KFFL answers some important fantasy baseball questions for each Major League Baseball team as spring training approaches. What must fantasy baseball players know about the Tampa Bay Rays?
Where do Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson fit in?
Initially, the Rays might plug Matt Joyce in left field, but how long can they count on the injury-prone stick who can't hit lefties? Jennings, who boasts Carl Crawford-like speed and a mature batting eye, will receive a spring chance to make his case. He'll need it, because he looked overmatched in his brief 2010 MLB showing.
Luckily, the Rays' roster flexibility might facilitate Jennings' immediate arrival, especially if he wows them in camp. He remains a late-round mixed steals flier.
Jennings has big-time upside
As for Hellickson, who flashed his outstanding command in a tweener role, the Rays aren't trading a starter yet because they enjoy having depth. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are the most vulnerable to give up a spot eventually, if Tampa doesn't swap one.
Treat Hellickson like you did Neftali Feliz last year. If he doesn't have a role when your draft comes, that talent alone is worth your attention with your last few mixed picks in the right setting. Unfortunately, if Hellickson shuffles in, his price will jump.
After the Jason Bartlett trade, how does the middle infield look?
Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez could reach 20 homers if they're allowed to face both righties and lefties, but that might expose their terrible splits instead of helping them. The Rays likely hope their youngsters will take the full-time reins but are considering Elliot Johnson as a platoon option, at least for shortstop.
Ben Zobrist will also factor into Rodriguez's time, as he did last season. Rodriguez has slightly more upside, but Brignac looks securer in his role.
Would the Rays have a closer if the season started now?
Joel Peralta and J.P. Howell would be the best internal candidates. The lefty Howell shut the door admirably (and with a little luck) in '09 but might not be ready for opening day. Peralta flashed stopper skills with the Washington Nationals in 2010 and is a sleeper. So is Adam Russell, one of the relievers Tampa Bay was given in the Bartlett trade by the San Diego Padres.
Of course, Tampa is still surveying the market on closer arms, so this is far from determined. If they decide those options are too expensive, this will be a scary situation.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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