Sunday, February 27, 2011

Finding Keepers: Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays logo
The Tampa Bay Rays went for it all in 2010 and won the AL East before being knocked out of the playoffs by the Texas Rangers. Everyone knew the Rays would be making some wholesale changes this offseason (letting Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Carlos Pena and Joaquin Benoit walk while trading away Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett) but the future looks bright for a team that has 12 of the first 89 picks in the 2011 MLB Draft.

So for all of the talk about what this team has lost, they still have some fantasy keepers on the roster and it all starts with 3B Evan Longoria. Longoria is definitely a keeper and a first-round pick for 2011 and for many years to come. Mock Draft Central puts his current ADP at 4.89, being drafted as high as third and as late as 11th. He's projecting a batting average in the .280s with 25-30 home runs, 100+ RBI and runs with 10+ stolen bases. Third base is a very shallow position this year so I can see why people are jumping on Longoria early.

In 2010, SP David Price was the runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award with a 19-6 record, 2.71 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 188 K's and is now being looked upon as the ace of the Rays' staff. That's a lot of pressure to put on a 24 year old but Price has shown he's ready to handle it. His win total may come down a bit to around 15 since he'll be matching up against other number ones in the AL East but I'd expect his ERA to hover around 3.30 and a WHIP near 1.25 with 200 K's in 2011. Lock him up as a fantasy roster ace.

What's not to like about an outfielder that can produce 18 HR, 62 RBI, 89 R and 42 SB? How about his awful .237 batting average? Such is the case with OF B.J. Upton. If only he could get his batting average up to his career mark of .260, it would make the 20 HR/40 SB potential so much more attractive. If you're willing to accept some bad with all that good and the potential Upton possesses for greatness, he makes a great keeper selection.

OF Desmond Jennings could probably steal 50 bases given an entire season of regular playing time this season. The giant question mark, though, is how much playing time will he ACTUALLY get? I think the Rays are going to bring him along slowly while seeing how the Damon and Ramirez signings play out for 2011. If you are in a dynasty league, Jennings would be a great keeper selection to lock up for 2012 and beyond. I'm not sold that you'll get your return on investment if you are simply keeping him for his 2011 potential.

Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • SP Jeremy Hellickson is being touted as the "next big thing" but projections on put him as an 11-win pitcher, at best. He could be good in 2011 but probably not a keeper until 2012 or 2013.
  • 2B/OF Ben Zobrist is a second baseman that has 20/20 potential but his .253 career batting average could deter him from being on anyone's keeper list. NOTE: He hit just .177 and slugged .293 after the break due to an ugly .190 BABIP.
  • What you get out of OF Manny Ramirez and OF Johnny Damon this season is anyone's guess but it's been a while since either were worthy of a keeper selection.
  • C John Jaso is a catcher that can hit .270 with an OBP near .380 and should be sitting there available at the end of most drafts if you're looking for a cheap option at this position.
  • 1B Dan Johnson looks as though he'll be in the mix at first base for the Rays this season. There are some serious discrepancies in projections on what to expect out of him this season.
The Rays roster still has a bunch of players with fantasy value and it will be interesting to see how that relates to the real-life outcomes in the standings. This team will play with a ton of enthusiasm and heart and should be in the mix come playoff time.

Please take a moment to check out the rest of the teams in my "Finding Keepers" series and contact me if you have any interest in participating in my fantasy baseball league (see settings). Also, COSFBA can be followed on Twitter and now has a Facebook fan page to "Like" to have new articles and updates appear in your News Feed. Thanks for taking the time to check out all the ways in which COSFBA helps feed my addiction to fantasy baseball.

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