Yoshitomo Tsutsugo: Late-Round Fantasy Sleeper on the Tampa Bay Rays
By Seth Carter
The Tampa Bay Rays may be a good source for finding fantasy sleepers in 2020. Today we look at Tsutsugo’s role and what kind of value he may present.
The Tampa Bay Rays went shopping overseas in their attempt to improve their offense over last year. They came back with one of the most prolific sluggers in Japan over the past few seasons.
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has averaged 35 home runs per season over the past four years. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter proved himself as one of Nippon Professional Baseball’s top sluggers with a career .382 OBP and a homer every 13.89 at-bats over the past four seasons.
The big hesitation for fantasy players is playing time. The Rays are notorious for platooning players and exploiting matchups. Additionally, it’s unclear if there’s room for Yoshi to claim a role as an “everyday player.”
This spring has given us a glimpse of what the Rays are considering. Tsutsugo has seen a lot of time toward the front and middle of the lineup and is getting work at left field, DH, and third base. They don’t think he’s going to be any worse than Yandy Diaz defensively. If that holds true then he could make up the better part (left-handed) of a platoon with Yandy Diaz at third.
Yandy, Nate Lowe, and Tsutsugo are the biggest names in competition for time at third. Nate Lowe dropped 20 pounds this offseason to assist him in the field.
In the outfield the Rays have Austin Meadows locked in as an everyday player. Kevin Kiermaier should be manning center most days with Manuel Margot giving him a break, likely when facing left-handed pitching. Hunter Renfroe is an excellent defender but may be a candidate to take a seat against right-handed pitching. Renfroe has a career slash against righties of .221/.271/.459.
Between DH, third base, and the outfield, there appears to be plenty of opportunities for the Rays to plug Tsutsugo into the lineup on a regular basis, as long as his bat warrants it.
So far this spring he is slashing .294/.400/.529 with one homer in 20 plate appearances. That’s a .929 slugging percentage. It’s a good sign that he’s been able to handle major league pitching, albeit in a small sample size.
Tsutsugo has real power and a good approach at the plate. He can take a walk or drive it the other way with force. He has an awfully sweet swing to have an average draft position of 333rd.
There are a lot of unknowns with Tsutsugo heading into the season, but he’s either going at the end of drafts or not going at all. Hitting the jackpot on guys at the end of the draft can be the key to a strong season. The former Japanese star is one to keep your eye on in the draft room.