We've done a number of season preview articles around DRaysBay over the past month or so, but there's one topic we haven't focused on yet: fantasy baseball. This isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you're a Rays fan and into fantasy baseball, I'm sure you're asking yourself many of the same questions that I am. How can I best use my inside knowledge of the Rays to gain a competitive advantage?
To be honest, over the past couple years, I've begun to grow gun-shy of picking any offensive Rays players for my fantasy team outside the handful of everyday players (Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings). The Rays' daily lineup is impossible to predict, with a large number of players getting platooned. This means if you want to play someone like Matt Joyce -- who has valuable pro-rated numbers -- you have to be able to make lineup changes at the last minute every day. Hitters that are supposed to shine end up being busts, or simply don't produce as many great fantasy numbers as a result of the Trop's park effects. The Rays also never have a loaded lineup, so you should never expect to get great RBI numbers from any Rays player.
So this year, I've stayed away from borderline players like Ryan Roberts, Kelly Johnson, Matt Joyce, and Luke Scott. All of these players have the potential to become something special this season, but at the same time, there are so many question marks that come with them. It's unlikely that any of them will be guaranteed a player spot every single day, and the odds of any of them putting up glamorous home run or RBI totals are pretty low. They can be valuable contributors for the Rays due to their defensive value and doubles power, but I've saved them for late-round flyers in my leagues. If you can get them for cheap, great; if not, don't sweat too much about it and let someone else take that gamble.
The real value to be found on the Rays is in their pitching. Alex Cobb is relatively unknown to most fans, but he won 11 games last year with a decent strikeout rate (7.0 K/9), and his peripheral statistic (FIP, SIERA) suggest he could be even better going forward. Matt Moore could break out this year in dramatic fashion, and I would definitely use a late-round pick to nab Roberto Hernandez now that he's got the last spot in the rotation. With his groundball rate and the Rays history of turning washed up pitchers into aces, he could provide some great, cheap value in Wins and ERA.
In the bullpen, Fernando Rodney is the obvious story, but if you're in a league that counts Holds (or just counts overall value, like ottoneu Points leagues) there are a whole slew of options. Joel Peralta and Jake McGee are the obvious picks, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Kyle Farnsworth regain a large role in the bullpen. I'm also very excited to see what Cesar Ramos will do for a full season in the bullpen, and I think Brandon Gomes will reach the majors at some point this season and stick.
I love rooting for young players to break out, so I'm personally making investments in Alex Cobb and Chris Archer in my two fantasy leagues. I'm also taking a gamble on Matt Joyce, hoping that he'll see more regular playing time this year and may take a step forward. And while I haven't gotten him in either league yet, I've decided to keep a close eye on how Luke Scott looks in the early going. If he's looking healthy, I may make him an early season pick-up.
Which Rays players have you drafted this year? Are there any players you believe in more than I do?
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