Tampa Bay Rays projected depth chart and fWAR for 2017. (Credit: FanGraphs)

The 2017 ZiPS projections for the Tampa Bay Rays have been released, and they show some promise for a bounce back year. Still, FanGraphs projects an 82-80 season is in the cards for Tampa Bay. Be that as it may, there is still a lot of off-season left to go, and things should change as deals are made, and players are acquired. Whatever the case, this is how the projections look for the Rays’ depth chart and fWAR (above).

Let’s first start with a disclaimer from FanGraphs, where the Rays 2017 ZiPS projections can be seen in full:

ZiPS projections are computer-based projections of performance. Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2016. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future. 

For the moment, we’ll be looking at the overall projections, and later we’ll look more deeply into things.

It too would be a good idea to define the statistics mentioned in the charts (below).

  • BA (Batting Average): Rate of hits per at bat, calculated as H/AB.
  • OBP (On Base Percentage): Rate at which the batter reaches base, calculated as (H+BB+HBP)/(AB+BB+HBP+SF).
  • SLG (Slugging Percentage): Average number of total bases per at bat, calculated as Total Bases/AB.
  • OPS (On Base Plus Slugging): Combination of OBP and SLG, calculated as OBP+SLG.
  • wOBA (Weighted On Base Average): Combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively.
  • ERA- and FIP-: ERA Minus, FIP Minus, and xFIP Minus are the pitching version of OPS+ and wRC+ and are a simple way to tell how well a player performed in relation to league average. All of these statistics have a similar scale, where 100 is league average and each point above or below 100 represents a percent above or below league average. However, as lower is better for (almost) all pitching stats, a lower ERA- or FIP- is better.
2017 ZiPS hitting projections.
2017 ZiPS pitching projections.

A few bulleted takeaways:

  • No shocker here, ZiPS paints Evan Longoria as the best hitter on the roster when speaking about wOBA (.334). He is expected to regress from last season, although ZiPS sees Longoria posting another 30+ home run season.
  • Sticking with wOBA, Longoria is followed by five hitters who each are projected to post a +.320 wOBA: Logan Forsythe (.329); Steven Souza Jr., Brad Miller, and Kevin Kiermaier (.328); and Corey Dickerson (.322).
  • Logan Forsythe appears to be due for a regression from his 2016 .264 BA/.333 OBP/.444 SLG/.777 OPS/.336 wOBA slash line.
  • Chris Archer is projected to sit atop the starting rotation once again, with Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Alex Cobb, and Drew Smyly falling in behind Tampa Bay’s ace.


— With the win/loss projection in mind, the Rays appear primed to consider both outside and internal help for their bullpen and lineup.

One internal bullpen option is RHP Ryne Stanek. Rays skipper Kevin Cash told Bill Chastain (MLB.com) Stanek could slot nicely into the Rays’ bullpen.

Really happy about Ryne Stanek. He made some big jumps. Moved him from a starter to the bullpen. He excelled. He got all the way to Triple-A. There was consideration for him to come up (in September). It didn’t work out that way. …But to come into Spring Training knowing that we’ve got a guy, a power arm, I think we’re looking to add some power arms into our bullpen.

Right-hander Jamie Schultz is another option. Schultz’s possesses power stuff that misses bats consistently, and he finished second in the Minors in 2015 with an 11.2 K/9. He boasts a fastball that can reach 98-99 mph with considerable arm-side run, pairing that with a power breaking ball with depth and bite.

However, Schultz’s ability to pound the zone consistently remains a question. He was able to cut down his walks last season with Triple-A Durham, but his control problems have some within the organization believing he’s destined to become a reliever, where he could see an uptick in velocity.

I think you could look at him that way (reliever), Cash said. I don’t think we’re ready to commit one way or the other on him in Spring Training. I don’t think that would be fair to him. It would basically be come into Spring Training, let’s build you up. Let’s compete and see where the cards fall from there.

Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) while a complete overhaul could still be in order, the Rays feel they have a winning core of players going into 2017. The Rays’ General Manager told Topkin the team believes in the players they have.

I think we’re at a position where we feel like we need to at least play it forward and take a crack at it, Erik Neander said Friday. If the interest and market dictates that we go a different direction, we have to consider it and trust our evaluations. But we believe in a lot of the players we have.

They are still looking for an adept defensive outfielder and a first base/designated hitter type of player to add to its collection of position players. Tampa Bay has discussed left-handed hitters like Pedro Alvarez, Ryan Howard, Brandon Moss and Luis Valbuena, and righties like Billy Butler and the 2016 National League home run co-champion Chris Carter.

Topkin also suggested a reunion with Logan Morrison could be in order, noting the team’s interest in Jose Bautista as well:

…While he seems like a longshot pickup for the low-payroll Rays, they could be in position to pounce on the Tampa Bay-area resident if his market doesn’t develop as hoped this offseason. Plus, because the Rays finished in the bottom 10 of the standings last season, they wouldn’t have to give up a first-round selection to sign Bautista, who rejected the Blue Jays’ qualifying offer. The Rays would instead surrender their competitive balance pick (currently No. 31 overall) in next year’s draft to ink the longtime AL East rival.

— The Rays have discussed RHP Nathan Eovaldi, who was nontendered by the Yankees after Tommy John surgery that will keep him out all, or at least most, of 2017.

— The team has yet to decide on allowing LHP Xavier Cedeno to play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. Cedeno missed September with neck issues

— LHP Justin Marks inked a minor-league deal with Tampa Bay, with an invitation to Spring Training. The same can be said for former Yankees RHP Diego Moreno.

— According to Peter Gammons, the Rays told the Mets an Alex Colome deal would have to start with young OF Michael Conforto or top SS prospect Amed Rosario.

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