Tampa Bay Rays - Hitters Preview
C - Ryan Hanigan
2013: 70 GP, 222 AB, 17 R, 44 H, 8 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 29 BB, 27 SO, 0 SB, 1 CS, .198 BA/.306OBP/.261 SLG/.567 OPS.
Hanigan was acquired via trade from Cincinnati in the offseason. He will get the bulk of the work behind the plate in 2014. Hanigan struggled offensively last season and is known as a defensive specialist. He’s led MLB in each of the last two seasons in catching would-be base-stealers (.455% in 2013 and .485% in 2012), but Hanigan’s quality behind the plate is not matched by consistent offensive performance. In 2013, he logged 75 GP, and in 222 AB, scored 17 R with 2 HR and 21 RBI. Perhaps his only upside is OPS, though that has declined steadily since a career-high .834 in 70 games in 2010, compared to a paltry .567 in 2013.
Hanigan's only value is in deep fantasy leagues with two rostered catchers, and even there he will be a very late draft choice, if selected at all. Entering his seventh MLB season Hanigan, has only topped one hundred games played once. He will turn 34 in August and is unlikely to improve significantly in 2014.
1B - James Loney
2013: 158 GP, 549 AB, 54 R, 164 H, 33 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 75 RBI, 44 BB, 77 K, 3 S, 1 CS, .299BA/.348 OBP/.430/SLG/.778 OPS.
Compiling 13 HR and 75 RBI in 2013, Loney returned to the player he was in his best years in Los Angeles. Loney provides below-average power for his position, but he finds ways to produce runs and get on base. He finished 2013 with the eighth-highest OBP among all first basemen at .348. Loney’s OPS was also respectable (.778), also in the top ten at his position. He plays almost every day (158 GP in 2013), doesn’t strike out as frequently compared to other 1B (77 K) and he gets his share of extra-base hits (33 2B last season). If HR are available elsewhere, Loney is a decent late-round pick-up, but don’t expect monster power numbers. He isn’t a slugger at his position, only hitting 15 HR once, but he does provide value in other statistical categories. Fantasy owners should expect Loney to have a similar year in 2014. His RBI numbers could improve-- he did reach 90 RBI in consecutive seasons for LA in 2008 and 2009.
2B - Ben Zobrist
2013: 157 GP, 612 AB, 77 R, 168 H, 36 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 71 RBI, 72 BB, 91 K, 11 SB, 3 CS, .275/.354/.402/.756 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.
Entering his fifth full season and turning 33 years old in May, Zobrist is coming off a solid 2013 in which he was highly productive at the plate while playing excellent defense at several different positions. His production in 2013 makes him a top choice at 2B for 2014. Zobrist is a stabilizing force in the Rays lineup. He hasn’t logged fewer than 150 GP since 2008. Though his power numbers declined in 2013-- 12 HR compared to 20 in 2012-- he topped 30 doubles and drove in over 70 RBI for the third year in a row. He's stolen base numbers have declined, down from a career-high 24 SB in 2010 to only 11 last year, but his OBP remained steady (.354) in 2013. He batted .275 in 2013, his highest since a career-best .297 in 2010. While his speed and power numbers have declined slightly, Zobrist has remained productive, finishing 2013 with a WAR of 5.1, good for fifth-highest in MLB at his position. And despite a somewhat pedestrian .402 SLG% last season, Zobrist cracked the top ten in OPS for 2B, finishing at .756. He has topped .350 OBP and .750 OPS three years running. Expect Zobrist to produce similar on-base and RBI numbers in 2014, making him a top-five choice at his position.
3B - Evan Longoria
2013: 160 GP, 614 AB, 91 R, 165 H, 39 2B, 3 3B, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 70 BB, 162 K, 1 SB, 0 CS, .269/.343/.498./841 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.
Longoria is the Rays best all-around player and unquestionably Tampa’s team leader. In 2013, he was a rock at the hot corner, appearing in a career-high 160 GP. Longoria is the Rays most feared and productive hitter, and will be a high draft choice coming off an excellent season. In 614 AB in 2013, Longoria scored 91 R with 39 2B, 32 HR and 88 RBI. Longoria’s .343 OBP was in the top ten among 3B, and for the fifth straight season (since he entered MLB), he finished with an OPS above .840. Despite his power numbers remaining high, Longoria’s OPS dipped in 2013 by more than fifty points, mostly because his strikeouts increased to a career-high 162 K last season. Expect Longoria to remain a power bat in the Rays lineup and to produce. He led MLB in 2013 with 74 extra-base hits and placed third in total bases. Longoria should top 25 HR, 25 2B and 85 RBI again in 2014. He is entering his seventh full major league season and boasts productive career totals of .275/.357/.512/.869. Injuries have slowed Longoria in past seasons, but when healthy Longoria is a top performer at his position.
SS - Yunel Escobar
2013: 153 GP, 508 AB, 61 R, 130 H, 27 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 57 BB, 73 K, 4 SB, 4 CS, .256/.332/.366/.698 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.
Escobar is a bit of a mystery. In 2013 he was solidly mediocre. No one doubts his talent, but since breaking into MLB in 2007 with Atlanta, Escobar has confounded with his inconsistency. He finished 2013 with a .332 OBP, 27 2B, 9 HR, 56 RBI and .698 OPS. Escobar is not a base stealer (4 SB in 2013), and he hasn’t reached .700 OPS since 2011. In his best seasons, 2011 and 2009, Escobar showed flashes of brilliance by claiming OPS of .813 and .782 respectively, though he has never repeated those numbers. Because of his inconsistency, Escobar isn’t worth drafting and will probably be available as a free-agent if he is producing. His sole consistent attribute is games played with 130 or more GP in six of his eight MLB seasons.
OF - Wil Myers
2013: 88 GP, 335 AB, 50 R, 98 H, 23 2B, 0 3B, 13 HR, 53, RBI, 33 BB, 91 SO, 5 SB, 2 CS, .293/.354/.478/.832 BA/ OBP/SLG/OPS.
After capturing the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2013, the Rays are hoping Myers can eclipse those numbers with more at-bats and a full MLB season. In only 88 GP and 335 AB, he showed the potential to become a middle-of-the-order slugger by posting 23 2B, 13 HR and 53 RBI. Myers could develop into a 30+ HR, 100+ RBI All-Star caliber corner outfielder. Myers is likely to be a high draft pick, though the small sample size and possible sophomore slump may drop him to a middle round. Expect Myers to have a productive 2014 and repeat something close to his excellent .293 BA, .354 OBP and .832 OPS in 2013
OF - Matt Joyce
2013: 140 GP, 413 AB, 61 R, 97 H, 22 2B, 0 3B, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 59 BB, 87 SO, 7 SB, 3 CS, .235/.328/.419/.747 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.
Joyce is a reliable power bat in the Rays lineup with 17 or more HR three seasons in a row. In 2013, Joyce hit 18 HR in 413 AB with 47 RBI in 140 GP. He’s likely to see lots of playing time in both corner outfield positions. Although his numbers have slipped since 2011, he’s still got power and will be decent off the bench or in a utility role.
OF - Desmond Jennings
2013: 139 GP, 527 AB, 82 R, 133 H, 31 2B, 6 3B, 14 HR, 54 RBI, 64 BB, 115 SO, 20 SB, 8 CS, .252/.334/.414/.748 BA/OBP/SLG/OPS.
In 2013, the speedy Jennings posted career highs in GP, H, 2B, HR, RBI and BB. Judging from his steadily increasing production, he could be developing into the player Tampa always envisioned. Jennings will have to impress this spring to lock up center field, but should still get 400+ AB even if he doesn't start on Opening Day. He was less efficient on the base paths in 2013 than in 2012. He set a career high with 31 SB against only 2 CS in 2012, while claiming 20 SB against 8 CS in 2013. He has logged more than 100 GP only twice, the last two seasons consecutively.