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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Tampa Bay Rays

Senior Fantasy Writer
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During the Rays' metamorphosis from a perennial punch line to the envy of small market clubs everywhere, wherein the names and faces frequently changed to fit the constraints of the payroll, the one constant was James Shields.

But now, he's gone. The trade that sent him to the Royals this offseason, though appropriately lauded for its potential long-term impact, makes the Rays' short-term outlook a little less rosy.

Their pitching staff is still better than most, but making up for Shields' assured 220-plus innings won't be as simple as plugging in a Jeff Niemann or Alex Cobb.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

David Price stepping up to win the Cy Young award last year helps, but then again, he's performed at that level for a good three years now. Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore were both elite pitching prospects coming up through the minors but have yet to produce elite numbers so far in the majors. Between them, the brittle-but-effective Niemann, the underappreciated Cobb and up-and-comers Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Colome, the Rays shouldn't have trouble putting together a capable starting five. But as a team that has always relied on a patchwork lineup, they'll need to find that second ace to stay competitive in a division loaded with big bats.

The good news is the onus isn't entirely on the starting rotation. Between Joel Peralta, Jake McGee and closer Fernando Rodney -- he of the 0.60 ERA last year -- the Rays should dominate the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Rodney's unexpected breakthrough at age 35 last year has prompted its share of skeptics, but given his dramatically improved walk rate, it likely wasn't all smoke and mirrors.

And let's not lose sight of the fact that the Rays made their starting lineup somewhat less patchwork in the Shields trade, acquiring a potential cornerstone player in Wil Myers. Between him, star third baseman Evan Longoria and on-base specialist Ben Zobrist, whose versatility often overshadows his production, the Rays have a competent middle of the order -- or will, anyway, once they decide Myers is ready. And if Desmond Jennings stays healthy and takes the expected step forward in his sophomore season, they could have what they always hoped to get from B.J. Upton in center field.

Still, with castoffs like Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, James Loney, Luke Scott, Jose Molina and Ryan Roberts comprising the rest of the lineup, this team's fate ultimate rests with its pitching staff. As usual.

Breakout ... Matt Moore, starting pitcher

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Desmond Jennings CF
2. James Loney 1B
3. Ben Zobrist RF
4. Evan Longoria 3B
5. Matt Joyce LF
6. Yunel Escobar SS
7. Luke Scott DH
8. Jose Molina C
9. Kelly Johnson 2B
Bench Ryan Roberts 2B/3B
Bench Shelley Duncan 1B/OF

Those who bought into Moore last year, when the hype was at its highest, might be reluctant to do so now even though now might actually be the more reasonable time for a breakout. The Moore we saw last year wasn't the same one who dominated over five minor-league seasons. That one's control issues were behind him, which is partly why so many assumed he'd thrive as a rookie. This one issued 4.1 walks per nine innings, seventh-most among qualifying pitchers. How does that happen? One surefire way is by trying to do too much. Moore was at his worst in April, when he might have been trying to justify the hype. Once he settled in, he was a radically improved pitcher, compiling a 2.88 ERA and 3.6 walks per nine innings during a 17-start stretch from May 28 to Aug. 30. Sure, he had a rocky September, but that's not too uncommon for rookie pitchers. It'll make him more affordable on Draft Day. Now that he's had a year to get acclimated, Moore should come closer to maximizing his David Price-like potential.

Sleeper ... Alex Cobb, starting pitcher

Cobb might be the one Ray celebrating the departure of James Shields, and Fantasy owners should be right there with him. How so many of them overlooked that aspect of the deal is a crime against the rankings. Maybe it's because they don't perceive him as having the job yet, but considering he's been the team's go-to sixth man over the last two years, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion. Maybe it's because they see him as a kid still cutting his teeth in the majors, but he made 23 starts last year and lasted seven-plus innings in 11 of them. Maybe it's because they look at his numbers in those 23 starts and think, "Eh, nothing special," but if you remove the two outlier eight-run outings from the equation, he had a 3.22 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 21 starts. So basically, Cobb is further along than most Fantasy owners think and better than most Fantasy owners think. Sounds like exactly what you want in a late-round pick.

Impact prospect ... Wil Myers, outfielder

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. David Price LHP
2. Jeremy Hellickson RHP
3. Matt Moore LHP
4. Alex Cobb RHP
5. Jeff Niemann RHP
ALT Chris Archer RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Fernando Rodney RHP
2. Joel Peralta RHP
3. Jake McGee LHP
4. Kyle Farnsworth RHP
5. Cesar Ramos LHP

Once Mike Trout and Bryce Harper reached the majors in late April, Wil Myers became the talk of the minor leagues. And yet unlike Trout and Harper, he never got a taste of the majors. The Royals had no reason to rush him. They were out of it. The Rays, on the other hand, didn't acquire him to see if he could win the Triple Crown at Triple-A. They have the pitching to win now, but they need bats big time. Not only is Myers arguably the best hitting prospect in baseball, but he's the closest to being major-league ready. He won't have a job at the start of the season -- the Rays all but confirmed that much -- but when they took the same stance with Evan Longoria in 2008, he spent all of a week in the minors. As long as Myers doesn't fall flat on his face at Triple-A Durham, he'll arrive as soon as the Rays realize how desperately they need him. Don't fall for it again. Invest a middle-round pick in Myers, stash him for a month and enjoy.

Prospects Report

Myers is obviously the most notable of the Rays' prospects and, given his proximity to the majors, the one most worthy of drafting in single-season formats, but pitching is the focus of the Rays farm system, as has been the case for several years now. Chris Archer got a chance to showcase his strikeout-per-inning stuff in the majors last year and would likely get the first call if Jeff Niemann or some other member of the starting rotation suffered an injury. He has control issues, but he'll matter in mixed leagues when he arrives. Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi, who came over with Myers from the Royals, are also at the doorstep, but because of all the names ahead of them, you can leave them for AL-only leagues. Of all the Rays' pitching prospects, Taylor Guerrieri has the best chance of becoming a true ace, but he still has a few years of development ahead of him. ... Hak-Ju Lee remains a big part of the Rays' future, but after slumping at Double-A Montgomery last year, the speedy shortstop will have to tear up Triple-A to get a look this year. ... Tim Beckham, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, has crept his way up to Triple-A, but his numbers are still underwhelming. Unless you like prospective utility players, you can leave him be.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
White Sox send reliever Daniel Webb back to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) White Sox reliever Daniel Webb , who was called up Sunday as the 26th man for the team's doubleheader against the Royals, was sent back down to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. 

Webb pitched in 57 games last season for the White Sox but was one of the team's final cuts in spring training. 


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With Jake Lamb on the disabled list with a foot injury, Aaron Hill and Yasmany Tomas have struggled to put it together, combining for a .559 OPS in the last five games.

"Yeah, that's huge," Hale said. "You're going to have injuries all year. There's going to be a multitude of them for every team. If you can't make the adjustment — if guys can't come in and fill the void — then you're going to be in trouble as a club."

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(4/26/2015) Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed seven runs in five innings of work in his third rehab start in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to Philly.com.

Billingsley, who is currently on the 15-day DL with an elbow injury, added three strikeouts and two walks in the appearance. He has yet to appear in a major league game since 2013 while dealing with multiple elbow injuries.


Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez still working out of funk
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(4/26/2015) Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has yet to put things together at the plate so far this season. Gonzalez is hitting just .197 with two home runs in 66 at-bats and it's wearing on him a bit, according to the Denver Post.

"I'm not in a good place. I'm still hitting (.197)," he said. "But I'm happy that I'm healthy, and that I'm playing, and that we are winning. I think we are having a good month so far as a team."

Manager Walt Weiss thinks he's really close to seeing Gonzalez get all the pieces together and go on a run.

"I saw real good signs from CarGo, hitting the ball hard the opposite way," Weiss said. "It wasn't just the couple of hits he got. It was the way he got them. Those are things that he had been working on. Then, to get results like that, is always encouraging."

Report: Josh Hamilton trade expected to be completed Monday
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(4/26/2015) The trade of outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Angels to the Rangers is expected to be completed Monday, with Hamilton then reporting to Texas' spring training site in Arizona to continue his rehab from offseason surgery, per MLB.com. 

The trade was rumored to have been completed Sunday, but complications arose in finalizing the deal. The Rangers are expected to hold a press conference announcing the trade on Monday. Hamilton is expected to play several games in Triple-A before being called up to the Rangers. 


Dodgers' Jimmy Rollins not concerned with early slump at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins isn't worrying just yet about his struggles at the plate, according to the Orange County Register.

"Well, some people like to panic. That has never been my MO," he said. "I have, what, 50, 60 at-bats, I'm not sure. So if these are my worst 50 at-bats this year – I'm glad they're happening now. (If they are his worst at-bats) it’s going to be a very good year."

Rollins is hitting just .186 in 70 at-bats so far this season. He believes he's still been taking good swings at the plate, just not finding the gaps in the defense.

"It's hard to compute if you just look at numbers," he said. "I'm getting myself in good counts, just not finishing it off. I know it's coming. I'm hitting some off the end, some are getting in just a little bit. But the swing path is right. It's just a click here, a click there.

"The process is good. You have to continue to trust in the process and believe in the process. You get oriented in just results – especially at times like this – then you're trying to make all these technical changes and that's when you go from one to two to 100. So the process is right. Executing it is about fine-tuning."


Angels OF Matt Joyce hopes hit signals end of slump
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(4/26/2015) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce saw his eight-game hitless streak come to an end Sunday with an eighth-inning single that ended an 0-for-26 skid. The right fielder, who figures to be a fixture in Los Angeles' lineup with the expected departure of Josh Hamilton, said he hopes the small start will lead to bigger things, according to the Los Angeles Times

"Sometimes it's a tough game," Joyce said. "It seems like you try everything, and you put in so much time and effort and work, it gets to be frustrating. It gets to be hard to swallow and accept it, and hard to keep showing up and grinding it out."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will continue to stick with Joyce, who is hitting just .140 on the season. 


Mets starter Jonathon Niese struggles vs. Yankees
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Mets starter Jonathon Niese was not sharp Sunday in the finale of the Subway Series against the Yankees, lasting just five innings while allowing six runs and eight hits. Niese was betrayed somewhat by his defense, which committed four errors behind him, leading to two unearned runs. 

Niese was spotted a 2-0 first-inning lead, but he quickly gave it back, allowing a first-inning homer to Alex Rodriguez and then giving up four second-inning runs as the Yankees broke the game open. 

Niese, who threw 86 pitches, saw his ERA rise to 2.74 in absorbing his first loss of the season. 


Nationals considering keeping Yunel Escobar at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Nationals manager Matt Williams will have a decision to make when his regular third baseman Anthony Rendon comes back from injury. With Rendon on the shelf, Yunel Escobar has shifted to third and Williams is considering leaving him there even after Rendon returns, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The team is unsure yet what will happen when Rendon returns, but one theory has Escobar staying at third and Rendon shifting to second base, according to Heyman.

Escobar is hitting .292 with five RBI in 65 at-bats while slotted at third base.


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(4/26/2015) Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez went 2 for 4 at the plate in New York's 6-4 win over the Mets Sunday. 

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