The Tampa Bay Rays have only seen one player slug at least 40 home runs since their first season in 1998, but they’ve had a number of close calls since Carlos Peña accomplished the feat in 2007. One of the closest calls just happened in 2021, so we’ll see what Brandon Lowe has in store for an encore in 2022. For now, though, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and see who is among the Rays home run leaders for a single season.
Rays Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Carlos Peña: 46 Home Runs in 2007
It was a sharp rise in production for Peña leading up to him setting the Rays’ single-season home run record. In the two seasons prior to his 2007 performance, he appeared in just 97 games (332 plate appearances) for the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. In that time, he posted a .799 OPS with 19 home runs and 47 RBI. This included just one homer in 18 games for Boston in 2006. Before this 46-homer performance, Peña’s single-season career-high mark came in 2004 when he hit 27 dingers.
The first baseman’s run production was practically identical at home (23 homers, 61 RBI) as it was on the road (23 homers, 60 RBI). While he posted a slugging percentage above .600 in both the first and second half, he finished with a flourish to become the Rays’ first — and for now, only — 40-homer hitter. Actually, his monthly progression in both homers and RBI is interesting to watch.
From April to September, here’s what his homer production looked like: 4, 6, 7, 8, 8, 13. And here’s what his RBI production looked like: 13, 15, 17, 22, 25, 29. So, it was a slow build to September, which was easily his best month of the year (1.279 OPS in 122 plate appearances).
Brandon Lowe: 39 Home Runs in 2021
We’ll soon see that Tampa Bay has watched a couple of players get themselves into the mid- and upper-30s with regard to homer production in recent years. But until Brandon Lowe did it in 2021, nobody had gotten on the doorstep of 40 dingers in a Rays uniform since Peña in 2009 (which we’ll talk about in a second).
After a 143-plate-appearance simple in 2018, Lowe has been a consistent power source for Tampa Bay. Over the 1,186 plate appearances that have followed, he’s mashed 70 homers with a .526 slugging percentage.
Once the 2021 All-Star break rolled around, Lowe was hitting a good number of homers (21, to be exact), but still owned just a .782 OPS off the strength of a .208/.316/.465 line in 335 plate appearances. In his final 280 trips to the plate, he leveled up his performance by hitting .292/.368/.591 (a .959 OPS) with 18 homers, 51 RBI, and 20 doubles.
Carlos Peña: 39 Home Runs in 2009
Peña enjoyed three seasons of 30 homers and 100 RBI during his 14-year MLB career. They all came in consecutive years, and they all happened while he was a member of the Rays. These efforts helped him rise to second all-time on the Rays’ career home run leaderboard. After hitting 31 dingers with 102 RBI in 2008, he followed that up with a league-leading 39 dingers and another 100 RBI. He also was selected to his first and only All-Star Game during this campaign.
Although the plate appearances were lopsided toward the first half, Peña did the majority of his work in the homer department prior to the All-Star break, with 24 of his 39 dingers coming at that time. Similar to 2007, his power production at home (19 homers, 51 RBI) was oddly similar to what he did on the road (20 homers, 49 RBI).
While he was a monster during Rays victories, he also came close to disappearing in losses. When Tampa Bay won, Peña slashed .265/.390/.681 with 29 homers and 77 RBI. In losses, those numbers dropped to .180/.314/.360, 10, and 23, respectively.
Logan Morrison: 38 Home Runs in 2017
Logan Morrison had two seasons of 20-plus home runs during his career. Prior to hitting 38 in 2017 for the Rays, his career-high mark was 23 in 2011 for the Marlins. In the two years leading up to this power surge, LoMo hit 31 homers in 909 plate appearances. In parts of three seasons following that performance, he hit 18 in 425 plate appearances. So, this definitely acted as a last hurrah in his age-29 campaign.
It’s interesting to see that he was a completely different hitter when looking at his home and away numbers, and he saved his best work for the road. At the Trop, Morrison had just a .709 OPS with 11 homers and 35 RBI, while those numbers jumped up to 1.020, 27, and 50 as a visiting player. He also did the majority of his work prior to the All-Star break, as his OPS dropped more than 100 points between the first and second half, and 24 of his 38 dingers came during the initial stretch of the season.
Evan Longoria: 36 Home Runs in 2016
We’re writing this as Evan Longoria is preparing to enter his age-36 season. Although he was an excellent player — especially during his early years with the Rays — it appears that his 36-homer output in 2016 was the last time he’d get a shot at reaching those specific heights in the power department. He enjoyed three seasons of 30-plus homers in his first six seasons, but this occurrence has been the only time he’s done it since 2014.
Longoria enjoyed attacking the first pitch in this campaign, as he slugged eight of his homers and posted a 1.094 OPS in that situation. Another 12 of his home runs came on either a 0-1 or 1-1 count (six dingers each), posting an OPS of at least 1.200 for both scenarios. His OPS+ progressively got higher throughout an inning, as it went from 114 with no outs to 124 with one out and 134 with two outs.
He may have frontloaded the majority of his home run production with the Rays, but this performance certainly sticks out, especially because he’s currently Tampa Bay’s all-time home run leader.