The Tampa Bay Rays, and in particular General manager Eric Neander, have done a great job in acquiring and developing talent. Given their financial constraints, they have had to find ways to get creative in how they construct their baseball team, from trading players at their peak value like Chris Archer, for whom they acquired stud OF Austin Meadows and flame thrower Tyler Glasnow, to developing players like Blake Snell and signing undervalued players like Charlie Morton. They have continuously used all avenues of acquiring players on the cheap which has set themselves up to be competitive for years to come. Those 4 players are the keys to the Rays success this year, and there is probably no better starting pitcher trio in the Major League than Snell/Glasnow/Morton. However, they have a very balanced lineup that provides power, speed, average, and patience and has a bevy of players that will provide fantasy production for your fantasy teams. This lineup will also be a great contrarian play on DFS sites given their lack of star power on most slate nights.
Austin Meadows, OF, is just a beast. He was drafted out of high school in the first round in 2013, right when I started my stint as an Associate Scout with the Toronto Blue Jays, and I fell in love with this kid’s potential when I watched his tape. At only 24 years old, he is obviously a favorite amongst Dynasty league players, and he is being drafted in season-long fantasy leagues as a top 50 pick. I have been reading that some may be staying away from Meadows with his ADP but I will not be. I would jump all over Meadows in the 4th round. Last year he posted 33 HR with a .380 wOBA/.270 ISO/4 WAR. Don’t hesitate to trust his level of production from last season and he will have steady ownership in DFS almost nightly depending on the matchup. He is a fantasy and DFS stud.
Aside from Meadows, there is no Rays hitter than needs to be considered in the early rounds. However, there are plenty of support cast players for your teams in the middle to late rounds. Brandon Lowe, 2B, is certainly a streaky player, and I personally am not going to relying on him to fill my starting 2B hole, but he did truly put on an impressive display of power last year hitting 17 dingers in 354 AB’s with a .354 wOBA/.243 ISO. I would be more than happy to fill a UTL hole with him being taken in the 17th-19th rounds. The real worrisome thing about Lowe is his strikeouts for which he had a massive 34.6% K-rate. Outside of that, he provides you with pop and RBI opportunities at a position that lacks those skill sets generally and he has a lot of upsides especially If he hits in the middle of the order. Yandy Diaz, 1B/3B, is another interesting Rays bitter, who could be incredibly productive in this lineup if he avoids injuries. Last year he took the majority of his AB’s in the 1 and 4 holes. Given his ADP of 256, he could have significant value. He will rack up hits, walks, RBI’s, runs, and XBH for your team especially if he continues to see time in those spots in the lineup and gives you some position eligibility/flexibility. Last year in just 354 AB’s, he had 35 XBH with a .341 wOBA/.208 ISO and a solid 10% BB rate. I will evaluate Hunter Renfroe, OF, below but he has an ADP of 236 and will provide some pop in the lineup. Kevin Kiermaier (337 ADP) and Japanese OF Yoshi Tsutsugo (281 ADP) are other Rays that should be considered as well.
As I previously mentioned, there is really no other SP trio in baseball that can hang with Snell/Morton/Glasnow. These three have the potential to be lights out this season and if they make the playoffs they will be a force. They are all very attractive top of the rotation picks in drafts this season with all 3 going in the top 70 picks on average. Charlie Morton, 36 years old, (ADP-50) really took on a new form and turned the corner after a mediocre 4 year run from 2013-2016 as a back of the rotation SP. After joining the Astros in 2017, his K rate exploded from 6+ K/9 to upwards of 10+K/9 and that has continued. This was in most part due to the tweaking of his curveball. He went to have a merely slightly above average CB to having one of the best CB in the game, and that was no different last year as he had a monstrous wCB of 24.8, which was the 1st in the Major Leagues. I am always hesitant to take a 36-year-old SP in the 4th round in any year regardless of who it is, but he has shown no signs of slowing down and will provide a steady consistency throughout the season. He posted a 2.8 FIP/3.28 xFIP with a 4.2 K/BB ratio with 240 K’s. Obviously it depends on the slate in DFS, but don’t shy away from Morton if the price is right vs. tougher matchups. Ownership is key in DFS and taking risks with guys like Morton who provide a high floor and ceiling are always viable options.
Glasnow! Glasnow! Glasnow! This kid is going to be a star. He seems to be taken after both Snell and Morton in drafts, for good reason, given he only pitched 60 innings last year. Have no fear jumping all over Glasnow in the 6th/7th round. I would not be surprised if he comes close to both Morton and Snell’s production level this season if he gets the innings. He is that good. In only 60 innings pitched he had a 1.78 ERA/2.26 FIP/2.94 xFIP with an 11.29 k/9 and a 2.08 bb/9. He also had a solid GB rate of over 50%. Take the risk of the unknown on this kid and you will be rewarded.
I will not be taking Hunter Renfroe in any of my leagues. By this point in his career, you know what Renfroe will provide you and that is power. Yes, he had 33 HR and a .273 ISO last year in Petco Park, but Tropicana Field is a home run suppressing park as well. I have been reading people who believe there may be a bump in his power numbers, but I disagree with that. If you really need some power production in the 22nd and 23rd rounds, feel free, but understand what you are getting yourself into. He doesn’t have speed, he strikes out an awful 31+% clip, and he will not give you hit or on-base production. It is simply power. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of value that comes with HR production, but I would rather take my chances on a David Peralta, Alex Verdugo, Aristides Aquino, or Avisail Garcia, who are going around the same time in drafts. All of those aforementioned will provide more production, have more upside, and are playing in more hitter-friendly parks.
I was contemplating putting Austin Meadows here, and while he is their star hitter, Blake Snell (ADP of 41st) is on another level. Again, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t know how much baseball we will get and even if we get 162 games, how many are going to be doubleheaders? Therefore, pitchers may not be as valuable and how teams organize their rotations if they have doubleheaders every other day is going to be interesting to watch, but nonetheless, Snell is going to be the Rays best player this year regardless. Jump on him if you have the opportunity.