Tampa Bay Rays 2015 Team Preview

Tampa Bay Rays 2015 Team Preview

A closer look at the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays.

Tyler Polhill

After parting ways with James Shields a few years back, David Price in 2014 and now trading Wil Myers this off-season, it looks as if the Rays are going through a rebuilding phase.  After a disappointing 2014 season, Tampa will have to continue forward without beloved manager Joe Maddon as well.  With a new stud outfield prospect Steven Souza to take the underperforming Wil Myers place, the Rays will begin a search for a new identity in 2015.

Here are some of the bigger additions and subtractions they made this off-season...

Notable Additions...

  • Steven Souza
  • Rene Rivera
  • Kevin Jepsen
  • Ernesto Frieri
  • Asdrubal Cabrera
  • John Jaso
  • Juan Francisco
  • Allan Dykstra
  • Daniel Robertson
  • Corey Brown
  • Jose Dominguez

Notable Subtractions...

  • Wil Myers
  • Ben Zobrist
  • Yunel Escobar
  • Matt Joyce
  • Sean Rodriguez
  • Jeremy Hellickson
  • Joel Peralta
  • Ryan Hanigan
  • Cesar Ramos

Biggest Weakness - Offense

The Rays have one name that makes pitchers a little bit scared in Evan Longoria, but after that, they don't have many proven hitters on this team.  Desmond Jennings is a legitimate leadoff hitter, but he doesn't make teams scared to pitch to him.  Souza is a studly prospect, but he still hasn't proven himself at the big league level year.  James Loney always hits for a high average which is nice, but he leaves a lot to be desired in the power category, especially for a clean up hitter.  I expect this offense to struggle to score runs in 2015.

Biggest Strength - Strong, Young Pitching Rotation...

This pitching rotation is pretty loaded when you look at it top to bottom even without their ace in Matt Moore who will still be recovering from Tommy John to start this regular season.  Nobody other than maybe Alex Cobb looks like they will be a true #1 pitcher, but everyone on the list will likely produce like #2 or #3 pitchers.  This is true even for a few guys who are probably going to start the season in the minors.  The Rays have always had great pitching depth on their big league roster and in the minors and that remains to be true today.  People freak out because Tampa has traded guys like James Shields and David Price in recent years, but it's because they know they have plenty of guys who are ready to step up year after year.  This system knows how to produce legitimate pitchers and I expect some of the young guys, like Alex Colome, to prove that this is one of the best pitched systems in the game yet again.

Something To Keep An Eye On...

Steven Souza is someone who I thought was going to make a big impact in the MLB last season with the Nationals.  Since the outfield at the MLB level was so crowded in Washington he didn't get the chance and he had to settle for the Minor League Baseball MVP.  It looks like Souza will get a full seasons worth of playing time in 2015 and he has a legitimate chance to be one of the best players for Tampa Bay this season.  He is a very well rounded player who plays great defense, runs well and has above average raw power as well.  If his minor league numbers amount to MLB production, we could be comparing him to Jacoby Ellsbury come next year. 

Potential Lineup * = Lefty hitter, ^ = Switch hitter

1. Desmond Jennings - CF

2. John Jaso - DH*

3. Evan Longoria - 3B

4. James Loney - 1B*

5. Steven Souza - LF

6. Asdrubal Cabrera - SS^

7. Kevin Kiermaier - RF*

8. Nick Franklin - 2B^

9. Rene Rivera - C

Potential Bench

Logan Forsythe

Brandon Guyer

Juan Francisco*

David Dejesus*

Potential Rotation... * = Lefty

Alex Cobb

Drew Smyly*

Chris Archer

Jake Odorizzi

Alex Colome

Potential Bullpen

Closer - Brad Boxberger

Kevin Jepsen

Grant Balfour

Jeff Beliveau*

Ernesto Frieri

Steven Geltz

Injured To Start The Season...

Matt Moore*

Jake McGee*

Fantasy Bargain - Steven Souza

Souza was the runner up for the minor league player of the year behind Kris Bryant last year and for very good reason.  On top of being a very good defensive player, Souza put up 18 homers with 28 steals to go along with an OPS over 1.000.  These are not the types of offensive numbers you can pass up on draft day.  If he regresses significantly while playing in the MLB, there is no reason you shouldn't still expect a mid 800 OPS with the ability to steal bases.  Souza will have his rookie year while hitting somewhere in the heart of the Rays order and he has all the tools. He is falling very late in drafts and could possibly turn your team around if you are the lucky one to snag him.  He shouldn't make it much farther than the 120th overall pick.

Overvalued Fantasy Player - Evan Longoria

This is a stretch to call him overvalued in fantasy. This writer is by no means saying you shouldn't draft Longo.  Actually, there are a ton of undervalued guys on this team and yours truly had to pick someone who will definitely be taken highly in drafts to put in this category.  Evan Longoria should have another great year, but the reason he makes this spot in my list is because I think the total offense of the Rays will be down this year.  If the whole team has a down year offensively, the superstar in the middle of the lineup might get his stats hurt the most.  You should still take Longoria somewhere around 50th overall and he should definitely be a top 5 fantasy 3rd baseman.

Conclusion/Season Prediction...

This team isn't quite built to win right now, but they do not look bad at all and they will only get a boost once Matt Moore and Jake McGee come back from injury mid season.  Plenty of great young pitching should make them competitive, but offense will likely leave something to be desired, especially in the power category.  On top of that, this team isn't built to endure many injuries.  There is some depth in the middle infield and in the outfield, but not much in corner infield and catcher positions.  It will be interesting to see how this group of talented young starting pitchers respond to catchers who are brand new to the organization after having seasoned veterans Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina for so long.  Also, it does seem like the Shields for Myers trade was a loss for the Rays at this point in time, but the David Price trade could still easily be a win for Tampa depending on if Drew Smyly decides to step up and be the new ace of this rotation.  

This writer predicts that the Rays finish 5th in the AL East with a win total in the low 70's and miss the playoffs in 2015 but continue to lower the average age on the team in anticipation of a bright future.

I interviewed Rays fan Austin Burnett @Austin__Burnett about the Rays... See what he had to say HERE

Follow me on Twitter -> @TWPolhill