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PECOTA releases 2021 projections

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The two top projected Rays haven’t reached the big leagues, and they’re not who you think they are

Mexico v USA - WBSC Premier 12: Bronze Medal Final Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

The annual PECOTA preseason projections are out and this may be the most wild predictions have released to date.

Among the 124 players quantified by the system for the Tampa Bay Rays, the two players that it predicts, in the 50th percentile, of leading the position players in WARP is outfielder Cal Stevenson and infielder Esteban Quiroz. Third on the list is another players who has yet to make his Major League Debut, let alone play in a professional game for Tampa Bay and that is infielder Xavier Edwards. Wild!

Here are the top five Rays position players by WARP, the BPro version of WAR:

1. Cal Stevenson, OF - 2.7
2. Esteban Quiroz, 2B - 2.6
3. Xavier Edwards, SS - 2.5
4. Willy Adames, SS - 2.5
5. Brandon Lowe, 2B - 2.5

As for the top offensive performances projected for players, here they are ranked by DRC+:

1. Yandy Diaz, 3B - 122
2. Randy Arozarena, OF - 117
3. Brandon Lowe, 2B - 115
4. Esteban Quiroz, 2B - 110
5. Cal Stevenson, OF - 109

For a brief recap on who exactly Esteban Quiroz and Cal Stevenson are, Quiroz was the third piece to come to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth to the San Diego Padres last offseason. Quiroz would be included as the Player to be Named Later in March and snuck into our Top-50 prospect list as a possible speedy addition to the playoff roster (he would be passed over when the Rays acquired a speedy outfielder instead).

With the pandemic destroying the minor league baseball season last year, the 5’ 6” Quiroz has yet to play for the Rays professionally but the 28 year old infielder most recently played in the Mexican Pacific League where he hit .299/.466/.483 over 58 games. He should receive some playing time from the Rays in spring training and compete for a middle infield job on the main roster.

Stevenson, meanwhile, came to the Rays along with Peyton Battenfield in a trade last January that sent RHP Austin Pruitt to the Houston Astros. Stevenson, 24, has yet to play above Single-A, but has hit well at every strop of his minor league journey thus far, showing an excellent ability to get on base with high walk totals despite possessing a lack of power.

During FanGraphs latest rankings of the Rays top prospects, Quiroz slotted in at 43rd, while Stevenson slid in at 57. It is a surprise to see either pop on this list. Their popping in the PECOTA projections do not mean the Rays will be slotting them into the lineup, but they are an indicator that each should have the ability to reach the majors at some point in time.

Pitching

On the pitching side of things, PECOTA is predicting a tremendous year from Tyler Glasnow, tabbing him as one of the 15th best pitchers in the game, (3.1 WARP).

Meanwhile, PECOTA expects the rest of the Rays rotation to primarily be filled out by Ryan Yarbrough, Brendan McKay, Josh Fleming, and newcomer Michael Wacha, with Brent Honeywell Jr., Trevor Richards, and Luis Patiño expected to see some starts as well. Among them, all but Richards and Patiño are expected to be better than league average (approx. 4.20 ERA).

  1. Tyler Glasnow - 25 GS, 2.89 ERA, 3.22 FIP
  2. Ryan Yarbrough* - 24 GS, 3.63 ERA, 3.97 FIP
  3. Michael Wacha - 22 GS 4.04 ERA, 4.26 FIP
  4. Josh Fleming* - 19 GS, 3.94 ERA, 4.16 FIP
  5. Brendan McKay - 16 GS, 3.55 ERA, 3.90 FIP

Other starting rotation contributors include:

  • Brent Honeywell Jr. - 12 GS, 3.65 ERA, 4.10 FIP
  • Trevor Richards - 12 GS, 4.61 ERA, 4.86 FIP
  • Luis Patiño - 9 GS, 4.54 ERA, 4.82 FIP
  • Shane McClanahan* - 9 GS, 4.70 ERA, 4.87 FIP
  • Joe Ryan - 8 GS, 3.83 ERA, 4.18 FIP

Nick Anderson is expected to be his dominant self, with an estimated 35.5 K% to go with his 1.7 WARP, which is the highest among any pitcher in the projection without a start attributed to their name, slotting well ahead of Josh Hader and Kirby Yates. The rest of the Rays bullpen fills out as expected, with Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, Cody Reed*, Ryan Thompson, John Curtiss, and Ryan Sherriff* featured.

Other pitchers flagged by PECOTA as possible near-league average contributors for the bullpen were Michael Plassmeyer* (SP in Triple-A), Aaron Slegers (long relief arm on 40-man), Jack Labosky (2018 22nd round draft pick, RP in Double-A), Zack Trageton (2016 6th round pick, SP in High-A), Tyler Zombro (RP in Triple-A, invited to Spring Training), Caleb Sampen (SP in High-A, trade return for Jaime Schultz in 2019), Evan McKendry (2019 9th round pick, SP in Low-A), and Phoenix Sanders (RP in Triple-A, invited to Spring Training).

*left-handed