2015 Fantasy Outlooks: Tampa Bay Rays

Evan Longoria

Coming off a relatively disappointing year in 2014 where they finished 4th in the AL East the Tampa Bay Rays situation was probably best summed up by long term manager Joe Maddon opting out of the final year of his contract to go and become the manager of the Cubs. Yes I know Maddon had just seen a close friend jump ship to become the head honcho over at the Dodgers but managers don’t leave if they think their team is close to putting it together. It felt to me at the time like Maddon wasn’t ready to rebuild the Rays and so he jumped to a team further along the rebuilding ladder. As if backing that up the Rays then traded away Zobrist, Myers and Joyce to build their farm system. One of the acquisitions, Steven Souza, could make an immediate impact but the moves were definitely geared towards the future. They also added Asdrubal Cabrera who should give them an experienced body in the middle infield to replace Ben Zobrist. The addition of Jaso give them a solid DH option who can also give Riviera some days off behind the plate.

Hitting

Predicted Line-Up According to www.rosterresource.com)

  1. Desmond Jennings, OF
  2. John Jaso, DH (vs RH), Logan Forsythe, DH (vs LH)
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B
  4. James Loney, 1B
  5. Steven Souza, OF
  6. Kevin Kiermaier, OF (vs RH), Brandon Guyer, OF (vs LH)
  7. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  8. Rene Riviera, C
  9. Nick Franklin, 2B

Fantasy Stud?: Evan Longoria, 3B

Longoria’s has been a consensus top five pick at third base over the last couple of years but he has failed to live up to those heights ending the year just outside the top five. While that isn’t a complete disaster he isn’t a player that fantasy owners have been excited over having on their squad and I don’t see that changing this year. The Rays line-up won’t strike fear into the heart of opposition this year and that could be damaging to Longoria’s numbers. James Loney and Steven Souza do not offer a lot of line-up protection so Longoria could find himself walked a lot this year which will damage his homerun and RBI totals come seasons end. For a 5th round pick there is a ton of bust potential here with a limited upside at this point.

Massive Upside: Steven Souza, OF

There will be a lot of expectations around Souza going into 2015 with him seemingly being the main piece the Rays got in return for giving up Will Myers. Souza is scripted to start in the outfield for the Rays this season and he should provide you 20+ steals minimum. Where the real gold could be struck is with the potential power. If he does get full time AB’s this season then we could be a looking at 20/20 player that can be taken in the last five rounds of the draft.

Late Round Solidity: Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B

The title before his name says it all because drafting Cabrera won’t excite you in the slightest but if you missed out on a top five second baseman or are looking for a high end middle infielder then Cabrera offers a solid option. It’s unlikely you are drafting a top five second baseman with Cabrera but what you should be getting is a 8-13th ranked second baseman who will give you a few homers and a few steals. You won’t celebrate drafting Cabrera in 2015 but you won’t curse the pick either.

Outfield Filler: Desmond Jennings, OF

I struggled with Jennings the same way I struggled with Brett Gardner in the Yankees preview because Jennings is just so middle of the road boring at outfield. Yes he should provide you something in the area of a 6th outfielder production and is a solid bench guy to have but he doesn’t offer you anything desirable. He has the potential to give you 15/15 production but he won’t break over 20 in either of those categories in 2015 and his RBI and average will be well below average. There just isn’t upside here that is worth chasing late in drafts. If he is still there in the later rounds and you have gambled at outfield earlier in the draft then Jennings offers you something safeish you can use as a 5th outfielder.

Any Other Business?

  • John Jaso, C: In a one catcher league you probably aren’t going to even consider Jaso on draft day especially while he is expecting to be a platoon player at DH. However, if Jaso ends up playing DH everyday then he could move well up the ranks at catcher due to the sheer number of AB’s. In a two catcher league he is a late round pick but he does have potential number 1 catcher upside. In keeper/keeper leagues beware as he may lose catcher eligibility going forward.
  • James Loney, 1B: Even at a position where 20+ players are drafted Loney won’t be considered in many leagues. He should be an everyday first baseman meaning that at some point in the season he may be useful as a warm body to plug in and play at CI or Util.

As for the rest of the starting line-up and platoon guys there isn’t a lot of fantasy value on draft day. Riviera may get drafted in 12 team two catcher leagues but he won’t be someone you are excited to get draft day. Forsythe, Kiermaier and Guyer have some value if they become everyday players but even then they aren’t going to be setting the world alight. Franklin excites me a little more looking forward because he has 20 homer potential but that is likely to come at a detriment to your average. However, if he can figure it out with full time AB’s I like him as a potential in season free agent acquisition.

 

Pitching

Projected Rotation:

  1. Alex Cobb
  2. Drew Smyly
  3. Chris Archer
  4. Jake Odorizzi
  5. Alex Colome

(DL: Matt Moore)

Fantasy Superstar: Alex Cobb

There aren’t many superstar fantasy pitchers in the AL East, in fact even if you include Tanaka there are two. Cobb is the most exciting pitcher in the division and therefore is the only one worth a top 8 round draft pick for me. Stats wise I would expect Cobb to be close to a strikeout per innings while posting an ERA of 2.5-2.75 with a WHIP just over one. An issue might be the amount of wins he will get you given the hitting on this squad but if he gets you 10-15 with the other numbers then you easily have a low end #2/high end #3 on your hands.

Smyly, Archer and Odorizzi are virtually impossible to split as to who you should draft first as I expect all of them to return 5th/6th pitcher value. Strikeouts wise Odorizzi probably has the advantage over the other two and should be around a strikeout per innings. I would give the Smyly the edge on WHIP but that is close as well and ERA I might give the hat tip to Smyly or Archer. If you had all three on your draft board as the best players available I would probably go Odorizzi, Smyly, Archer but they should all return similar numbers for you if they stay healthy.

Projected Bullpen:

CL: Kevin Jepsen

SU: Brad Boxberger

SU: Grant Balfour

MR: Jeff Beliveau

MR: Ernesto Frieri

MR: Kirby Yates

LR: Steven Geltz

(DL: Jake McGee)

The bullpen situation in Tampa Bay is about as clear as milk. If he was starting the season healthy then Jake McGee would be the man in possession. However, the fact that he is on the DL pushes the door wide open for anyone of four potential options. Right now Jepsen is the general favourite but depending where you go some people think Boxberger, Balfour or even Frieri have a shot to win the job. This is one of those situations where you may want to speculate on your favourite in drafts or if your draft is later in preseason wait and see who nails it down in spring. If I had to pick an outside bet I would say Grant Balfour simply because he throws hard and has shown he can close reasonably effective for stretches.

Prospect Report

  • Mike Mahtook, OF: Mahtook barely gets mentioned in prospect discussions but with Kiermaier and Guyer platooning there is potential that a strong spring from Mahtook could give him the opportunity to take some regular AB’s. A name to keep an eye on.
  • Nate Karns, SP: The Rays have a decent rotation especially with Matt Moore another option currently on the DL and therefore Karns initial opportunities will be limited. Chances are there will be an injury or two in the rotation and he should get some chances to show what he has got. It is unlikely he can push any of the main guys out of the picture but there may be the chance for a plug and play if he can get a couple of two start weeks.

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