Rays: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Preview

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The Rays may have the worst offense in their division. However, there are some fantasy relevant pieces on the team. Where do they rank in 2017?

The final team in the American League East, the Tampa Bay Rays look a little bleak heading into 2017. The team made a couple of moves during the season and one signing this offseason. Though, I don’t expect the team to win more than the 68 games they won last season.

However, there are some players that will be worth drafting in most leagues. They have a top-10 third baseman, a solid shortstop, two starting pitchers looking to bounce back and one more on the rise, and a closer with 35-saves potential.

Luckily, the team didn’t have many players leave for free agency. The top player no longer on the team is Logan Morrison.

Alexei Ramirez and Kevin Jepsen are the other two players that won’t be playing for the Rays in 2017

The one player they signed this offseason is currently injured. If he can return early enough and plays up to his potential, he can finish as a top-10 catcher. Oops, I might have given it away.

The Rays offense needs a boost from last season. They finished 28th in batting average, 24th in runs scored, and 27th in on-base percentage. The offense did finish sixth in home runs, but three other AL East teams finished in the top 10.

I have only two Rays players inside my top 100, but there are some other sleeper picks later in the draft.

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Chris Archer sits atop the Rays starting rotation. He’s been a strikeout machine over his career, but 2016 was a big decline. He made 33 starts but finished with a 9-19 record, 4.02 ERA, and 1.242 WHIP.

Archer did have 233 strikeouts, his second-straight season of 230+ strikeouts. He had 67 walks, which is on par with his career average. I labeled him as my 2016 least valuable pitcher and compared him to Shelby Miller. He had the performance, but couldn’t get the wins.

The other pitchers are Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Alex Cobb and then-rookie Blake Snell.

Snell finished with the best ERA, 3.54, in 19 starts. Odorizzi led the team with 10 wins. Smyly had great starts, but couldn’t stretch it out of the whole season.

Archer ranks as my No. 15 starting pitcher. I used to wait on starting pitchers, but with the abundance of valuable pitchers, you need to draft hitters early. Archer could be a fourth round pick this season.

Smyly comes in at 38 and Odorizzi is 43. They are suitable SP4s in standard leagues. They post some good strikeout totals, but without the wins, there isn’t anything special.

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The Rays bullpen went through some hard times during the 2016 season. The one constant was closer Alex Colome.

He made 57 appearances and recorded 37 saves. He posted a 1.91 ERA, 1.024 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 56.2 innings.

The next man up was Erasmo Ramirez. The starter-turned-reliever posted a 3.77 ERA and 1.279 WHIP in 90.2 innings.

I think he’ll take a back seat this season when Brad Boxberger is healthy. He pitched in just 27 games and had a 4.81 ERA and 1.726 WHIP. He had some control issues, 22 strikeouts to 19 walks in 24.1 innings.

Colome ranks as my No. 14 relief pitcher. Looking at the other names around him, he could move down a few spots. He won’t move outside my top 20. It’s his job to lose.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This infield is a solid group, but has limited fantasy value. Let’s start at catcher.

The Rays signed Wilson Ramos, but he is currently hurt. The projection is to have him playing sometime in the first couple of months. Until then, Curt Casali is starting behind the plate.

Brad Miller was acquired by the Rays last offseason. He spent most of his career as the shortstop for the Seattle Mariners. But, with the trade the Rays made in August, Miller will be playing first base. The benefit is that he will carry the rare first base/shortstop eligibility.

Miller hit 30 home runs, 81 RBI and .243 last season. He is joining a worse offense but the AL East fields are more hitter-friendly. Expect a lot of solo home runs.

Second baseman Logan Forsythe had a good season. He hit 20 home runs and 52 RBI. He slots more as a middle infielder instead of your starting second baseman.

The Rays new shortstop is former San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Duffy. He played in just 91 games last season but hit .310 with five homers and 28 RBI. Duffy will have third base eligibility for 2017. He played in just 18 games at shortstop. Check your league settings.

The top hitter in the Rays lineup is third baseman Evan Longoria. My colleague wrote about him here.

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Unfortunately, there isn’t a single Rays outfielder I like inside my top 60. The three starters are Steven Souza, Kevin Keirmaier and Corey Dickerson.

Keirmaier led the team with 21 steals. Souza had the best average of the three, .247, and Dickerson hit 24 homers, 70 RBI and .245.

While they all have the one thing they’re good at, it isn’t enough to move up in my rankings. This makes them good picks for late in the draft.

It’s no surprise that the Rays need help on offense. This couldn’t be more evident than who is the Rays designated hitter. According to Roster Resource, it’s Nick Franklin. The Rays website has Dickerson as the DH, but he can’t hit in two spots.

Regardless of who the Rays’ DH is, I don’t like him.

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As I mentioned earlier, the Rays may have the worst team in the division. The offense is bleak and the pitching staff as a whole needs a bounce back season. The bullpen may have the best options.

Longoria is a top-10 third baseman with top-five potential. Archer, Smyly and Odorizzi are worth drafting. If the Rays can put up enough runs, Colome should post another 35 saves.

You may be drafting a lot of Rays players in the second half of your draft.