Two Rays deep keepers

The Tampa Bay Rays have a well-established pipeline of top talent.

On the mound David Price has put up shinier numbers than his peripherals support, but that just means he’s only established himself as a good, not elite, pitcher. Wade Davis has struggled some his first full season but should improve. Jeremy Hellickson has been spectacular in the minors and I think will better adjust to his first full season than either Price of David—Hellboy is a more polished pitcher.

In the field Desmond Jennings is the heir apparent to a departing Carl Crawford and if he stays healthy should hit for a solid average and challenge league leaders in stolen bases—he may even hit a few more home runs than he’s shown this year with an iffy wrist.

But if you are in a deep keeper league, guys such as Hellickson and Jennings are long gone—in my 12-team American League auction league, both were signed in 2009—Jennings was on a roster in 2008 too but was dropped because of injuries and then picked up after a healthy and strong start in 2009.

But even with those players gone there is room for a couple of sleepers I think may surprise in 2011 and both are solid candidates in deeper keeper leagues:

(1) Jacob McGee—Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, McGee is getting a September audition and might even make the postseason roster if the Rays decide he’s a better fit for the bullpen than Jeremy Hellickson. Was all jitters his first appearance but showed his stuff in his second game with an average fastball of 95.5 and a peak of 98.5. Doesn’t have great secondary pitches but with plenty of movement on his fastball, he doesn’t need it. It’s likely he’ll start the year as a LOOGY, but I think he has an outside chance of taking the closer’s role by year’s end. Not only will Soriano be gone but Benoit may too—both will be free agents.

(2) Leslie Anderson—With Carlos Pena almost certain to leave as a free agent and Matt Joyce mediocre again this year, there may be two open spots at first base and right field. Anderson can play both. While he doesn’t have the power of a typical corner player, he has shown moderate power and an insane line drive rate of 39% at Triple-A. Has struggled a bit against lefties but could find himself in the better half of a platoon. He’ll turn 29 next March, so he’s hardly a prospect, but he adjusted well to his first year here and I expect he’ll be a solid hitter.

Both player fit profiles of guys who are often underrated.

McGee was once one of the top five or 10 pitching prospects in baseball, rated more highly than Davis and Hellickson, but he lost his luster with his injury and the predictable struggles upon his return. If it is a truism that fantasy owners over-pay for hyped rookies, it’s also true they often under-estimate the ceiling for players who either struggled or were hurt.

Anderson has two conventional knocks against him: He’s far too old for a prospect and he lacks the power of a prototype first baseman or corner outfielder. While both are true, the former was the product of Cuban citizenship, not a lack of production, and as for the latter, while that may handicap his long-term success, if you’re interested in winning your fantasy league next year, the opportunity may be there for him to get at-bats in a good lineup.

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  1. Whelk said...

    Matt Joyce mediocre? In only 200 or so PAs, he’s accrued 1.3 wins. Stretch that into a full year, and you’ve got a 4+ win player. Leslie Anderson may get the first base or DH job, but he won’t be in right field.

  2. Jonathan Sher said...

    Whelk – Good point. While Joyce has been strictly a platoon player, struggling in his few appearances against lefties, he has batted and fielded well. His low BABIP masks what are otherwise sold numbers for a corner outfield. I stand corrected.

  3. Dan said...

    What makes you think the rays wont keep McGee down in the in the minors so he can work on his secondary stuff and hopefully become a starter?

    Also, I think they have an option on benoit and Howell will be back.

    I think because the rays pipeline is so stuffed with talent people should look elsewhere for deep keepers.  Players in other organizations will get more opportunities.  Although I like the Anderson call he will fight with at least Dan Johnson and possibly Hawpe for playing time.

  4. Jonathan Sher said...

    Dan –

    Four reasons why I think the Rays keep McGee in the Pen:

    (1) With his injury history he’s more likely to preserve his health as a reliever.

    (2) He’s ready right now to contribute in the Pen; his stuff profiles as a strong reliever.

    (3) The Rays are deep in starting pitching — Garza, Shields, Price, Davis, Hellickson, Niemann and have some promising arms on the way up.

    (4) The Rays will have a hole at closer. Soriano will be gone, of course. I don’t believe the Rays have a club option on Benoit—while I can say that with certainty, I just checked various sources and all point to there being no club option. The Rays may hope to re-sign him but a lot of other teams will too. As for Howell, he didn’t throw hard before shoulder surgery, he struggled with his control more than you like for a closer, and while he showed talent before his injury, he’s a question mark coming into next year. Ironically, Howell will allow the Rays to put either McGee or Hellickson on the post-season roster since Howell wasn’t placed on the DL until a few games into the season; Howell’s replacement, even one called up in September, can be placed on the post-season roster.

    The Rays pipeline is deep but that fact makes McGee and Anderson BETTER deep keepers. People may assume there’s not much opportunity but that isn’t true; the closer position will likely be up for grabs and Pena will leave a hole at first base.

    I agree there’s little chance the Rays just give the job to Anderson; Dan Johnson will have a chance if he re-signs, there are a few in-house options and the Rays could go after a cheap free agent.

    In short, there’s no guarantees for McGee or Anderson, just opportunity, and I like them as deep keepers because I suspect some will overlook that opportunity.

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