Here are the top five questions facing the Rays in 2013. Frankly, there could have been 10 questions worth writing about.
5. What the heck will they do at First Base? As it stands now the depth chart has James Loney and Lars Anderson, which may be minimally acceptable in real baseball if you think James Loney is Keith Hernandez with the glove. But, for fantasy purposes this is a disaster, and the other options are none too enticing either. The situation is not much better at 2B.
4. Kelly Johnson and Ryan Roberts at 2B? Kelly Johnson’s once-promising potential has crashed and burned into back-to-back seasons hitting under .230 and a skills free-fall that bottomed out in 2012 with career lows in contact rate, K/BB ratio and FB%. It is not a stretch to think he plays himself out of a job. Rays’ fans best strategy is to hope for a Joe Maddon miracle with his performance-enhancing pixie dust at 1B and 2B.
This leads us to Mr. Roberts, who is not exactly Joe Morgan either. But, sadly, he may be a better fantasy bet than Kelly Johnson. Roberts at least makes decent contact and can steal a base; both of which are useful for fantasy players seeking cheap speed at a scarce position.
3. Will Matt Moore be an Ace? Last year’s consensus pre-season Rookie of the Year pick (nice call, fantasy baseball industry) had a much better season than it appears on the surface. ANY rookie pitcher who sticks in the rotation for a full season is a nice fantasy play the next year (The Brad Radke rule I discussed on the Fantasy Baseball Roundtable Show). Moore was better than merely sticking in the rotation; he pitched 175 innings to an ERA below 4.00 and kept his K/BB ratio above the 2.0 minimum we like for draftable AL starters. He still bears the risk of being a bust since he is likely to be overdrafted, but there is a non-zero probability that he busts loose and finishes in the AL’s top five pitchers.
2. Will Fernando Rodney break the streak? After a long stretch of having different relievers lead the team in saves every year, the Rays now have Fernando Rodney coming in to 2013 after possibly the greatest relief season ever. The chances of big regression are 100%. You do not have a 0.60 ERA and 0.78 WHIP without healthy doses of luck, and the Fates obliged in 2012, but will not be so obliging in 2013. We are willing to bet that the streak continues, though right now the Closer Identifier Algorithm says “hold.”
1. Why is Evan Longoria always overdrafted? Frankly, it is high time we stop looking at him as a fantasy star, and start looking at him as something much less. Third Base has gotten much deeper over the past few years. While the position gets deeper, Longoria keeps getting hurt, and still has never had an expected BA over .290. He hasn’t run since 2010 and has never produced a $30 season. And he has shown no skills growth in his career. This is not a knock on Longoria, but on the fantasy players that keep thinking he is a first-round player, or anything close to one for that matter.