Tampa Bay Rays 2016 Team Preview

The Tampa Bay Rays are beginning to give off a vibe that they are the type of team who likes to stay in the middle of the pack. Every year they seem to make a few moves here and there, but they haven't seemed to fully buy in and try to win or tear their team down either. With only a couple of somewhat horizontal moves this off-season to acquire guys like Corey Dickerson and Brad Miller, this feels like it will be yet another one of those seasons in 2016 for Tampa. 

Listen to Tyler talk to Austin Burnett about the Rays

Key Additions

Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Danny Farquhar, Steve Pearce, Hank Conger, Chase Whitley, Kevin Padlo, Adam Wilk, Eddie Gamboa, Dana Eveland, Justin Marks, Tyler Sturdevant, Adam Kolarek

Key Subtractions

Nate Karns, Jake McGee, Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Joey Butler, Daniel Nava, JP Arencibia, CJ Riefenhauser, Boog Powell, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Gomes, Kirby Yates, German Marquez

Biggest Strength - Starting Pitching Depth... Many pitching prospects to look forward to.

The Rays always seem to be one of the best organizations at developing starting pitching and that is still the case heading into 2016. Most of the pitching staff used at the big league level has been at least mostly developed by the Rays system, and they look like they've got some potential aces spring loaded and waiting to get unleashed from the minors. Tampa has great, young options ranging from Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly at the top to Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Moore at the bottom. If anyone falters, look for Blake Snell to grab a spot sooner rather than later this season.

Biggest Weakness - Offense

When the Rays decided to part ways with one of their best relievers in Jake McGee to acquire Corey Dickerson, they did so because they knew that offense would be the hardest thing for them to produce this season. Now the newly acquired Dickerson could find himself in a situation where he is the biggest offensive threat on the whole team. The team also picked up other bats in exchange for arms with the acquisitions of Logan Morrison and Brad Miller from the Mariners early in the offseason. Even with all these moves, plus the move to pull in free agent Steve Pearce, it won't be enough for this lineup to be considered average. This team is in serious need of a scary presence in the middle of their lineup, the problem is that they can only consistently develop pitchers and have trouble when it comes to creating offense in house.

Something to keep an eye on - Blake Snell

Don't forget his name, this is a big time stud. Snell broke out last season when he put together a 49 inning scoreless streak in the minors to begin the season. Even after the streak was broken, Snell put up possibly the best pitching season in the minor leagues last year and finished the year almost as strong as he started it. By seasons end, he finished with a sub 1.50 ERA and struck guys out at a rate of 11 per 9 innings. Tampa Bay is in a good situation with their pitching depth, so they have no reason to rush him to the big leagues, but when he comes up, there will be many expecting big things from him.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Projected Lineup… Lefties*… Switch Hitters^

  1. Kevin Kiermaier* - CF
  2. Logan Forsythe - 2B
  3. Evan Longoria - 3B
  4. Corey Dickerson* - DH
  5. Steve Pearce - RF
  6. Logan Morrison* - 1B
  7. Curt Casali - C
  8. Brad Miller* - SS
  9. Desmond Jennings - LF

Projected Bench

James Loney

Hank Conger

Tim Beckham

Brandon Guyer

Projected Rotation… Lefties*

  1. Chris Archer
  2. Jake Odorizzi
  3. Drew Smyly*
  4. Erasmo Ramirez
  5. Matt Moore*

Projected Bullpen

Brad Boxberger - Closer

Alex Colome

Danny Farquhar

Xavier Cedeno*

Steven Geltz

Ryan Webb

Enny Romero*

Fantasy Bargain - Drew Smyly

Smyly has been on the precipice of making a large fantasy impact for many seasons now only to be cut short by injury issues. Same situation yet again heading into 2016. If Drew can stay healthy, he should be a very reliable option with a great strikeout rate. If you can take the injury risk, he is a great late pick up in drafts.

Overrated Fantasy Option - Evan Longoria

Longoria is a good player, but the fact that he has no lineup protections hurts him a lot numbers wise. While he is still probably a top 10 third baseman, people still reach for him in fantasy drafts because he's a face of the franchise type of guy. Understand what your drafting and why. Evan is probably good for 20-25 homers and a below average on base percentage around .320. Overall that's an average to above average fantasy player, so don't go drafting him with the stars of the league.

Conclusion/Season Prediction

As stated before, this team is probably still middle of the road and they haven't done anything that would make anyone think that would change very much. The additions of Dickerson, Morrison, Pearce, Miller and Farquhar aren't completely inconsequential, but they aren't moves that are much of a game changer either.  The Rays should finish right around where they were last year with 78-80 wins.