The Rays followed their patented formula in 2012, spending a fraction of what the other teams in their division dish out and winning 90 games for the fourth time in five years. However, this 90-win season didn’t come with a trip to the playoffs this time around, and asking them to win another 90 in 2013 may be a bit much. The Rays parted with quality starter James Shields and offensive mainstay B.J. Upton, as well as solid contributors Jeff Keppinger, Wade Davis and Carlos Pena. New additions James Loney, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar aren’t going to cover the losses, that’s for sure. So how good will the Rays be? It’s anyone’s guess.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Jose Molina||.223||.286||.355||27||8||32||3||274|
|1B James Loney||.249||.293||.336||37||6||41||0||465||w/2TM|
|2B Kelly Johnson||.225||.313||.365||61||16||55||14||581||w/TOR|
|SS Yunel Escobar||.253||.300||.344||58||9||51||5||608||w/TOR|
|3B Evan Longoria||.289||.369||.527||39||17||55||2||312|
|LF Matt Joyce||.241||.341||.429||55||17||59||4||462|
|CF Desmond Jennings||.246||.314||.388||85||13||47||31||563|
|RF Ben Zobrist||.270||.377||.471||88||20||74||14||668|
|DH Luke Scott||.229||.285||.439||35||14||55||5||344|
Unsettled: Designated hitter. For all intents and purposes, Wil Myers is ready to take the league by storm and see what he can do against major-league pitching. And the Rays offense sure looks like it can use his bat in the middle of the lineup. However, Myers will probably start the season in the minors until his service clock has been pushed back a year. When the Rays are ready to bring him up, that’ll either push Kelly Johnson or Yunel Escobar out, with Ben Zobrist moving back to the infield, or more likely move Matt Joyce to DH. Luke Scott certainly isn’t a guy you can count on at this point. The Rays will almost certainly scour the market for value at first base as well.
Target: Evan Longoria. The Rays’ third baseman was excellent in a half-season of work after missing significant time with a hamstring injury. Both his hit rate and contact rate regressed to his norms after a 2011 that saw him put the ball in play much more often but watch an inordinate amount of those same balls turn into outs, and that regression pumped his average back up to solid territory. Only 27 years old, Longoria should be in the mix for the No. 2 player at his position, but a crowded field of contenders could put him on your team at a slight discount.
|David Price (L)||20-5||2.56||1.10||205||59||211.0|
|Jeremy Hellickson (R)||10-11||3.10||1.25||124||59||177.0|
|Matt Moore (L)||11-11||3.81||1.35||175||81||177.1|
|Alex Cobb (R)||11-9||4.03||1.25||106||40||136.1|
|Jeff Niemann (R)||2-3||3.08||1.11||34||12||38.0|
Unsettled: The Rays have a deep stable of pitchers to replace the departed James Shields. The guy expected to settle into the job is Jeff Niemann, who missed much of last season with a broken leg then saw his season ended early by a shoulder problem. He said in December that he was “feeling great,” and there should be minimal worry about his availability to open the season. He had strong strikeout numbers in the back in the mid-2000s but has been pretty mediocre at punching out batters, last year’s eight-game sample notwithstanding. If he can’t hack it in the rotation, the Rays could always turn to Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alexander Colome, Mike Montogomery, Alex Torres, you, me and about 17 other guys that would probably have at least a solid year in Tampa.
Target: Matt Moore. David Price’s price will be high in drafts and auctions, and he should be worth every penny of it. But for value players, Moore will be the smart pick several rounds or dollars later. Moore was a strikeout king in the minors, posting at least a 11.5 K/9 at every stop. He struggled with walks early on, but even his walk rate fell in 2010 and 2011. Even though everything looked like it was coming together last year, he still had a pretty mediocre first season at the major-league level. However, the lefty has the talent to again make strides and lower his walk rate (4.1 BB/9 in 2012). He has the upside to lead the league in Ks, and if everything comes together for the 23-year-old, he’ll be an ace-level starter in fantasy leagues, like his celebrated teammate.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Fernando Rodney (R)||48||0.60||0.78||76||15||74.2|
|Joel Peralta (R)||2||3.63||0.99||84||17||67.0|
|Jake McGee (L)||0||1.95||0.80||73||11||55.1|
Chasing Saves: Fernando Rodney foreshadowed his 2012 breakout, in which he posted the lowest ERA in history — by walking more batter than he struck out over 32 innings with the Angels in 2011. So, for those looking for the next Fernando Rodney, how on earth would you be able to tell when you saw him? He’s supported by two excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. Best bullpen threesome in baseball last year? Joe Maddon would likely play matchups with the two eighth-inning guys should injury or reality befall Rodney this season.
The Rays have remained competitive for five years despite limited budgets thanks to brilliant front-office play, an excellent manager and all the other components that go into team building, if not fantasy baseball. However, it’s hard to think they have a winner here. Startable fantasy batters include Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and maybe Desmond Jennings, depending on your format. David Price and Matt Moore are nice rotation pieces, while the other projected starters may have strikeout issues. Can Fernando Rodney do it again? Lots of questions need to be answered for the Rays to remain competitive in 2013.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Toronto Blue Jays.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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