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2016 Team Previews: Tampa Bay Rays

Throughout the long, cold offseason, I am doing team by team previews to get you ready for the 2016 fantasy baseball season. Today it's the Rays.

Steven Souza and the Rays had a surprising number of fantasy relevant players, will they do it again?
Steven Souza and the Rays had a surprising number of fantasy relevant players, will they do it again?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my 2016 fantasy team previews. I will be breaking down 2016 prospects for the relevant fantasy players on all 30 teams, one team at a time. Check back throughout the offseason for new team previews. You can catch up on old ones in my archive (here) or in the section (here). Because there are 30 teams to cover in limited time, I have to get started now, even though there will certainly be some trades that move players around and open up larger roles for existing players. Also, free agents and guys that moved midseason will be analyzed with one of the teams they played for, even though they likely (or definitely) won't be on that team in 2016 so they don't get missed. Hopefully you can bear with me on those issues and remember that these were written before those trades occurred.

I am starting at the bottom of the standings and working my way up. In each team preview, I will attempt to follow the same layout. First, there will be two tables of stats for hitters (showing stats acquired while playing for this team; traded players will be missing some stats) followed by quick analysis of the most fantasy relevant of those hitters (relevance at my discretion). After that, two tables for the pitching stats and some pitcher analysis. I will then present one breakout player (aka sleeper) and one breakdown player (or bust, if you prefer) for the team. Got it? Ok, let's get started.

Tampa Bay Rays

Hitters

Name Position PA HR R RBI SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG
James Loney 1B 388 4 25 32 2 4 5.90% 8.80% 0.28 0.322 0.357
Jake Elmore 1B 158 2 10 16 1 1 7.60% 15.80% 0.206 0.263 0.284
Logan Forsythe 2B, 1B 615 17 69 68 9 4 8.90% 18.00% 0.281 0.359 0.444
Tim Beckham 2B, SS 223 9 24 37 3 1 5.80% 30.90% 0.222 0.274 0.429
Nick Franklin 2B, SS, 1B* 109 3 11 7 1 0 6.40% 33.90% 0.158 0.213 0.307
Evan Longoria 3B 670 21 74 73 3 1 7.60% 19.70% 0.27 0.328 0.435
Curt Casali C 113 10 13 18 0 0 7.10% 30.10% 0.238 0.304 0.594
Rene Rivera C 319 5 16 26 0 0 3.40% 27.00% 0.178 0.213 0.275
John Jaso DH 216 5 23 22 1 2 13.00% 18.10% 0.286 0.38 0.459
Mikie Mahtook OF 115 9 22 19 4 3 5.20% 27.00% 0.295 0.351 0.619
Brandon Guyer OF 385 8 51 28 10 4 6.50% 15.80% 0.265 0.359 0.413
Joey Butler OF 276 8 30 30 5 2 5.80% 29.70% 0.276 0.326 0.416
Grady Sizemore OF 192 6 20 27 3 3 7.30% 19.30% 0.257 0.318 0.429
Steve Souza OF 426 16 59 40 12 6 10.80% 33.80% 0.225 0.318 0.399
Kevin Kiermaier OF 535 10 62 40 18 5 4.50% 17.80% 0.263 0.298 0.42
David DeJesus OF 257 5 24 26 3 2 7.40% 15.20% 0.259 0.323 0.375
Desmond Jennings OF 108 1 9 7 5 3 7.40% 15.70% 0.268 0.324 0.34
Asdrubal Cabrera SS, 2B* 551 15 66 58 6 3 6.50% 19.40% 0.265 0.315 0.43

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR/FB SwStr% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
James Loney 0.298 24.20% 42.70% 33.00% 3.70% 5.90% 17.60% 63.60% 18.80% -0.19
Jake Elmore 0.231 25.60% 41.90% 32.50% 5.30% 5.00% 28.90% 52.90% 18.20% -3.24
Logan Forsythe 0.323 19.80% 39.60% 40.60% 9.70% 6.70% 15.20% 54.00% 30.80% 5.38
Tim Beckham 0.279 19.10% 50.00% 30.90% 21.40% 15.60% 16.70% 55.10% 28.30% -0.98
Nick Franklin 0.213 22.60% 32.30% 45.20% 10.70% 17.10% 20.00% 56.90% 23.10% #N/A
Evan Longoria 0.309 20.60% 39.00% 40.40% 10.80% 10.10% 15.00% 54.40% 30.60% 4.76
Curt Casali 0.241 11.80% 42.60% 45.60% 32.30% 14.30% 10.10% 58.00% 31.90% -1.74
Rene Rivera 0.23 17.30% 37.90% 44.90% 5.20% 16.30% 25.60% 47.50% 26.90% #N/A
John Jaso 0.336 21.60% 52.70% 25.70% 13.20% 9.30% 15.50% 48.70% 35.80% -0.86
Mikie Mahtook 0.338 23.30% 32.90% 43.80% 28.10% 13.70% 16.00% 44.00% 40.00% -0.28
Brandon Guyer 0.303 21.20% 44.20% 34.60% 8.60% 10.90% 20.70% 50.60% 28.70% 1.55
Joey Butler 0.377 21.10% 58.30% 20.60% 22.20% 16.60% 14.30% 63.40% 22.30% 0.46
Grady Sizemore 0.293 23.00% 38.80% 38.10% 11.30% 8.30% 11.50% 59.00% 29.50% -0.80
Steve Souza 0.318 20.00% 45.30% 34.70% 20.50% 13.90% 20.40% 45.90% 33.80% 1.88
Kevin Kiermaier 0.306 22.90% 47.80% 29.30% 8.40% 9.60% 24.60% 51.50% 23.90% 3.70
David DeJesus 0.289 23.60% 45.10% 31.30% 8.20% 5.40% 17.40% 54.40% 28.20% -1.53
Desmond Jennings 0.309 18.30% 57.30% 24.40% 5.00% 7.20% 28.10% 48.80% 23.20% -2.20
Asdrubal Cabrera 0.306 20.70% 35.80% 43.60% 8.70% 10.90% 16.30% 57.30% 26.40% 3.42

*Will lose this eligibility in 2016

**The ESPN player rater is based on a player's standard 5 x 5 category performance relative to average. A score of 0 is replacement level and negative values mean the player is actually hurting your team. Values in the 1-2 range generally are for your worst starting player, unless you are unlucky. There are no positional adjustments, though, so shortstops and catchers will often have very low scores relative to everyone else. It is normalized so that guys with little playing time can be compared to guys that played all year.

Analysis

As usual, the Rays have a mix of unexciting, steady, no-frills hitters, that put up solid numbers without dominating in any category. I'm a big fan of what Logan Forsythe did this season and I could easily see a repeat. Yes, he set career highs in home runs, slugging, average, steals, walk rate, ...uh oh. Ok, so 2015 will probably be his best season, but 2016 could still be a top-10 second baseman season for him in OBP leagues, top 15 in standard. His power will likely come down some (14 HR maybe?), but he did hit a lot of fly balls and hit them pretty hard. He could certainly get 8-10 steals again with a good OBP. There is some downside in his average. I like him as a solid, predictable second base option in the 8-12 range in drafts. I like him more than Brandon Phillips and DJ LeMahieu, who finished ahead of him.

Evan Longoria put up another solid above average season. He does this almost every season. He's getting older, but I think his 2015 line is pretty much spot on for his 2016 projection.

Mikie Mahtook had an impressive debut, at least in terms of power. Nine HR in 115 PA? Scouts give him average power and he hit just 4 HR in 385 AB in AAA in 2015, so let's not get too excited. He's a good defensive outfielder, but once the HR/FB ratio falls back to earth and his SwStr% and K% catch up to him, I think he will no longer be a fantasy asset.

I don't see anything in Brandon Guyer's batting stats that indicate he was lucky or unlucky. Everything looks legitimate. Given the playing time (which isn't a given in this crowded outfield), I think he could easily reproduce this in 2016.

Wow, just about every guy on this roster has average to above-average power and a little speed. There are HR/SB contributors everywhere. Joey Butler produced stats similar to Guyer in 100 fewer PAs or so. The problem is, Butler was extremely lucky. Let's start with that 0.377 BABIP, which is not coming back. That saved his batting average from being swallowed up by his 29% K%, 16.6% SwStr%, and sky high ground ball %. His HR/FB ratio was way up there too. If you take away all the lucky breaks and expose him for what he is, he is useless in fantasy. He's just a lesser version of the next player on this list and can be avoided. Update: he was DFA'd by the Rays and is now with the Indians as a backup.

Steven Souza Jr. disappointed many fantasy players in 2015 because he tore up the high minors so much in previous seasons and struggled some in Tampa. I am actually very encouraged by what we saw in his first full year. Yes, his strikeouts were off the charts (33%), his SwStr% was 13.9%, and his HR/FB ratio was over 20%, making him lucky to finish with 16 HR. On top of that, he got injured and missed a good chunk of the season. Didn't I say I was encouraged? Oh yeah, well he did put up 16 HR and 12 steals in 426 PAs, showed off his great walk rate, and struck out more than we would expect given is plate discipline.

Look at Butler. He swings and misses a lot more than Souza, but "only" had a 29% K%. Mahtook had about the same swing and miss rate as Souza and put up a 27% K%. All that is to say that I see a lower K% in 2016 combined with the same power and speed we saw and that great walk rate. He will never be a batting average contributor, but the power/speed/OBP combo could be very useful. I'm a fan. And yes, I said Mahtook wouldn't be a fantasy asset with a similar profile but Mahtook only has a very small sample size and Souza has always had plus power and has given us more reason to believe what we are seeing.

Kevin Kiermaier is the best defensive outfielder in baseball. I don't think there is any debate about that. His offense was not expected to be better than average. He's never shown power above league average, but does have above average speed. He's still young, but both Steamer and I agree that 2016 should be very similar to 2015. He could easily put up a season with 10-12 HR, 15-20 steals, and a 0.260/0.300/0.410 batting line.

Asdrubal Cabrera is now with the Mets and will be in some sort of time share with Tejada, Flores, Neil Walker, and others in the middle infield. He is always good for 15 HR, 5-10 steals, and an average to below average batting average (too many "averages"?). That isn't too shabby at the SS position, but the playing time concerns in New York might push him down to the late teens or early 20s of the SS rankings. He is consistent from year to year when he plays, but the playing time reduction could really hurt his value.

Brad Miller and Tim Beckham will be the primary SS, it appears. I wrote about Miller in the Mariners write-up. Beckham offers limited upside and relied on a lucky, small sample size power streak last year.

Richie Shaffer had too few at bats to qualify for my tables above, but he is an interesting option if either Longoria or James Loney get hurt. He showed above average power in the minors (a 25-HR pace over a full season), with good walk rates. He's a guy to keep an eye on. He has much more power upside than Loney and should be 3B-eligible. He could be a sneaky pickup if either of those starters go down.

Prospect time! The only two hitting prospects with a chance to get the call in 2016 (that we care about) are Daniel Robertson and Justin O'Conner. Robertson plays SS and has been solid in AA so far. He's no Carlos Correa or even Addison Russell, but he plays a very shallow position and seems to be the type of player with a high floor. He has average power and a plus hit tool (average, OBP). It would probably take injuries to Miller and Beckham to get him up to the Show early, so don't expect a summer call-up. O'Conner is a defense-first catcher with decent power but poor plate discipline. The floor is very low on him and ceiling is only OK.

Pitchers

Name Position IP ERA FIP xFIP WHIP BABIP LOB% GB% SwStr%
Xavier Cedeno RP 43 2.09 2.95 3.04 1.14 0.296 85.20% 55.20% 14.10%
Andrew Bellatti RP 23.1 2.31 5.23 4.78 1.11 0.194 93.50% 34.90% 12.10%
Jake McGee RP 37.1 2.41 2.33 2.91 0.94 0.276 78.60% 38.90% 12.30%
Kevin Jepsen RP 41.2 2.81 4.19 4.22 1.3 0.254 80.60% 48.80% 9.40%
Brad Boxberger RP 63 3.71 4.26 4 1.37 0.292 78.30% 36.30% 12.10%
Steve Geltz RP 67.1 3.74 4.11 4.54 1.05 0.215 68.00% 33.50% 9.30%
Brandon Gomes RP 59 4.27 4.76 4.73 1.19 0.26 76.30% 35.40% 11.60%
Ernesto Frieri RP 23.1 4.63 6.39 5.51 1.33 0.222 84.80% 29.40% 9.00%
Enny Romero RP 30 5.1 2.8 3.84 1.73 0.4 67.20% 46.80% 10.70%
Kirby Yates RP 20.1 7.97 8.64 4.64 1.48 0.245 76.50% 27.00% 10.30%
Alex Colome RP, SP 109.2 3.94 3.55 4.05 1.3 0.317 72.20% 40.10% 10.70%
Matt Andriese RP, SP 65.2 4.11 4.14 4.2 1.32 0.298 73.30% 48.60% 8.60%
Drew Smyly SP 66.2 3.11 3.91 3.47 1.17 0.283 86.50% 36.80% 11.40%
Chris Archer SP 212 3.23 2.9 3.01 1.14 0.295 73.10% 46.10% 12.80%
Jake Odorizzi SP 169.1 3.35 3.61 3.96 1.15 0.271 77.00% 37.30% 10.10%
Nate Karns SP 147 3.67 4.09 3.9 1.28 0.285 78.70% 41.90% 9.20%
Matt Moore SP 63 5.43 4.82 4.81 1.54 0.332 69.00% 39.20% 9.90%
Erasmo Ramirez SP, RP 163.1 3.75 3.76 3.88 1.13 0.272 70.50% 47.80% 11.30%

Name SV HLD K% BB% Soft% Med% Hard% ESPN Player Rater
Xavier Cedeno 1 19 24.70% 6.90% 22.00% 59.30% 18.60% 1.14
Andrew Bellatti 0 2 19.00% 10.50% 18.50% 50.80% 30.80% -0.13
Jake McGee 6 19 32.70% 5.40% 18.90% 53.30% 27.80% 1.49
Kevin Jepsen 5 22 19.30% 11.40% 18.00% 54.10% 27.90% 3.61
Brad Boxberger 41 2 27.30% 11.80% 20.90% 49.10% 30.10% 5.27
Steve Geltz 2 20 22.70% 9.70% 17.30% 53.10% 29.60% #N/A
Brandon Gomes 1 16 18.00% 6.10% 14.80% 51.40% 33.90% -0.36
Ernesto Frieri 2 0 19.00% 11.00% 13.00% 56.50% 30.40% -1.29
Enny Romero 0 3 22.10% 9.30% 17.70% 50.00% 32.30% #N/A
Kirby Yates 0 0 22.80% 7.60% 17.50% 44.40% 38.10% #N/A
Alex Colome 0 8 19.30% 6.80% 16.80% 57.50% 25.80% 1.27
Matt Andriese 2 0 17.40% 6.40% 20.20% 47.00% 32.90% -0.37
Drew Smyly 0 0 28.00% 7.30% 23.20% 45.20% 31.60% 1.65
Chris Archer 0 0 29.00% 7.60% 18.10% 49.90% 32.00% 7.77
Jake Odorizzi 0 0 21.40% 6.60% 19.40% 53.90% 26.80% 4.73
Nathan Karns 0 0 23.40% 9.00% 19.50% 46.00% 34.50% 2.55
Matt Moore 0 0 16.60% 8.30% 21.50% 47.30% 31.20% -2.44
Erasmo Ramirez 0 0 18.90% 6.00% 18.00% 52.90% 29.20% 4.26

*If they were outside the top 550 pitchers on the player rater, they will show up as #N/A

Analysis

When healthy, Drew Smyly is a clear top-30 pitcher in fantasy. I've always liked his "stuff" and most of his 2015 stats back me up. His xFIP, WHIP, SwStr%, K%-BB%, and ERA were all better than average. If he can stay healthy (a big "if"), I like him to keep it up.

I probably should have led off with Archer. He was the clear ace of this staff in 2015, even if he slowed down near the end. He is an injury risk because he relies so much on his slider, but it is a great pitch. He had the second best xFIP and SwStr% on the entire team, including all the relievers, which is unheard of for a starter. Everything looks repeatable and only health issues could stop him from repeating this.

I'm also a fan of Jake Odorizzi. I owned him in two leagues and enjoyed his consistency. Sure, he wasn't as dominant as the two pitchers above him in this list, but he was a solid innings-eater for the bottom of my roster. He was second on the team in innings pitched and had an above average SwStr% and K%-BB%. He gives up a lot of fly balls, which makes him prone to homers, especially on the road in AL East parks. He's a good play at home, where the park helps him out. He doesn't have a high ceiling (2014 was basically his peak), but I like the high floor his strikeout stuff and control give him.

Matt Moore is no longer useful in fantasy, unfortunately. He seems broken. Don't forget about Alex Cobb, who should be returning from Tommy John surgery this summer and was a clear #2 starter before going down. He is a good DL stash for that upside.

Nate Karns is now in Seattle and was, and still remains, a decent last round pitcher. I think he has a little strikeout upside left because scouts said he should be able to put up good K% and he was only average in 2015. He's still in a good pitcher's park, too. I don't think there is much upside left, so a repeat of a 3.7 ERA would be pretty good.

Erasmo Ramirez is a little better than Karns. He has more swinging strikes, more ground balls, and a much better FIP and WHIP. I see him being another guy like Odorizzi that is reliable and unexciting, but can give you quality starts and eat up innings.

In the bullpen, it's unclear who will be the closer. Jake McGee spent most of the year recovering from injury but looked like his old self. Meanwhile, Brad Boxberger regressed after his excellent 2014. I've been a fan of Boxberger, or as my co-worker calls him "Crave Case" (something about White Castle and a box of small burgers), but I think he will end up in the 7th inning, since his skills regressed across the board. McGee has earned back his closer job, in my opinion, and Xavier Cedeno looked like the clear second-best pitcher in the bullpen. Alex Colome is also in the mix, since he looked good in a relief role. This is a bullpen with lots of good options and lots of juicy strikeouts.

Blake Snell is the pitching prospect to watch out for. He dominated the minors in 2015 and looks ready for his debut in 2016. He's the #5 LHP on some prospect lists and doesn't have a hard fastball, but has good movement and control. To me, he's in the group of young lefty starters with good upside without hard fastballs including Daniel Norris and Henry Owens. I think he has about the same potential as those two. He could be up early in the season if there are injuries to one or two starters. He struck out 1/3 of AAA hitters he faced! He's a sneaky pickup for a young starter with some upside that might not be on everyone's radars.

Breakout

Steven Souza

I don't think we've seen the best out of him yet. He has the potential, if healthy, for a 20/20 season with a decent OBP. Even with a 0.230 average, that's very good. And, as I said above, I'm a big fan. Richie Shaffer and Blake Snell get honorable mention here as young guys that could surprise if given playing time.

Breakdown

Brad Boxberger

Anyone expecting him to remain a solid, secure closer in 2016 will likely be disappointed. I think McGee takes his job and relegates him to a lesser role. Also, the skills decline could continue and result in him being useless in fantasy, even for holds. Mikie Mahtook gets honorable mention since his power will fall off and make him just another fourth OF.

Check back soon for the next team preview as we keep moving up the standings. Tschus!