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Tampa Bay Rays 2018 Recap
Through all the rumors over the years of Tampa Bay being shifted to the National League, 2018 might have been the year it could have mattered most. The Rays have historically played a small-ball mentality, using pitching and defense to win games. They rode tremendous pitching to the 2008 World Series, and it earned them a very respectable 90 wins 10 years later.
Problem in 2018 was the fact that two of those notorious big-market teams in their own division won 100 or more games. Tampa Bay actually finished seven full games behind Oakland for the second wildcard spot.
In the NL, usually play more conducive to the Ray's style of baseball; they would have gone down to the final day. Their 90 victories were only one shy of the second wildcard team in the NL, the Colorado Rockies. However, the under the current framework of baseball's divisions, 90 wins was only good enough for a tip of the hat and good show accolades.
Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Fantasy Projections – The Ray's Light is Bright on Pitching
Small market professional baseball teams often struggle to compete with the balance of power that rests with the more lucrative markets. The financial landscape of Major League Baseball bleeds down into fantasy baseball strategies as well.
Even when the Tampa Bay Rays were a playoff contender, their roster wasn't full of fantasy relevant stars. Serviceable second tier players yes, but no single player who was a top-10 must-own fantasy star. However, pitching in Tampa Bay was another story and still is heading into the 2019 season.
2019 Fantasy Pitchers Projections – The Best Rays Pitchers
What 2018 did reveal, is that Tampa Bay continues to farm up impressive pitchers. They have always been a defense-minded organization, and nothing has changed in the last decade since they came within an eyelash of winning a world crown.
Head coach Kevin Cash, a former defensive specialist as a catcher, continues the defense first mindset in Tampa. Because of this, any of the Rays top starters are usually viable assets in fantasy baseball. This season they have three, one a Cy Young winner and proven ace, one shifting via free agency and one from a budget-conscious mid-season trade.
Blake Snell SP – When you win the Cy Young award, you're instantly a fantasy baseball must own. Snell gravitates to the top-tier of pitchers because of his obviously nasty stuff, but also the realization he plays for a defense-minded baseball team. The pitchers friend, home field advantage at Tropicana Field, shouldn't be forgotten either. The Rays tied for the third best home record in baseball, behind both of their AL East, big-market, 100 win rivals.
Charlie Morton SP – Morton won 15 games for a very good team last season. One thing that shouldn't be forgotten; however, is that he won pitching half his 30 starts in a venue far more pleasing to hitters than pitchers. Morton had an ERA just a shade about 3.00, and a fantasy worthy WHIP of 1.18. Nice strikeout numbers makes Morton worthy as a number two fantasy starter, if not a low-end number one because of the Trop factor.
Tyler Glasnow SP – It wouldn't be wise to reserve an early or mid-round draft spot for Glasnow, unless it's a dynasty league. Even under the dynasty keeper format, the jury is still out on Glasnow as a true MLB star. However, if fantasy pitching rotations were drafted based on potential talent, Glasnow would be a top-10 pick. He's a control to contact pitcher who keeps the ball down, a great asset taking the mound for half his starts at Tropicana Field. Glasnow also has a serviceable strikeout to walk ratio. A fantasy staff could do a lot worse with a lower rotation starter, but the potential for stardom cannot be ignored.
2019 Fantasy Hitter Projections – The Best Bats on Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay's 2019 hopes are going to rely on strong defense and good pitching. To win anything close to 90 games again, they'll need to find some offense. While it's going to be tough for the Rays to score runs, there are a couple viable hitters to fill in holes in a fantasy batting order.
Tommy Pham OF – The most noteworthy point about Pham is that he'll hit cleanup. In his 39 games with the Rays in 2018, he seemed to become the hitter the St. Louis Cardinals envisioned he would be. Certainly to remain fantasy worthy, Pham will have to hit closer to his .343 average in Tampa than his .248 numbers as a Cardinal.
Joey Wendle 2B – Wendle's fantasy stock gets a boost from being a middle infielder, a notoriously weak spot in fantasy baseball. It also gets a boost from his out-of-nowhere jump to prominence in 2018. Wendle hits okay, steals a few bases, but most of all, plays every day. He's set to hit fifth behind Pham, which could be a positive as well in the RBI department.
Fantasy Rank Team
The Cy Young award winner brings any pitching staff to the forefront of a fantasy baseball conversation. With a 81 games in a park leaning towards pitcher-friendly, plus an organizational focus on good defense, it boosts the Ray's stock of pitchers.
Hitting is another question in Tampa, and unless newcomers like Yandy Diaz and Austin Meadows play above their potential, no bat in the Tampa lineup other than Pham is a must-own fantasy hitter.
The Bottom Line in Tampa Bay
Playing in the same division as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees is a tough assignment when you're a team full of stars. Just ask the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. Tampa Bay has a nice looking team that plays sound defensively and sends out strong pitchers every day.
However, with the top six to eight teams in the American League either staying strong or getting stronger, it may be tough for the Rays to match their 90-win, 2018 performance. Still looking for the right pieces of a rebuild, anything around .500 at the end of the season should be deemed a successful 2019.