Tampa Bay’s farm system isn’t the best on the block for shallow league players, but there are a bunch of interesting fantasy pieces here to sift through if you play in a deeper dynasty format. The biggest news from the 2015 season was the explosion of left hander Blake Snell. He earned all kinds of accolades with his performance and now he’s set up to join the rotation in 2016. The Rays have good pitching depth again this year, and they’ll get Alex Cobb back at some point as well. Outfielder Steven Souza was a trendy sleeper prospect in 2015, but injury and strikeouts limited his value in his rookie year. He could be a decent buy low in dynasty leagues since the power and speed that made him interesting in the first place are still there.
Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings.
Blake Snell, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA/AAA
2015 Stats: 134 IP, 1.41 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 10.9 K/9
Snell’s big breakout in 2015 has vaulted him into the Top 50 of most prospect lists. If you want to pick nits, the walk rate could stand to be a little lower, but there’s really not much to complain about here. He’s close to the majors, he’s a lefty, and he has the strikeouts we like for fantasy. The overall ceiling is still probably a #2 starter rather than an “ace” but Snell is going to be a nice late-round target in 2016 drafts and should definitely be long gone in keeper and dynasty leagues.
Willy Adames, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 456 PA, .258/.342/.379, 4 HR, 10 SB, 12% BB, 27% K
Adames is a little tricky to value. He’s too good to go unowned in deeper formats, but there isn’t quite enough upside to say he definitely needs a roster slot in shallower ones. Ultimately, the ceiling could look like 15 homers and 10 steals with a .280 average at shortstop. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but with his name appearing high on a lot of traditional prospect lists he might bring more value as a trade chip than as somebody you actually build around.
Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.
Daniel Robertson, SS | Age: 21 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 359 PA, .270/.365/.407, 4 HR, 3 SB, 10% BB, 17% K
Without a huge ceiling, you don’t want to overinvest in Robertson, but he’s smart money to carve out a role in a major league middle infield. The bat works, he gets on base, and there’s enough pop to get to 15+ homers. Whether or not he sticks at shortstop is kind of irrelevant to us in fantasy, since an offensive profile works just as well at the keystone and he’s probably more of a MI slot guy anyway.
Casey Gillaspie, 1B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 320 PA, .253/.334/.480, 17 HR, 4 SB, 10% BB, 17% K
Gillaspie is a good combination of hit and power from both sides of the plate. The plate discipline numbers are solid as well, so it’s just a matter of whether that’s enough bat to carry him as a fantasy first baseman. I think it can, and there’s upside for 20+ homers and a decent average from the middle of the lineup. With only 45 plate appearances in High-A though, he could be the last in this tier to reach the bigs.
Mikie Mahtook, OF | Age: 26 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 418 PA, .249/.304/.366, 4 HR, 10 SB, 5% BB, 23% K
Mahtook is a little long in the tooth for a prospect list and he profiles as a fourth outfielder, but in deep leagues or AL-only formats he’d be a good reserve play in case he backs into some playing time again. The reward is cheap power and speed, and last year he put up nine homers and four steals in just 115 major league plate appearances, which is really impressive.
Richie Shaffer, 1B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 457 PA, .267/.357/.539, 26 HR, 4 SB, 12% BB, 27% K
Shaffer saw some time in the majors last year after hitting 19 homers with Triple-A Durham. That brief stint displayed both the good and the bad in the corner infielder’s game. He hit four dingers but also struck out in 37 percent of his plate appearances. If you can stomach the swing and miss, then Shaffer’s power is appealing for fantasy. Right now there’s no clear path to playing time, but we should see him surface again this year in some capacity.
Taylor Guerrieri, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 78 IP, 1.85 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Last year I mentioned Guerrieri as a good buy-low target in dynasty leagues as he was still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. If you were able to make it happen, Guerrieri rewarded you with a solid season at both High and Double-A. It was only 78 innings, but the stuff and control seem to be there and now the 23-year-old’s stock is back up.
Brent Honeywell, RHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 130.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.9 BB/9, 8.9 K/9
Honeywell was a popular sleeper in dynasty drafts last winter and it looks like a #3 starter ceiling. He hasn’t been tested in Double-A yet (that should come this year) but the walk and strikeout ratios are pretty. He throws a plus screwball, which is kinda cool, and scouting reports rave about his polish. I like the high floor even if he doesn’t develop into a stud.
Ryan Brett, 2B | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 358 PA, .251/.293/.360, 5 HR, 4 SB, 4% BB, 18% K
Brett looks like your typical utility infielder type with 8-10 homer pop and some speed. He should get a look this year, but I don’t think he’s going to make an impact in most leagues, especially with the small crowd of middle infielders and middle infield prospects in this Rays’ system.
Andrew Velazquez, SS | Age: 21 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+
2015 Stats: 218 PA, .286/.343/.352, 0 HR, 5 SB, 8% BB, 27% K
A strained shoulder and a broken hamate bone derailed Velazquez’s 2015 season. He’s an average bat with plus speed that would work pretty well at the top of a lineup or as a SAGNOF middle infielder, but there’s some strikeouts in his game and he’s not really a player I’m buying yet outside of leagues with deep farms.
Justin O’Conner, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 444 PA, .231/.255/.371, 9 HR, 10 SB, 3% BB, 29% K
Honestly I hate investing in catching prospects in dynasty leagues unless they are bat-first types like Kyle Schwarber or Jorge Alfaro. O’Conner is the opposite, since he gets most of his value on the defensive side of the ball. That makes him appealing in the sense that it guarantees he’ll get a shot as a primary backstop. But as far as offensive (read fantasy) production he’s safe to pass on outside of deeper two-catcher formats.
Jacob Faria, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 149.2 IP, 1.92 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 9.6 K/9
Faria is more of a back-end starter type, but he has two plus pitches in his fastball and changeup that could carry him. It’s easy to get lost in the forest of BORPs/swingmen, but in really deep leagues boring pitching depth is a necessary evil and when there’s even a hint of upside like with Faria, you have to keep them on your radar.
Tier 3: Long Shot Lolitas
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.
Garrett Whitley, OF | Age: 18 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk/A(ss)
2015 Stats: 164 PA, .174/.293/.312, 3 HR, 8 SB, 13% BB, 23% K
The Rays took Whitley 13th overall in the 2015 draft, and he’s also getting a lot of love as a fantasy pick with above-average tools across the board. His speed is the true plus and he’s a good upside play in the early second round of dynasty drafts this winter.
Adrian Rondon, SS | Age: 17 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: Rk
2015 Stats: 164 PA, .166/.256/.234, 0 HR, 0 SB, 10% BB, 35% K
I was really high on Rondon at this time last year, and I still am, but this is what a stat line can look like along the way when you’re investing in 17-year-olds. Obviously the strikeout rate was awful and there was no production. Obviously he’s also super young and you’re not rostering him in shallow leagues anyway, so you might as well hold in deep dynos and wait for his value to reinflate. He may never have sexy stats if he’s always being pushed to play against older competition.
Justin Williams, OF | Age: 20 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 490 PA, .277/.298/.394, 7 HR, 6 SB, 3% BB, 18% K
Williams has some upside thanks to his plus raw power, but there are enough questions about his bat that it’s a risky investment. The FSL suppresses offense in general, and Williams was also just 19 in his first crack at High-A. I’d take the results of his first 84 plate appearances there with a grain of salt and keep him on your radar in 2016.