Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Season Preview: Fantasy Analysis

Tampa Bay Rays 2019 Season Preview

2018 Record: 90 – 72

Projected 2019 Record: 83 – 79

2018 Recap & 2019 Team Outlook

Despite finishing third in the AL East, the 2018 Tampa Bay Rays saw their first winning season since 2013. After all, what do you expect when you play in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees?

And it certainly could be said that 2018 was a year filled with many positives for the Rays. They finally have their established ace in Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell, who baffled hitters throughout the season with his electric stuff. As a team, they had the best record out of all non-playoff teams and they even announced their plans for a new stadium.

All in all, Rays fans should be excited coming into 2019. Snell will be returning for (hopefully) another dominant season and fans should also be excited about Tampa’s newest pitching acquisition, Charlie Morton. Plus, the lineup seems to be getting better with each year.

2019 Storylines

Could 2019 be the year that the Rays stun both the Yankees and Red Sox and win the AL East? It’s unlikely, but not entirely out of the question.

It will be interesting to see how much better the pitching staff will be after the addition of Morton. There is no doubt that Snell will remain the team’s ace, but Morton could play a big role in the number 2 or 3 spot in the rotation. However, there is lots of uncertainty who will follow Morton in the rotation. Glasnow is a probable bet, but who else? It is also possible that the Rays will once again use “openers” and play with a 3-man rotation.

In terms of the bullpen, the team is still without a named closer. Diego Castillo and Jose Alvarado are certainly in the running for the job but who else?

Finally, the Rays have the goods on defense, but can their offense be consistent? The lineup as a whole didn’t have an awful 2018, but it truly was the pitching that carried the team to their 90 wins.

2019 Starting Pitchers

Given that the Rays haven’t really named more than three starters thus far, it is safe to assume that the organization will once again use the “openers” method of pitching. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tactic, using openers can be characterized as using a reliever to pitch the first inning or two of a game before turning to a long inning reliever to pitch the majority of the game. Assuming that this is the case, let’s see what each of the three starters brings to the table.

Blake Snell is downright terrifying. While 2018 was just one impressive season, the young southpaw is just 26 years of age and is hungry for another Cy Young. His numbers last season were jaw-dropping, going 21 – 5 with an ERA of 1.89. Now that’s some lights out stuff.

Charlie Morton brings a decent amount of experience to the table. The 35-year-old will be playing in his 12th MLB season and first with the Rays. He spent the last two seasons as part of a strong Astros rotation, where he put up solid numbers. His 2018 saw him go 15 – 3 with an ERA of 3.13.

Tyler Glasnow would be the probable third starter in this rotation. The young righty has played 3 MLB seasons thus far, none of which have been impressive. He split last season between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, in which he went 2 – 7 with an ERA of 4.34. He looks to turn his young career around this season.

2019 Relief Pitchers

The dynamic of the 2019 Rays’ bullpen will be interesting, as it was in 2018. Who will the pitching staff use as their day to day relievers and who will they use as their long-inning guys? Most importantly, who will close?

The Rays had no official closer last season, but Sergio Romo seemed to fill the role 90% of the time. However, with Romo gone, the staff will likely look to Diego Castillo, Jose Alvarado, or even Ryan Stanek for the late innings.

Castillo played his first MLB season in 2018 and was often used in a set-up role for Romo. He went 4 – 2 with an ERA of 3.18. Solid numbers. Alvarado was the main set up man in 2018. The southpaw, although he finished at a record of 1 – 6, had a strong ERA of 2.39 and notched 31 holds and 8 saves. Stanek played in 59 games in 2018 and was one of the Rays named 2018 “openers” (he started 29 of those games). His numbers were generally pretty good (2 – 3 with an ERA just under 3.00) although he had his up and down days.

2019 Hitters

The Rays have never really been a team that relies on that one offensive star for run production. They have no Nolan Arenado or Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton/Aaron Judge. Yet, as a team they get on base, score, and hit for average. And 2019 should be no different.

The 2018 Rays once again had no slugger. Still they finished towards the top of the MLb in hits, team average, and on base percentage. If you look at what is likely to be the 2019 Rays’ lineup, no one stands out. Yet, every single member of the lineup can hit and somehow always seems to get hot at the right time.

Take Kevin Kiermaier. He didn’t have a strong 2018 and he only played 88 games due to injury. Yet, when he did play, he managed to get on base and score runs.

Another good example is Tommy Pham, who came over to the Rays midseason in 2018. His run production and average skyrocketed after joining Tampa, where he posted a .343 average and an OBP of nearly .450.

A huge offensive pickup for the Rays this offseason was Avisail Garcia from the White Sox. Garcia didn’t play all of 2018, but he mashed 19 home runs in the 93 games he did play. He will likely be the biggest slugger in the 2019 Rays lineup and will be the main RBI force at its core.

Another strong bat will be South Korean Ji-man Choi. Choi started his 2018 with the Brewers before being traded to the Rays mid-season. He hit 8 homeruns and battled .269 for Tampa Bay over 49 games.

All in all, this offense isn’t the most impressive on paper, but it’s scrappy and it will get the job done.

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. Kevin Kiermaier
  2. Tommy Pham
  3. Joe Wendle
  4. Avisail Garcia
  5. Ji-Man Choi
  6. Austin Meadows
  7. Willy Adames
  8. Mike Zunino
  9. Matt Duffy

Noteworthy Fantasy Pitchers

Blake SnellBlake SnellComing off a Cy Young season, Blake Snell had a 1.89 ERA and 221 strikeouts. Snell took a major jump in 2018, and is a strong fantasy option heading into 2019. His ERA will jump up a little bit pitching in a tough AL East, and the .241 BABIP and 88% LOB were a bit extreme. Snell has ace-like stuff, and is an elite arm now.

 

Charlie MortonCharlie Morton – Charlie Morton reinvented himself in Houston, and now moved to Tampa Bay. It is a rougher division, but a good ballpark to pitch in. Morton is on the older side these days, but his curveball and strong fastball has given him strong strikeout stuff.

Noteworthy Fantasy Hitters

Tommy PhamTommy Pham – Tommy Pham has 20/20 potential, but it is tough to expect much of a ceiling. Getting out of St. Louis was beneficial for his playing time, and the Rays will try and get 140 games out of him. Pham is a mid-round outfielder to consider in fantasy this year. He is a bit injury prone, so have a contingency plan.

 

Austin MeadowsAustin Meadows – Austin Meadows is just 23 years old, and was a top prospect in Pittsburgh, but couldn’t quite crack regular playing time. He was involved in the Chris Archer deal, and will have a chance to start his career in Tampa. Meadows has sneaky good power for his stature, and has double-digit steal upside as well.

  
Noah Wadhwani lives in Sacramento, California but grew up in Boston as a die-hard New England sports fan. He is currently a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley and is intending to major in applied mathematics or economics. Aside from sports, Noah’s other main passion is travel and has spent time living abroad in Denmark and Argentina.

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