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Traditionally, the Tampa Bay Rays operate in relative obscurity. That has changed this offseason, as trading away Evan Longoria, Jake Odorizzi, Corey Dickerson, and Steven Souza Jr. has led to allegations of "tanking" comparable to the Miami Marlins. The news that Brent Honeywell may require Tommy John surgery certainly doesn't help either.

Despite appearances, the team is not tanking and will produce fantasy value in 2018. Longoria's career has begun its final descent. Odorizzi probably needs an elite outfield to succeed. Next time, we'll look at a few of the team's acquisitions.

First, let's see how ex-Rays hitters Dickerson and Souza will impact the 2018 fantasy landscape.

Editor's Note: Stay on top of our MLB off-season news and fantasy analysis all year round. Read our daily fantasy columns about MLB prospects, dynasty outlooks, player outlooks and much more. It's always fantasy baseball season here. Let's Go!


The Fantasy Jury is Out

Corey Dickerson (OF, PIT) ADP: 237.2

Dickerson had a nice fantasy campaign in 2017, slashing .282/.325/.490 with 27 big flies and four steals. He was caught stealing nearly as often (three times), so SB are unlikely to be included in Dickerson's 2018 profile. Neither is 2017's average or power production.

The first strike against Dickerson is atrocious plate discipline. Last year's 24.2% K% wasn't that bad, but his 15.4% SwStr% certainly was. His chase rate was an outright abomination (45.6%), making it difficult to project a repeat of last year's BB% (5.6%) or an improvement in his SwStr%. Dickerson's extremely aggressive approach mitigates this somewhat (58.7% Swing% last year), but this plate discipline skillset can go south in a hurry.

Dickerson also overachieved when he put the ball in play last year, compiling a .338 BABIP against a .329 career mark. That may not sound terrible, but remember that Dickerson started his career with the Rockies. His seasons at altitude helped him compile a career LD% of 23.3%, against which last year's 22.4% rate seems reasonable. However, he doesn't have a proven history as a line drive guy outside of Coors. Significant regression should be expected.

Dickerson also bested his career BABIP on ground balls (.273) with a .290 mark last season. His exit velocity on grounders is on a three-year downward trajectory (89.5 mph in 2015, 85.6 in 2016, 83.3 last year), so an elevated mark should not be expected moving forward.

Dickerson gave back a lot of the FB% gains he made in 2016 (45% vs. 35.8% last year), a trend that helps support his BABIP. However, it comes at the cost of power upside. Last year's 17.2% HR/FB was on par with his career 16.2% rate, but his average airborne exit velocity fell off considerably (91.2 mph vs. 92.9 in 2016 and 93.3 in 2015) while his rate of Brls/BBE plummeted (7.5% vs. 11.1% in 2016 and 10.7% in 2015). He didn't pull any more flies (22.9%) than he has over his career (22.1%), so there is nothing supporting an elevated HR/FB.

Leaving the Trop is generally a good thing for hitters, but Pittsburgh isn't much better. Tampa actually had a slightly higher HR factor for lefties last season (99 vs. 98), while Pittsburgh enjoyed a minor advantage for singles (102 vs. 99). Overall, both Tampa (97) and Pittsburgh (98) have slightly depressed run scoring over the last five years. The ballpark switch has little impact on Dickerson's value.

Tampa was criticized for giving away a .280 hitter with 25+ HR potential, but they really didn't. All of Dickerson's indicators are trending in the wrong direction, so don't look at last season's numbers and count on him as a value add in 2018 drafts. In fact, he may lose PAs to Austin Meadows by season's end.

Verdict: Chump


Steven Souza Jr. (OF, ARI) ADP: 179.6

Souza slashed .239/.351/.459 with 30 HR and 16 SB (four CS) in a breakout 2017. The batting average wasn't very good, but the blend of power and speed is very enticing in fantasy. His SB rate of 80% is more than enough to keep running, so that part of his game appears safe.

His power looks fairly sustainable as well. Souza's 25.6% HR/FB may seem a little high, but his career rate (22.2%), average airborne exit velocity (95 mph last year, 94.6 in 2016, 94.5 in 2015), and rate of Brls/BBE (11.8% last year, 10.6% in 2016, 10% in 2015) all support a high HR/FB. He also pulls a ton of flies (31.6% last year, 29% for his career), boosting his power production further.

Souza hits a league average number of fly balls (34.4% career), so he relies on his above average raw power to generate HR totals. This also gives him some power upside if he starts elevating the ball more.

Moving to Arizona would traditionally be seen as a boon for any player's power, but the addition of a humidor there changes the equation. Still, Tampa was pretty bad for right-handed power hitters in 2017 (94 HR factor). Chase Field would need to turn into an extreme pitcher's park to adversely impact Souza.

Souza's batting average has room to grow, but a strikeout problem is likely to cap it at .250 or so. On the bright side, his .302 BABIP last season fell short of his .317 career mark despite a career average LD% (21.1% vs. 21.9% career) and an IFFB% decline (6.8% last year vs. 9.8% career). The problem was his grounders, which posted a .224 BABIP against a career mark of .293.

Souza has pulled 60.2% of his grounders over his career, placing him on the periphery of where the shift might hurt him. He's better when the shift is not in play (.321 in 675 PAs) than when it is (.278 in 109 PAs), but it doesn't cripple him. It certainly doesn't explain a 70-point BABIP swing.

Souza's average ground ball exit velocity dropped last year (82.1 mph vs. 84.3 and 83.9 the previous two years), but not by enough to support such a dramatic BABIP decline. His Statcast Sprint Speed has consistently ranked above average (28.3 ft./sec last year), so a loss of speed isn't to blame either. A .293 BABIP on ground balls is tough for anyone to sustain, but Souza should improve on last year's performance.

Any batting average upside is capped by Souza's 29% K%. It's supported by his history (31.8% career K%), SwStr% (13.3%), and weak rate of zone contact (78.7%). Hie eye is legitimately strong (24.4% chase rate last year), so he should continue to run favorable BB% rates (13.6% last year) as long as opposing pitchers need to respect his power.

Souza is a legitimate loss from Tampa Bay's roster, so the team likely believes that the prospects they received for him can make an immediate impact. The 29-year old never played a full MLB season before 2017, perhaps explaining why his ADP is where it is. Souza is likely worth more than that, especially in formats replacing batting average with OBP.

Verdict: Champ


MoreĀ 2018 Player Outlooks

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