These are Walls' stats for the first month of the first month of the season the last two years:


2022: .256/.407/.419/.826, one home run, three RBIs, two doubles, four stolen bases

2023: .302/.397/.571/.969, four home runs, 10 RBIs, three doubles, five stolen bases


Walls is normally reliable early on. Had he kept last year's pace up for the season, he would have had 32 home runs, 24 doubles, and 40 stolen bases. That's an all-star. He was off to such a strong start that a radio show on WFAN in New York used him as evidence that the Rays were cheating.


Don't worry; Walls proved that wrong by returning to Earth like he normally does. Here are his numbers the rest of the way in those aforementioned seasons:


2022: .162/.249/.269/.519, seven home runs, 21 doubles, six stolen bases

2023: .175/.280/.271/.551, four home runs, nine doubles, 17 stolen bases


He'll get it in the gap when he does get a hit. He might even still swipe a few bags. But the pop and consistency dry up. He still had a positive oWAR (1.0). So what? You can hang on to a positive WAR for the season when you have a phenomenal first month. Doing better than Joey Gallo (0.6 oWAR) isn't much to write home about.


Let's look at another popular advanced stat. Walls' OPS+ is 67. Remember, an average player would have an OPS+ of 100. Simply put, he isn't contributing as much offensively as he needs to.



The Rays Need His Bat More Than Ever

Walls' bat didn't matter as much when the Rays were slugging home runs (their 230 bombs were top five in 2023). Tampa also had the fourth-best OPS in MLB (.776). Being the guy who is good for his glove is fine in that case.


Those days ended virtually overnight. As of June 11, they're last in home runs (50), and their team OPS is .656. The only teams doing worse are the Miami Marlins (.637) and the Chicago White Sox (.625).


That is a massive cause for concern. Walls must be more than a good glove and help get this offense going again. There are 96 games left, and the Rays are 4.0 games back of a wild card spot despite being 31-35 and last place in the American League East. Time is still on their side, and Walls can be the one who makes that clear.


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