The Tampa Bay Rays have overcome a slew of injuries to important parts of their team to remain in the running for the AL East crown, a single game out of first place. Now, though, some of those players are coming back.
Today we’re going to focus on the pitching side of the ledger, where the Rays’ entire starting rotation is fantasy-relevant.
We’ll begin with one of the early contenders for the AL Cy Young, Chris Archer, who has been absolutely phenomenal. There have been five starts out of seventeen total in which Archer has given up more than two earned runs. His 133 strikeouts rank fifth-best in all of baseball. In any way you spin it, Archer has been a top starter this season. His FIP supports his ERA and his success is likely to continue. Invest with confidence.
Next up is Jake Odorizzi, who was nearly as good as Archer before going down with an oblique injury last month. Odorizzi made his first rehab start on Wednesday, and it went as hoped, with a run, two hits, and a walk over four innings. The Rays are still deciding whether or not to have Odorizzi make another rehab start before activating him, but either way, time is running out to buy low. Odorizzi will come cheap comparatively, but expect him to pitch on par with top-20 starters such as Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.
Like Odorizzi, Drew Smyly is injured, but Smyly isn’t expected to return from his shoulder injury until some time in August. Since coming over to Tampa Bay in the David Price trade last year, Smyly, in ten starts, has an ERA of 1.96 while striking out over a batter an inning. There’s no way he’ll keep it up over a full season, of course, but even once regression hits, Smyly will be a valuable asset for any team. He’s unowned in 68% of Yahoo leagues, and while there’s no need to pick him up now, as his return creeps closer, it would make sense to take a low-risk flier on him.
Matt Moore made his season debut yesterday against the Indians, giving up four runs over 4.2 innings in his first start in over a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s young, talented, and has nearly a strikeouts an inning over his career. There’s a lot of upside here. Until he shakes off the rust, it’s wise to monitor him closely from the sidelines, but once he does, Moore could be one of the best free agent pickups of the second half.
The fifth starter in the Rays’ fully healthy rotation is Nate Karns. Karns hasn’t lasted more than six innings in any of his last nine starts, capping his upside, but he’s safe and consistent, with only four starts all year in which he’s given up more than two runs. He’s helpful in strikeouts, and can help add counting stats while improving your ratios. Karns isn’t good enough to be owned in most leagues, but he’s an elite streamer and should be targeted each time he pitches.
There are three more pitchers who have made starts for the Rays this year: Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, and Alex Colome. Andriese has already been sent to the minors to free up his rotation spot for Moore, and Ramirez and Colome are likely to follow once Odorizzi and Smyly return. Colome is irrelevant for fantasy, but whenever either Andriese or Ramirez makes a spot start, they could be useful as streamers when they’re pitching at home, in the spacious Tropicana Park, or whenever either has an advantageous matchup.
Have a happy 4th of July weekend, everybody!