Fangraphs released the 2016 Steamer projections this morning, helping all of us non-playoff baseball teams get by with something extra to think about. These numbers are a bit early, players will change teams and injury conditions crop up along the way, but using the Steamer600 numbers, we can see how the system considers players if they were to play a full season of baseball (600 plate appearances on offense, 33 starts or 65 innings on the mound).
For Tampa Bay, the numbers are not inspiring.
On offense there are only four players projected to be above league average: free agent John Jaso (110 wRC+), Evan Longoria (108), Steven Souza Jr. (104), and Brandon Guyer (102). Of course, the latter is more likely to be platooned than to face a full season of at bats, but these are early numbers with little nuance.
Two other players are projected to be exactly average: Joey Butler and Logan Forsythe. Everyone else is below 100 wRC+, including other platoon-able players like Desmond Jennings, Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, and Richie Shaffer.
In a full season of at bats, three players project to have 20+ home runs: Longoria (22), Souza (22), and Shaffer (21). They are followed by J.P. Arencibia with 18, as well as a slew of prospects included in the system. Again, presuming 600 plate appearances, Steamer already has fond thoughts for Nick Franklin and Casey Gillaspie, both with 16 HR , but that also goes for Allan Dykstra (16) and Jeff Malm (15), though the latter is now a pitcher in the Angels franchise. Jake Bauers and Taylor Motter are in the double digits as well with 13 HR over 600 PA projected.
Steamer is not a particularly hot stat system, the best marks they give in WAR or Defense tend to play it cool. Kevin Kiermaier gets the second highest defensive score in the system among all players, but combined with his 96 wRC+, 12 HR, and second most projected triples (9), is still worth only 3.7 WAR. Longoria follows at 3.6, then Forsythe at 2.0.
As for strikeouts, the system pegs a few players of note to have 170+ K's: Willy Adames (174), Jake Cronenworth (173), Souza Jr. (172), and Shaffer (171). If Joey Butler had a full season, he'd be at 161, but the next Rays starter listed is Tim Beckham at 157.
As for walks, and again these numbers are just for fun, Allan Dykstra comes out on top with 80 projected over 600 PA, which lends credence to why the Rays picked him up for Durham in the first place. Jaso is second at 65, then Souza at 57 and Nava at 55. Boog Powell makes a respectable showing on thi list as well with 49, comparabe to Longo's 50 and Frosty's 51.
Full list of Rays players on offense here.
On to the pitchers, where ERA becomes out guide and Jake McGee is the only stand out with a 2.76 ERA. The next closest player is Brad Boxberger with a 3.17 ERA. The two high leverage pitchers are the only ones on the list was a K/9 over 10.0, though each are also projected to have more than 20 walks over 65 innings.
The next best relievers on the list are Xavier Cedeno, who became an important presence in the Rays bullpen last season after he was acquired for cash in a minor deal, with a 3.29 ERA and 8.75 K/9. He's followed closely on the list by Enny Romero, with a 3.47 ERA and 8.59 K/9, which seems like a bit of wishful thinking but sure I'll take any reason to believe in Romero some more.
Next in line are two prospects: Matt Andriese, with a 3.59 ERA and 7.32 K/9, giving him the same projection as the injured Alex Cobb, who is recovering from Tommy John. The other name? Robert Zarate! Brought over from Japan last off-season, Zarate has a stronger projection than Steve Geltz or Andrew Bellatti, who were both effective for the Rays in 2015.
The to-be 29 year old left handed pitcher struck out 29% of batters faced in Durham last season with a 9% walk rate, 3.52 ERA, and two saves. So maybe there's something there! Also on the list is the damged shoulder of Jeff Beliveau (3.52, 8.66) and damaged elbow of Burch Smith as a reliever (3.64, 8.51).
It should be noted we get a particularly interesting name near the top of the list of relievers as well: Josh Lueke. The player settled his accused legal atrocities out of court, but he hasn't played in the states since 2014. Since that was most recently with Tampa Bay, he's on the list with only 19 projected walks over 65 innings. You know, should he return to Major League Baseball.
As for the starters, Steamer seems to agree with what you'd expect next year's rotation to be: Archer, Smyly, Odorizzi, and Moore, with a battle between Ramirez and Karns for fifth.
|Alex Cobb (injured)||3.57||3.52||1.24||173||58||7.77||2.62||3.3|
I would venture to say that Erasmo Ramirez is actually deserving of a slightly better projection, and Smyly a slightly worse. Ramirez had a great year, with just two poor starts in April keeping him from far more praise as he adjusted to the Rays way of dealing, and worked to improve his stuff greatly under Jim Hickey. Smyly on the other hand has a mysterious shoulder ailment that hasn't gone away. Both players numbers' are likely leaning on past results, good or bad, but might be closer to their 2015 selves next season.
Included above is any starter with a positive WAR projected if they were forced to the majors for a full season's worth of work. Raise your hand if you knew who Austin Pruitt was before reading this. He played all of 2015 in the Montgomery rotation after converting from relief in 2014 with Port Charlotte. His numbers as a reliever were sterling, and as a starter in 2015 he held a 3.09 ERA and 2.83 FIP. Does he belong on anything more than the spreadsheet? I'm not sure.
The rest of those prospects I know you're following. We see you Honeywell, you'll get here soon enough. You can view all of the Rays pitcher's projections here. Not among the starters? Blake Snell! He's in the Steamer system as a reliever with 0.0 WAR. I've slotted him in above Hu in the table.
Remember these numbers all deserve a spoonful of salt. They are an early look at what's available to the team in 2016, and include numbers for players forced into a full time role, even the prospects. But boy are they fun to look at. And by fun I mean dang the Rays look just ok next season.