First year players for the Tampa Bay Rays are flying under the radar in Fantasy Baseball. Which players will have the most value as the season moves into the second half?
For the true Tampa Bay Rays fan, this season is becoming fun to watch. Who wouldn’t be excited about the number of rookies that are coming onto the scene in Tampa Bay? First year players are taking over the roster. And, while the casual fan just shrugs his or her shoulders and says “here we go again”, us loyalists are enjoying every bit of it.
Not surprising, the Tampa Bay Rays have played more rookies so far this season than any other team in baseball. This was expected. With the Durham Bulls coming off the 2017 Triple-A championship, the Rays seemingly had a cupboard stocked with players ready to make an impact. What is catching some off-guard is the fact that these players are stepping right in at the big league level ready to contribute.
Who are these guys?
First, I’ll admit, unless you own a team in a legacy league, Rays rookies are not drawing a heap of attention. Overall, Blake Snell and Wilson Ramos might be the only two Rays players gaining universal interest in the fantasy world. Using Yahoo! Fantasy Sports as my guide, only Willy Adames has even hit double-digit interest in fantasy baseball right at 10% ownership. Entering the season, he is the biggest named prospect that the Rays have. After being acquired in the deal with Detroit for David Price, the Rays had to be patient as the 22-year old shortstop made his way through the system. Early indications are that he should be a good one, both on the field and in fantasy.
Offensively, right behind Adames would be first baseman Jake Bauers. After a stinker last night where he went 0-4 with three strikeouts, Bauers is slashing .276/.364/.483. Not too bad, in terms of a players first handful of at bats in the big leagues. And, he has hit the ball hard most of the time. Yet, only 6% of fantasy owners have been ready to take a chance on the rookie. I might be nuts, but I’m looking for Bauers to take off on a Gleyber Torres-like streak where he hits a bunch of home runs in a 10-15 game stretch and everyone will be wishing they had grabbed him sooner.
A few weeks ago, the Rays surprised no one and traded closer Alex Colome. Of course, that left the question as to who would take over the back-end of the bullpen. Initially, I was all over Jose Alvarado and his 100 mph fastball. But, the lefty, he seems better fitted for situational situations rather than holding him for a ninth inning role only. So, my opinion, and subsequent roster shift, was to grab another hard thrower in Diego Castillo. I fully expect him to quietly move into the closer role and put up decent save numbers through the second half of the season.
There are plenty more Rays rookies putting up competitive first seasons. How can you argue against a stash on lefty Ryan Yarbrough? Eventually, the Rays will recognize that he is a starting pitcher and place him in the rotation instead of using him as the guy who follows the opener. His 3.90 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are impressive and numbers any fantasy owner would consider.
Joey Wendle is hitting .272 with six stolen bases. He’s owned by 2% of fantasy baseball. That makes sense right now, but still not a bad start. Christian Arroyo, the prize of the Evan Longoria trade, shows a lot of promise but will have a hard time getting on the field every day. Right now, he seems suited for a utility role and a platoon with Wendle. Johnny Field is a fourth outfielder right now, so he doesn’t generate enough statistics just yet as well.
For me, the fantasy three to keep an eye on are the obvious ones. Adames, Bauers and Castillo are the players that I think will have the most impact during the rest of the season. Bauers will produce better than expected home run numbers going forward while Castillo will begin racking up saves at a steady clip very soon. I’ve grabbed both in my AL keeper, so I’m all set.