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Friday, February 27, 2015

2015 FANTASY BASEBALL AROUND THE CAMPS: TAMPA BAY RAYS

By Eric C. Wright

Tampa Bay, Fla.—The Tampa Bay Rays are a team in clear transition mode.  One of the greatest organizational successes the last five seasons, the Tampa Bay Rays made more with less than any other team in baseball.  Despite a payroll that was half that of division rivals New York and Boston, the Rays were always in thick of the race for the AL East and were guided with a steady hand in manager Joe Maddon.  Unfortunately the good times seem to be over for now as Maddon defected to the Chicago Cubs, with GM Andrew Friedman flew the coop to run the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This just months after the Rays were forced to trade ace power pitcher David Price.  Despite still having a young roster with solid talent, the Rays look like they could be headed for some trouble.

 

LINEUP

1.  Desmond Jennings

2.  Asdrubal Cabrera

3.  Ben Zobrist

4.  Evan Longoria

5.  James Loney

6.  Kevin Kiermaier

7.  Steven Souza

8.  Nick Franklin

9.  John Jaso/David DeJesus

 

ROTATION


1.  Alex Cobb

2.  Matt Moore

3.  Chris Archer

4.  Drew Smyly

5.  Jake Odorizzi

 

CLOSER

Jake McGee

4-STAR PLAYERS

Evan Longoria:  Yup we were right.  We engaged in quite a few battles the last two seasons when we went on record saying Evan Longoria was overrated.  The former first round pick never should have been chosen that high but his name outstripped his actual numbers supplied.  Now at 29-years-old, Longoria is coming off his worst season as a regular in 2014 when he hit only 22 home runs and batted a mediocre .253.  The drop in batting average is directly related to the very high K rates Longoria continues to put up and he also has lost total interest in stealing bases as he has a grand total of only 8 the last three years combined.  Thus what we have here is a 3-category guy and nothing more as Longoria can help in home runs, runs and RBI.  His name continues to carry more weight than his production though.

Alex Cobb:  Cobb is a guy I have slobbered over the last two seasons and rightfully so.  Despite rampant injuries, when on the mound in 2013 and 2014, Cobb has been as good as any other starter in baseball.  Consider the fact that Cobb has registered ERA’s of 2.76 and 2.87 the last two seasons while calling the brutal AL East home.  Coming close to averaging a K/IP and with top-notch control, Cobb is one healthy season away from Cy Young contention.

3-STAR PLAYERS

Jake McGee:  One incredibly annoying habit of Joe Maddon was his penchant for spreading saves around his bullpen.  It was more of the same early last season until he could no longer ignore the monster breakout campaign of the hard-throwing Jake McGee.  McGee would strike out 90 batters in only 71.1 innings last season while nailing down 19 saves in 23 tries.  Offseason surgery on his elbow could have McGee out the first few weeks of the season but he is clearly the top dog in the saves hierarchy. 

Jake Odorizzi:  Yet another hard-throwing young Tampa Bay starter who seems on the cusp of stardom, Jake Odorizzi began that process in 2014 by upping his K rate by a decent margin while also showing off potent heat.  Odorizzi’s control is still shaky and he tends to leave some baseballs over the plate that get sent over outfield fences but those are issues he will surely improve on as he gains more experience.  This is a guy on the upswing and whose solid draft price makes him doubly attractive. 

Matt Moore:  Moore could be back on a mound in May as he makes his way back from Tommy John surgery.  Prior to the surgery, Moore was in the same boat as Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as hard-throwing strikeout pitchers who had shoddy control.  A decent stash for late in the draft but Moore’s lack of control even before the procedure will likely be worse when he gets back at least early on. 

Chris Archer:  Speaking of good and young Tampa Bay pitchers, Chris Archer falls squarely into that category as he has now put back-to-back eye-opening seasons together.  Consider that during the last two seasons, Archer has registered ERA’s of 3.22 and 3.33 to go along with decent strikeout rates.  There are some issues with walks and the gopher ball but Archer is already a terrific SP 3 even without improvement there. 

Desmond Jennings:  We are now well past the development portion of Desmond Jennings’ still young career and needless to say we can only categorize him as a disappointment.  Showing an utter lack of plate discipline, Jennings has gone past the 100-K mark each of the last three years which coincides with some ugly batting averages.  Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the slide in stolen bases from Jennings who has gone from 31 to 20 to 15 the last three seasons.  Jennings does have mid-teens power which would go nicely with a rebirth in steals but by now Jennings has to be considered what he really is.  That is an outfielder 3 and one who is on the lower-end of that scale at best.

Ben Zobrist:  Now 33-years-old, Zobrist is starting to hit that point in his career where the numbers are going in an irreversible direction.  Always possessing big-time eligibility, that part of Zobrist’s game is starting to become more valuable than his actual numbers which is a concern.  Sneak him in as your starting shortstop one more season and then get out. 

Drew Smyly:  By now we sound like a broken record in discussing the very similar abilities of all the young Tampa Bay starters.  Smyly fits right in there as he registered a 1.70 ERA in his last seven starts with the Rays last season after being the main return on the David Price swap.  There is solid power ability here to where Smyly can be a strikeout help while also posting intriguing ratios in both ERA and WHIP.  The word is not totally out yet on Smyly which means a nice profit could be there for the taking.

Asdrubal Cabrera:  Cabrera had to settle on a one-year deal by the Rays which was evidence that few teams are impressed with his current level of hitting.  Still Cabrera has hit 16, 14, and 14 home runs the last three season to go with around 10 steals in each which works good enough at the shallow shortstop spot.  Unfortunately Cabrera has never come anywhere near his 2011 breakout which goes down as a major outlier campaign.

Steve Souza:  Sleeper alert!  The Rays will give the leftfield job to the intriguing power/speed game of Souza who was a put up some very impressive totals in those two categories in addition to hitting a ridiculous .350 on the farm in 2014 before a late season promotion.  Talent like that is always on the front-burner for value hawks and Souza at the very least will get every chance to realize his potential. 

2-STAR PLAYERS

James Loney:  Loney is a great example of a guy who is better in real-life than in fantasy baseball.  Always showcasing a bat capable of hitting .300 and driving in enough runs to be useful, Loney’s impact ends there.  There is very little power to speak of which is a huge drawback considering his first base position where home runs reign supreme.  Best left as a bench UTIL or CI bat.

Brad Boxberger:  It was an incredible rookie performance by the fireballing Boxberger in 2014 as he showed closer-like ability in punching out a ridiculous 104 batters in only 64.2 innings with an ERA of 2.37.  With Jake McGee out possibly for the first few weeks of the season as recovers from elbow surgery, Boxberger figures to be in line for saves along with veteran Ernesto Frieri.  He could very well run with the gig if he dominates so have him on your late rounds list. 

1-STAR PLAYERS

Kevin Kermaier-Ernesto Frieri-David DeJesus

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