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The Fantasy Top 5 Tampa Bay Rays for 2014

Alex Kantecki offers his ranks for the top-five fantasy players in Tampa Bay next season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ray kicked things off in the Fantasy Top 5 series by ranking the top-five fantasy players from the World Series champions Boston Red Sox on Monday. We keep it in the American League East today, ranking the top-five players from the Tampa Bay Rays. Joe Maddon's club finished 92-71 and second in the AL East, beating the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card round before being knocked out by the Red Sox in the AL Division Series.

The Rays just inked David DeJesus to a two-year extension, keeping The Jesus and Mrs. The Jesus in Tampa. The journeyman outfielder didn't make the cut, but these guys did:

5. Matt Moore

Moore looked like the run-away AL Cy Young favorite through the first two months, going 8-0 in 11 starts with a 2.18 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 62 innings. Then he gave up six, eight and five runs in his next three turns, showing serious command issues and struggling to go deep into games. That's been the rub on Moore throughout his early career. While he struck out 143 in 150 1/3 innings, he also walked 76. Moore's walk rate increased from 10.7 percent to 11.8 percent, which would have led the league if he qualified. That's worse than Ryan Dempster and Edinson Volquez. I was super high on Moore entering 2013, but I can't recommend him before 30 other starters at this point. He still shows flashes of utter dominance at times, but my overall outlook on Moore is fading.

4. Desmond Jennings

I won't write too much about Jennings, because I wrote about the ultra-talented outfielder at The Dynasty Guru here. That was back in August, but I still have total faith despite a ho-hum finish to the year. The 27-year-old hit .252/.334/.414 with a career-high 14 home runs, 82 runs, 54 RBIs and 20 steals. Fantasy owners were undoubtedly expecting more speed after he stole 31 bases in 2012, but he made up for it with production across the board. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all increased, but it's going to be hard for Jennings to reach 20 home runs with a 35.9-percent fly ball rate. If he can stay on the field for 150 games, 100 runs are likely, and I'm looking forward to a 15/25 season in 2014.

3. Wil Myers

Myers sure looked comfortable in his big-league debut, hitting .293/.354/.478 with 13 home runs, 50 runs, 55 RBIs and five steals in 88 games. Over a full 162, those numbers come out to 28 home runs, 92 runs, 101 RBIs and nine steals. I'm not convinced he reaches those lofty marks as soon as next season, but I am comfortable projecting Myers as a top-25 outfielder. The problem is Myers will certainly go a lot higher than that in drafts, and I'm not going to be the one to pay the price. I don't see a giant spike in home runs coming, given his 33.9-percent fly ball rate in 2013. There's still some work to be done here.

2. David Price

Price may soon be on the move, but he's still considered one of the best lefties in the game. Despite missing time in 2013, Price tossed 186 2/3 innings with a 3.33 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, striking out 151 batters in the process. It's a far fall from 205 strikeouts in 2012 and 218 in 2011, but he did shed his walk rate to an elite 3.7 percent. Fantasy owners would take more strikeouts if it also meant taking a few more walks, but Price lost two ticks on his fastball in 2013, according to FanGraphs, throwing at 93.5 mph. Price's swinging strike rate (7.9 percent) was also on the decline, coming in below the league average rate of 9.3 percent. I'm still comfortable penciling in Price for roughly 180 strikeouts, but the days of 200 are probably gone. That being said, he's still a top-15 starter for me. He's a safe bet for a low-3.00s ERA. Consider Price a low-end No. 1.

1. Evan Longoria

Longoria shed his brittle label and missed all of two games in 2013, slashing .269/.343/.498 with 32 home runs, 91 runs and 88 RBIs, giving him three 30-home run campaigns since 2009. Longoria has a .230 ISO in back-to-back seasons, and it hasn't dipped below .213 in his six-year career. You should fully expect 30 more bombs in 2014. The 28-year-old sacrificed batting average for power in the second half, but his RBI total was underwhelming, ranking 14th in the American League. That's just fluky. I see Longoria reaching 100 RBIs in 2014. He reached 100 in 2009 and 2010, and was one away in 2011. While Longoria's strikeout rate increased from 19.6 percent to 23.4 percent and his batting average dropped from .289 to .269, keep in mind he did maintain a .280-average in 2010 with a 20.9-percent strikeout rate. And he's a career-.275 hitter. Longoria is my No. 2 third baseman after the all-mighty Miguel Cabrera. You can have Adrian Beltre's consistency or David Wright's steals; I'll take Longoria's upside.

Honorable mention: Ben Zobrist, Chris Archer

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