We don't delve into the realm of fantasy baseball too much here at DRaysBay, but it's not because of lack of interest; I imagine almost everyone on our staff plays fantasy baseball to some degree (or has in the past), and I know for a fact that one or two of us might be...umm, well, let's just say that my wife will be hosting old college friends this weekend while I participate in a 5-hour draft.
There's not always a ton of fantasy baseball content that we can write for DRB; after all, we are just covering one team, and there's only so much that can be said about those players. But since fantasy baseball drafts will be kicking off soon-ish, it's at least worth pointing out some players on the Rays that could be underrated by your fellow leaguemates.
Please note, I'm no fantasy baseball expert. Take my word with a grain of salt, but these are the Rays players that I'm hoping to snag this season:
Without a doubt, S-Rod is one of my biggest fantasy sleepers this season. He hasn't done much in recent seasons to warrant any sort of attention from most people, but he will likely land the starting shortstop job with the Rays this season -- or at least, he'll get heavily used in a platoon.
Rodriguez may not look all that exciting on offense -- .250 average, ~10 home runs, middling RBI numbers -- but his power potential from the shortstop hole makes him an exciting buy-low option. You can likely snag Rodriguez towards the end of your drafts, and at worst, he'll provide you with some mediocre power while also stealing you a handful of bases.
He should be an automatic start against LHPs, and if this is the season that Rodriguez finally begins to hit RHPs decently, I'd argue that he could be a steal. His positional flexibility also gives him some added value, although unless his offense dramatically improves, his bat fits best in the middle infield.
Ben Zobrist & Matt Joyce
Neither of these players are exactly "sleepers" in the traditional sense. By now, most everyone has heard of Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce's hot stretch last season put him on many fantasy players' radars. These guys aren't going to slip too far in any draft, but I wanted to highlight them both because I tend to be more aggressive in nabbing BenZo and Joyce than most people.
Although Zobrist isn't as good a fantasy option as he is a real-life player -- you don't get any credit for doubles or defense in most fantasy leagues -- I still consider him underrated. He'll hit for a decent average, has 20/20 potential, and will still rack up the RBIs and Runs. He's an all-around player, and his positional flexibility gives him even more value; while he's a best fit at second base, Zo is also a fine option in the outfield.
Meanwhile, I think Matt Joyce could surprise some people this season. He's a similar case to Zobrist; he isn't a standout in any fantasy category, but he won't sink you in any category and will provide both some power and speed. I'm also rather bullish on his power, and I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes this season with 20-25 home runs.
Jeff Niemann & Luke Scott
Consider this the "Betting On Injuries" category. A healthy Jeff Niemann is underrated, even by us Rays fans; he's had some stretches of dominance over the past couple years, and his 3.79 SIERA from last season makes him look like a well above-average starter. He won't rack up dominant strikeout totals, but as we saw the other day, he still has some nasty pitches. Despite being limited by injury issues, he's won over 10 games each of the past three season. When Niemann is on, he's as unhittable a pitcher as any on the Rays staff.
Of course, Niemann also has his mechanics get thrown off regularly and his injury history is significant. But if you're willing to roll the dice, the upside is definitely there.
And Luke Scott...well, it's difficult to say how he'll rebound after his injury-riddled 2011. But Scott has great power potential (projected for 20-25 homers), and depending on your league, he might qualify for 1B as well as OF. The Trop will sap away some of his power, but you could do far worse on him as a late flyer in a draft.
Intriguing Bullpen Options
I don't expect anyone in the Rays' bullpen to get saves outside of Kyle Farnsworth, but depending on your league setup, there are other arms in the Rays 'pen to keep an eye on over the course of the season. I wouldn't necessarily recommend drafting any of them, but I'm keeping my eye on Jake McGee, Brandon Gomes, J.P Howell, and Fernando Rodney. All four of these pitchers have big-time potential, and could rack up the strikeouts and Holds while keeping your ERA low, but there are enough question marks there to be wary.
If you're in a keeper league, I think the Rays bullpen is an especially vexing question. Farnsworth won't be around after this season, so do you grab Rodney on the chance he becomes the closer in 2013? I'd wait and see, but if Rodney shows some command this season, I'm going to be tempted to do just that.
Also, Wade Davis could be a fun late-round flyer. He still has potential, and he'll likely start the season in the bullpen and have duel RP/SP eligibility. You won't find many of those.