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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Tampa Bay Rays

Senior Fantasy Writer
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With their usual combination of pitching and pixie dust, the Rays weaseled their way into the playoffs for the fourth time in six years in 2013.

They got a boost midseason with the promotion of Wil Myers, the hotly anticipated prospect who Fantasy owners had stashed on their benches since the outset of the season. In a rare example of the production meeting the hype, the 22-year-old hit .293 with 13 homers and an .831 OPS in 335 at-bats, giving the Rays another middle-of-the-order bat to go along with Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist.

Though the parts around them continually change, the Rays opted for continuity this offseason by bringing back first baseman James Loney, the prime beneficiary of their pixie dust last season. Though his lack of home run power buries him in the rankings, his high-contact bat could make him a sneaky source of RBI if he's the one batting behind Zobrist, Longoria and Myers. Outfielders Matt Joyce and David DeJesus are similarly flawed players who seem to have stretches of Fantasy relevance every year but won't generate much interest on Draft Day.

2014 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

If the Rays have one hitter with the skills and role to improve his standing in Fantasy, it's Desmond Jennings, the fourth-year center fielder whose career so far has been defined by injuries and inconsistency. He finished 2013 on a high note, hitting .288 with three homers, two steals, a .404 on-base percentage and a .925 OPS in 73 September at-bats and is still just beginning his prime at age 27, so you never know. He's shown the potential for more in the past, though, only to revert to being the same .250-hitting, 15-homer, 25-steal, middle-round type as always.

Ultimately, the pitching staff will have the greatest say in the team's success, and for now at least, it still has its ace in David Price, who figures to remain on the market during his second-to-last-year of team control. The Rays showed last year they could survive without workhorse James Shields, developing Alex Cobb into a top-of-the-rotation type. Maybe Matt Moore gets his lights-out stuff under control in 2014, easing Price's potential departure. First-in-line Jake Odorizzi profiles as more of a middle-of-the-rotation option, but Chris Archer, who the Rays broke in last year, offers nothing but upside. Jeremy Hellickson has potential as well but has slumped his way out of mixed-league consideration for now.

The Rays have become renowned for manufacturing closers and looked like they may go that route again before signing Grant Balfour late in the winter. He thrived in the role for Oakland the last couple years and should continue to pile up saves for a team built for low-scoring games, especially with Joel Peralta and Jake McGee setting him up.

Breakout ... Wil Myers, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. David DeJesus LF
2. Ben Zobrist 2B
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Wil Myers RF
5. James Loney 1B
6. Desmond Jennings CF
7. Matt Joyce DH
8. Yunel Escobar SS
9. Ryan Hanigan C
Bench Logan Forsythe IF/OF
Bench Sean Rodriguez IF/OF
If Jason Heyward, Eric Hosmer, Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Rizzo have taught us anything in recent years, it's that the best rookies don't necessarily make the best sophomores. So why call Myers a breakout here? Because more than prognostication, Fantasy Baseball is a game of perception, and if early returns are any indication, nobody's counting their chickens before they hatch with him. Domonic Brown and Heyward are just two of the outfielders going ahead of him in standard Head-to-Head leagues. Brown's breakout last year was really just one month when seemingly everything he hit went out of the park. Heyward has had so many ups and downs already that nobody really knows what to expect from him. That's not to say I'm down on either player -- both I think have elite potential in Fantasy -- but if Myers is going even later than them, the risk is already accounted for. And the reward? The last hitter the Rays brought up with as much talent as Myers was Longoria, and he's been no worse than a second-rounder ever since.

Buyer beware ... Ben Zobrist, second base/shortstop/outfield

Based on nothing more than where he finished among shortstops, you might assume Zobrist was as good as ever in 2013. But tying with Elvis Andrus for the top spot at the position (at least in Head-to-Head leagues) had more to do with what happened to everyone else there than how Zobrist himself performed. Unlike Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, Everth Cabrera, Jean Segura and anyone else who might have bumped him down a peg, Zobrist managed to stay healthy and was steady from start to finish, but his home runs and stolen bases were his fewest since he first broke through as a Fantasy mainstay in 2009. OK, so he technically had fewer homers in 2010, but only because a neck injury destroyed his numbers in the second half that year. Nothing was physically wrong with Zobrist in 2013. He just wasn't as good. And this year he turns 33, an especially advanced age for a player who spends most of his time up the middle. Zobrist's superior plate discipline should help soften the blow in Head-to-Head leagues, but he only goes down from here.

Sleeper ... Chris Archer, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. David Price LHP
2. Alex Cobb RHP
3. Matt Moore LHP
4. Chris Archer RHP
5. Jeremy Hellickson RHP
ALT Jake Odorizzi RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Grant Balfour RHP
2. Joel Peralta RHP
3. Jake McGee LHP
4. Heath Bell RHP
5. Juan Carlos Oviedo RHP
With seemingly more than enough starting pitchers to go around in standard mixed leagues, Archer could get lost in the shuffle in yours. He may not have quite the pedigree of Zack Wheeler, but he had the more impressive rookie campaign of the two. As if the season-long numbers weren't impressive enough, he compiled a 2.84 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings over his final 16 starts. Yeah, the strikeout rate left something to be desired, but of greater note, he overcame the control issues that held him back in the minors, issuing more than two walks in only two of those 16 starts. With an average fastball velocity that would have ranked third, behind only Matt Harvey and Stephen Strasburg, if he had the innings to qualify, Archer clearly has the stuff for more strikeouts once he learns to make better use of his arsenal. Will he make that leap this year? Hard to say. But even just sticking to the status quo, he's a top 40 starting pitcher with a top 80 price tag.

Prospects Report

In addition to Odorizzi, the Rays could turn to Alex Colome, Enny Romero or Mike Montgomery in the starting rotation should a need rise midseason. All three have their warts, but all three are good enough to hold down a rotation spot someday, whether for the Rays or someone else. Colome is probably first in line, with Romero offering the most promise, but don't overlook Montgomery because of his numbers. The former top prospect in the Royals system showed signs of overcoming his control issues in the Arizona Fall League ... Hak-Ju Lee might already be pushing Yunel Escobar if he hadn't torn up his knee last April, costing him the rest of the season. Speed is an important element of his game, but if he's able to regain it, he has the potential to become a Shane Victorino of the middle infield, piling up extra-base hits and stolen bases. He could get his first taste of the majors in the second half ... Taylor Guerrieri offers top-of-the-rotation potential but has had trouble keeping clean, testing positive for a drug of abuse in September, and is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. Think high-risk, high-reward for this 21-year-old.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts out of the lineup Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:04 pm ET) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is out of the starting lineup Tuesday against the Rays, the team announced. Bogaerts started the last four games for Boston, but will get the day off Tuesday, giving Brock Holt the start at short.

Holt is hitting .462 with five RBI in 26 at-bats this season.


Tigers' Joe Nathan to make rehab appearance Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4:02 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Joe Nathan will make a rehab appearance with Triple-A Toledo Wednesday after playing catch Tuesday, MLB.com reports.

If all goes well with Wednesday's appearance, Nathan says he could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday. The pitcher was able to throw his second bullpen session Monday without issue. He's on the disabled list with a right elbow flexor strain.

Manager Brad Ausmus said recently he won't decide what to do with the closer role until Nathan is healthy enough to return from the disabled list.


Rays reliever Jake McGee has rehab stint pushed back
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) The rehab assignment at Triple-A Durham has been delayed for Rays reliever Jake McGee, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

McGee is reporting that his elbow is fine, but that his overall body stiffness from an extended spring training stint is preventing him from starting the assignment.

The left-hander had been considered a viable closer candidate coming into the season. He saved 19 games and compiled a 1.89 ERA a year ago.


Orioles outfielder Delmon Young with good matchup Tuesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:55 pm ET) Orioles outfielder Delmon Young has a solid track record against starting pitcher Mark Buerhle. Young has a career .396/.429/.660 slash line in 53 at-bats against Buerhle, who starts Tuesday for Toronto.

Young will bat fifth Tuesday for Baltimore.


Rays' Alex Cobb hopes to throw bullpen later this week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:54 pm ET) Rays pitcher Alex Cobb will play catch Tuesday and Wednesday, and he hopes to throw a bullpen session by the end of the week, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Cobb has remained limited to playing catch while working his way back from forearm tendinitis. As he'll likely need to go on a rehab assignment before being cleared for a return, it's likely he doesn't make his season debut until May.


Rays first baseman James Loney hopes to rejoin team this weekend
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:53 pm ET) Rays first baseman James Loney is very close to a return to the majors, according to the Tampa Tribune. Loney is expecting to play in one minor league game this week and rejoin the Rays this weekend. 

Loney, who is currently on the 15-day DL with an oblique injury, has been out since the first game of the season with the injury.


Blue Jays' Jose Reyes leading off Tuesday, Devon Travis out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:51 pm ET) Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes is batting leadoff in Tuesday's matchup against the Orioles, while second baseman Devon Travis is out of the lineup.

Reyes was diagnosed with a small rib fracture last week after feeling a jolt of pain during an at-bat Thursday. He was ruled out through the weekend but is able to return to action Tuesday.

Travis left Sunday's game after getting hit with a pitch. He escaped serious injury after the team announced he was not dealing with a rib fracture, but he'll take a seat Tuesday. He said that the rib is bruised and sore, but he's not dealing with a pulled muscle or anything more serious, the Toronto Star reports. Ryan Goins will draw the start at second base.

The Blue Jays are favorites (-121) against the Orioles Tuesday.


Reds C Mesoraco unexpectedly sidelined again Tuesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:49 pm ET) It was anticipated that Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip) would be back in the lineup Tuesday in Milwaukee, but he remains out. Mesoraco is not only dealing with the ailment, but had been away from the team on personal business.

Injuries have prevented Mesoraco from playing much this season. And when he has played he hasn't hit - he has just two hits in 21 at-bats.


Rays' Jeff Beliveau has shoulder impingement
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3:45 pm ET) Rays pitcher Jeff Beliveau said Tuesday that he has an impingement in his left shoulder, the Tampa Tribune reports.

Beliveau underwent an MRI Saturday, and he's scheduled to undergo more testing Wednesday. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday due to shoulder soreness.


Braves' Philip Gosselin gets start at short over Jace Peterson
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:45 pm ET) Braves infielder Philip Gosselin will start at shortstop in Tuesday's game at the Mets, in place of regular starter Jace Peterson. He'll hit eighth in the lineup.

It's just Gosselin's second start at short this season. He's also started one game at third. 

Gosselin is hitting .100 this season, with a stolen base and two RBI. 

The Braves are +135 underdogs at the Mets. 


 
 
 
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