ZiPS 2021 Projections: Tampa Bay Rays

After having typically appeared in the hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have now been released at FanGraphs for nine years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Batters

Whatever else you want to say about the Tampa Bay Rays, you can’t deny that there’s a consistent underlying structure to their rosters. They rarely have hitters ticketed for outright superstar seasons, but they always boast a stupendous amount of depth, with a horde of players every year projected to be worth between one and four wins. From 2014-2020 (the original, pre-pandemic version), ZiPS projected 185 player-seasons at four wins or greater, 69 of which started at five wins. Just five of those player-seasons belonged to Rays, and only one of those five was projected for more than 5 WAR (Evan Longoria’s 5.2 in 2014). A few teams did worse, but with the exception of the Minnesota Twins, they were all near the bottom of baseball in WAR over those seasons, while the Rays were a solid 11th.

To the Rays’ credit, this team construction reflects an understanding of their win condition. The front office doesn’t get to choose its budgets, so to win consistently on the resources it’s given, the team’s rosters practically have to be designed this way. The Rays need to hit on their young pitchers and keep the flow of Joey Wendles and Brandon Lowes and Yandy Díazi moving because they’re simply not going to go out and sign a Gerrit Cole or an Anthony Rendon.

2021 still has a lot of casting yet to do, but you can see this tendency in these projections. Brandon Lowe tops the scale at three wins, but a healthy 16 position players project above the one-win threshold. And even below that mark, there are an awful lot of guys who, while you probably don’t envision them as starters, have some kind of situational strength that gives them an “in” to hang around as useful role players.

Every position on the graphic projects to league-average or better save one: catcher. Mike Zunino hardly gets the most scintillating projection, but the real drag here is the current projected playing time for non-roster invitee Joseph Odom. Odom has a good defensive reputation but rather mixed results, and it shouldn’t be surprising that ZiPS doesn’t think he’ll hit given his .239/.305/.366 line in the minors and an unimpressive stint with the Mariners. I don’t see any big offensive additions in the future, at least via free agency, but I’d be surprised if Zunino’s 2021 timeshare actually ends up being with Odom.

Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena are two players who definitely get a boost from the fact that ZiPS uses playoff numbers in the projections. Between the 2020 regular and postseason, Arozarena hit 17 homers in 162 plate appearances or about 63 homers per 600 plate appearances. He’s clearly unlikely to maintain a pace quite that torrid, but it would be hard for a performance like this to not move the needle. To move a projection by 80 points of OPS in a quarter-season of playing time is a mighty solid breakout. I remain unsure whether Arozarena will add much in terms of defensive value, but he’s certainly earned the opportunity to succeed or fail in a full-time role.

It’s disappointing that we didn’t get more minor league action for Wander Franco, but he is so far advanced at such a young age that he probably can shrug off a missed development year better than most. ZiPS has projected much better rookie seasons than Franco’s projection here, but none of them were for players who had yet to play in Double-A.

I expect this to be a fairly quiet offseason for the Rays, at least when it comes to the offense. The only free agents were the catchers (Zunino and Kevan Smith) and Hunter Renfroe, who seemed almost superfluous on such a deep roster. Except for a second catcher, this has the look of a fairly “finished” offense.

Pitchers

More than most, the top comps for Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow feel appropriate (Barry Zito, Juan Guzman). Snell has a great curve, and you can see the San Francisco Giants giving him a giant contract someday that doesn’t work out. And like Glasnow, Guzman was an explosive young pitcher who suffered from nagging injuries and spells when he was somewhat erratic. Nobody’s safe from trade when they’re in Tampa, but despite the occasional whispers about a Snell move, I expect both to start 2021 with the Rays in light of the loss of Charlie Morton.

The Rays aren’t going to sign Trevor Bauer, but looking at the rotation, it really feels like they need to make an out-of-organization addition to replace the departed Morton, a key member of the rotation. Michael Wacha was added to the mix on a one-year deal right before these projections hit the printing press, but he’s also not been himself since 2018, and brings more question marks than exclamation points. Neither Snell nor Glasnow possess unblemished health records, and the rotation depth feels a little thin. Brendan McKay’s recovering from a torn labrum, and both his 2021 availability and performance are unknown at this point. Brent Honeywell Jr. is expected to be ready for spring training, but his four elbow surgeries since 2017 outnumber his innings pitched over that span (zero). Even if you’re hopeful about his recovery, you can’t mark down his innings in permanent marker any more than you can McKay’s. Screwball pitchers are supposed to get at least a few years in the majors before ruining their arms!

It’s unclear whether the Rays will really try Ryan Yarbrough as a regular starter, but if they do, he’s still unproven in that role. It’s an opportunity for someone like Josh Fleming, a pitcher whose limited stuff curbs his upside but who could fill a valuable niche as an innings-eater here. Without a depth signing or two, I’d really like to see Shane McClanahan get an extended shot in the rotation, even if it’s only of the “four-inning special” variety. I might like to see that in any case.

The bullpen remains rock-solid, though a couple of the names at the back could use some upgrades. Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Cody Reed, and Pete Fairbanks all project with an ERA+ north of 120, with Jose Alvarado and non-roster invitee Andrew Kittredge right behind. And that’s with two more relievers close to 120, Aaron Loup and Oliver Drake, being unsigned free agents! ZiPS sees John Curtiss, Ryan Thompson, and Ryan Sherriff as the weak links here. Even without upgrades to the last few players here, though, this bullpen should compete to be the best in baseball.

Batters – Standard
Player B Age PO PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Brandon Lowe L 26 2B 530 473 69 115 25 3 26 83 48 157 6 2
Randy Arozarena R 26 CF 482 427 67 112 22 3 21 60 36 116 16 9
Yandy Díaz R 29 3B 484 420 60 116 20 1 8 41 59 80 2 2
Austin Meadows L 26 LF 545 491 68 123 26 4 23 71 45 136 11 4
Manuel Margot R 26 CF 507 463 60 119 23 4 13 53 37 103 21 7
Mike Brosseau R 27 3B 430 389 50 100 20 2 15 51 27 106 6 4
Willy Adames R 25 SS 593 532 69 129 25 3 18 60 54 173 7 4
Kevin Kiermaier L 31 CF 433 396 52 93 18 7 12 50 30 106 14 5
Wander Franco B 20 SS 534 487 62 128 23 6 14 56 40 72 10 11
Josh Lowe L 23 CF 541 486 60 108 22 4 17 60 45 163 23 9
Yoshi Tsutsugo L 29 LF 527 466 66 111 23 1 24 76 58 131 0 0
Joey Wendle L 31 2B 467 429 53 110 24 4 7 44 23 89 13 4
Taylor Walls B 24 SS 521 473 57 112 22 5 9 47 41 116 22 15
Kevin Padlo R 24 3B 476 417 51 88 22 1 17 54 47 160 9 2
Ji-Man Choi L 30 1B 427 363 48 89 21 1 15 54 54 103 2 1
Vidal Brujan B 23 2B 530 488 56 120 20 6 7 44 34 93 35 15
Xavier Edwards B 21 2B 593 544 58 141 18 7 2 36 38 87 24 9
Brett Phillips L 27 RF 407 352 48 66 9 6 13 43 48 152 17 2
Esteban Quiroz L 29 2B 362 317 50 74 17 0 8 44 37 82 3 2
Cal Stevenson L 24 LF 495 439 56 107 16 5 4 36 53 86 12 8
Mike Zunino R 30 C 364 333 36 64 15 0 17 51 24 136 0 0
Kevan Smith R 33 C 256 233 23 61 13 0 4 30 16 48 1 0
Ronaldo Hernandez R 23 C 482 454 49 104 19 3 14 58 17 97 5 2
Connor Hollis R 26 3B 221 198 24 45 9 1 3 16 16 51 5 3
Rene Pinto R 24 C 348 322 31 68 17 1 5 29 20 92 1 3
Ryan Boldt L 26 RF 311 287 30 65 11 3 4 27 18 82 9 3
Michael Gigliotti L 25 CF 308 273 30 60 11 2 3 22 24 75 17 8
Dylan Cozens L 27 RF 408 357 49 61 10 2 22 63 47 201 9 4
Tyler Frank R 24 SS 176 155 19 32 7 1 2 12 12 36 3 2
Ford Proctor L 24 SS 439 395 41 84 16 2 4 29 37 107 6 5
Niko Hulsizer R 24 LF 341 298 39 53 14 1 13 38 32 141 7 5
Jim Haley R 26 3B 471 444 46 99 16 2 12 48 17 130 15 3
Jermaine Palacios R 24 2B 414 384 32 84 13 4 4 28 22 105 9 10
Tristan Gray L 25 1B 498 451 51 96 21 4 14 54 38 130 2 8
Johnny Davis B 31 CF 480 443 45 94 9 5 3 25 24 137 31 10
Miles Mastrobuoni L 25 LF 458 416 45 95 12 3 3 28 36 114 10 10
Joseph Odom R 29 C 318 295 24 55 12 0 5 26 19 115 1 1
Carl Chester R 25 CF 500 466 43 97 16 4 5 36 23 138 13 8
Moises Gomez R 22 RF 461 425 43 78 18 2 14 49 28 184 5 3
Garrett Whitley R 24 LF 466 416 43 62 15 3 12 41 46 228 11 13

Batters – Advanced
Player BA OBP SLG OPS+ ISO BABIP RC/27 Def WAR No. 1 Comp
Brandon Lowe .243 .319 .474 114 .230 .307 5.4 2 3.0 Jack Howell
Randy Arozarena .262 .339 .475 121 .213 .314 5.8 -7 2.2 Hunter Pence
Yandy Díaz .276 .366 .386 108 .110 .325 5.2 -1 2.2 Dave Magadan
Austin Meadows .251 .318 .460 110 .210 .301 5.3 3 2.2 Michael Taylor
Manuel Margot .257 .313 .408 96 .151 .305 4.8 5 2.1 Mike Devereaux
Mike Brosseau .257 .319 .434 105 .177 .317 5.0 4 2.1 Kevin Mitchell
Willy Adames .242 .313 .402 95 .160 .326 4.5 0 2.1 Jhonny Peralta
Kevin Kiermaier .235 .296 .407 91 .172 .291 4.4 10 2.0 Dewayne Wise
Wander Franco .263 .316 .421 100 .158 .284 4.6 1 1.9 Tony Fernandez
Josh Lowe .222 .291 .389 85 .167 .297 4.0 7 1.7 Jon Hamilton
Yoshi Tsutsugo .238 .323 .446 108 .208 .280 5.1 -1 1.6 Damon Minor
Joey Wendle .256 .306 .380 87 .124 .309 4.4 4 1.4 Mickey Morandini
Taylor Walls .237 .298 .362 80 .125 .296 3.6 7 1.4 Tony Mota
Kevin Padlo .211 .298 .391 88 .180 .296 4.1 3 1.4 Matt Tuiasosopo
Ji-Man Choi .245 .344 .433 112 .187 .302 5.3 -2 1.2 Tony Clark
Vidal Brujan .246 .299 .355 79 .109 .291 3.9 5 1.0 Luis Rivas
Xavier Edwards .259 .308 .329 76 .070 .305 3.8 5 0.9 Harold Reynolds
Brett Phillips .188 .286 .358 76 .170 .283 3.8 7 0.7 Chris Dickerson
Esteban Quiroz .233 .321 .363 88 .129 .291 4.1 0 0.7 Bret Barberie
Cal Stevenson .244 .324 .330 81 .087 .295 3.7 6 0.6 Tommy Gregg
Mike Zunino .192 .258 .390 75 .198 .261 3.4 1 0.6 Dave Duncan
Kevan Smith .262 .318 .369 88 .107 .315 4.3 -4 0.4 Robert Machado
Ronaldo Hernandez .229 .259 .377 72 .148 .262 3.4 1 0.4 Tim Laker
Connor Hollis .227 .303 .328 74 .101 .292 3.4 2 0.3 Jerry Salzano
Rene Pinto .211 .259 .317 57 .106 .280 2.6 7 0.2 Mike Matheny
Ryan Boldt .226 .280 .328 67 .101 .303 3.3 8 0.2 Bubba Crosby
Michael Gigliotti .220 .293 .308 66 .088 .292 3.2 3 0.1 Jon Jay
Dylan Cozens .171 .267 .395 79 .224 .291 3.5 1 -0.2 Jonathan Van Every
Tyler Frank .206 .284 .303 62 .097 .256 2.9 -1 -0.2 Vicente Garcia
Ford Proctor .213 .281 .294 59 .081 .282 2.7 2 -0.3 Niuman Romero
Niko Hulsizer .178 .273 .362 73 .185 .278 3.1 0 -0.4 Adam Bonner
Jim Haley .223 .257 .349 65 .126 .288 3.3 -1 -0.5 Keith Johnson
Jermaine Palacios .219 .262 .305 56 .086 .291 2.5 5 -0.6 Jhon Florentino
Tristan Gray .213 .278 .370 76 .157 .267 3.2 3 -0.6 Matt Bowser
Johnny Davis .212 .256 .275 47 .063 .300 2.7 7 -0.6 Jovino Carvajal
Miles Mastrobuoni .228 .289 .293 61 .065 .308 2.7 8 -0.7 Corey Coles
Joseph Odom .186 .237 .278 41 .092 .286 2.2 -2 -1.2 Dane Sardinha
Carl Chester .208 .251 .292 49 .084 .285 2.4 3 -1.3 Darnell McDonald
Moises Gomez .184 .234 .334 54 .151 .282 2.6 1 -1.8 Christian Rojas
Garrett Whitley .149 .237 .286 43 .137 .284 1.8 3 -2.3 Corey Pointer

Pitchers – Standard
Player T Age W L ERA G GS IP H ER HR BB SO FIP
Blake Snell L 28 11 7 3.44 26 26 133.3 106 51 16 52 167 3.43
Tyler Glasnow R 27 10 6 3.63 25 25 134.0 104 54 18 54 187 3.43
Ryan Yarbrough L 29 11 8 4.04 34 19 158.3 154 71 23 35 139 4.17
Brendan McKay L 25 8 5 3.79 29 25 118.7 106 50 17 37 138 3.75
Diego Castillo R 27 7 4 3.12 62 5 69.3 56 24 6 26 81 3.27
Josh Fleming L 25 9 8 4.37 25 19 131.7 143 64 18 29 90 4.41
Yonny Chirinos R 27 7 6 4.24 25 18 119.0 118 56 19 29 104 4.36
Trevor Richards R 28 7 6 4.52 27 21 121.3 118 61 20 46 119 4.62
Colin Poche L 27 7 5 3.49 60 2 69.7 54 27 9 28 93 3.57
Jalen Beeks L 27 6 6 4.47 31 11 106.7 106 53 16 43 108 4.48
Andrew Kittredge R 31 3 2 3.70 48 5 65.7 63 27 8 18 66 3.71
Nick Anderson R 30 5 3 3.23 52 0 53.0 41 19 8 17 77 3.31
Pete Fairbanks R 27 7 4 3.53 62 2 66.3 56 26 8 28 83 3.60
Michael Wacha R 29 6 6 4.71 23 20 107.0 109 56 17 43 101 4.62
Shane McClanahan L 24 8 8 4.80 24 22 110.7 105 59 19 53 117 4.90
Cody Reed L 28 4 2 3.47 55 0 59.7 49 23 6 29 72 3.68
Oliver Drake R 34 4 3 3.67 51 1 54.0 46 22 5 21 60 3.38
Chris Ellis R 28 6 7 4.79 34 14 103.3 102 55 15 48 99 4.72
Aaron Slegers R 28 5 6 4.93 26 14 104.0 115 57 19 24 70 5.05
Jose Alvarado L 26 4 2 3.69 51 1 46.3 36 19 4 29 59 3.76
Joe Ryan R 25 5 5 5.12 23 20 102.0 99 58 23 33 103 5.27
Aaron Loup L 33 2 1 3.65 47 0 37.0 35 15 4 12 37 3.88
Tyler Zombro R 26 3 3 4.37 42 2 68.0 73 33 9 17 47 4.44
Brent Honeywell Jr. R 26 3 3 4.83 8 8 41.0 46 22 6 14 32 4.69
Ryan Thompson R 29 3 3 4.34 41 2 56.0 57 27 7 17 45 4.27
Chaz Roe R 34 3 2 4.08 50 0 39.7 35 18 5 19 46 4.16
David Hess R 27 6 7 5.14 26 17 105.0 110 60 18 39 87 5.01
Brian Shaffer R 24 4 4 5.09 32 11 104.3 113 59 20 32 85 5.14
Deck McGuire 맥과이어 R 32 4 4 5.21 18 12 67.3 66 39 11 36 60 5.35
Michael Plassmeyer L 24 5 6 5.37 24 22 112.3 124 67 23 36 84 5.47
John Curtiss R 28 3 3 4.67 41 3 54.0 49 28 8 29 59 4.70
Tommy Romero R 23 7 9 5.38 24 20 108.7 117 65 19 49 83 5.47
Sean Gilmartin L 31 3 3 5.08 27 6 56.7 59 32 11 22 51 5.23
Brooks Pounders R 30 3 3 4.72 42 2 55.3 55 29 10 19 60 4.55
Ryan Sherriff L 31 3 3 4.54 34 0 35.7 38 18 5 11 23 4.72
Phoenix Sanders R 26 3 3 4.68 41 1 57.7 55 30 8 29 58 4.64
Dalton Moats L 26 3 3 5.20 44 4 62.3 66 36 11 29 51 5.38
Shane Baz R 22 2 3 5.81 15 15 62.0 65 40 10 42 48 5.95
Mike Franco R 29 3 3 5.40 30 4 53.3 54 32 9 32 51 5.43
Dietrich Enns L 30 8 10 5.67 23 21 112.7 128 71 21 49 82 5.61
Edgar Garcia R 24 2 2 4.99 52 0 52.3 48 29 9 31 57 5.07
Kenny Rosenberg L 25 6 8 5.67 24 16 114.3 125 72 20 62 86 5.76
Blake Bivens R 25 3 4 6.07 25 7 59.3 67 40 10 36 40 5.99

Pitchers – Advanced
Player K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BB% K% BABIP ERA+ ERA- WAR No. 1 Comp
Blake Snell 11.3 3.5 1.1 9.4% 30.3% .286 125 80 3.1 Barry Zito
Tyler Glasnow 12.6 3.6 1.2 9.7% 33.6% .293 119 84 2.8 Juan Guzman
Ryan Yarbrough 7.9 2.0 1.3 5.3% 21.0% .287 107 94 2.5 Stubby Overmire
Brendan McKay 10.5 2.8 1.3 7.5% 27.8% .297 113 88 2.2 Zach Duke
Diego Castillo 10.5 3.4 0.8 9.0% 27.9% .289 138 72 1.7 Mike DeJean
Josh Fleming 6.2 2.0 1.2 5.1% 16.0% .298 98 102 1.7 Chuck Stobbs
Yonny Chirinos 7.9 2.2 1.4 5.8% 20.8% .289 102 99 1.6 Larry Dierker
Trevor Richards 8.8 3.4 1.5 8.8% 22.7% .293 95 105 1.3 Chuck Rainey
Colin Poche 12.0 3.6 1.2 9.6% 32.0% .287 123 81 1.0 Tug McGraw
Jalen Beeks 9.1 3.6 1.4 9.2% 23.1% .305 96 104 1.0 Ryan Meaux
Andrew Kittredge 9.0 2.5 1.1 6.5% 23.8% .302 116 86 1.0 Jeff Tam
Nick Anderson 13.1 2.9 1.4 7.9% 35.6% .295 133 75 1.0 Mike Schooler
Pete Fairbanks 11.3 3.8 1.1 10.0% 29.5% .300 122 82 1.0 Sarge Connally
Michael Wacha 8.5 3.6 1.4 9.2% 21.6% .302 91 110 0.9 Jim Hannan
Shane McClanahan 9.5 4.3 1.5 10.8% 23.9% .293 90 112 0.8 Chris Hancock
Cody Reed 10.9 4.4 0.9 11.3% 28.1% .295 124 81 0.8 Steve Mingori
Oliver Drake 10.0 3.5 0.8 9.3% 26.4% .293 117 85 0.6 Barney Schultz
Chris Ellis 8.6 4.2 1.3 10.5% 21.6% .299 90 111 0.6 Mark Calvert
Aaron Slegers 6.1 2.1 1.6 5.4% 15.6% .291 87 115 0.5 Benny Frey
Jose Alvarado 11.5 5.6 0.8 14.3% 29.1% .294 116 86 0.5 Bob McClure
Joe Ryan 9.1 2.9 2.0 7.5% 23.5% .279 84 119 0.4 Ricky Bones
Aaron Loup 9.0 2.9 1.0 7.5% 23.3% .304 118 85 0.4 Randy Tomlin
Tyler Zombro 6.2 2.3 1.2 5.8% 16.0% .296 98 102 0.3 Tom Morgan
Brent Honeywell Jr. 7.0 3.1 1.3 7.7% 17.6% .313 89 112 0.3 Mark Fidrych
Ryan Thompson 7.2 2.7 1.1 7.1% 18.7% .296 99 101 0.3 John Boozer
Chaz Roe 10.4 4.3 1.1 10.9% 26.4% .297 105 95 0.3 Greg Minton
David Hess 7.5 3.3 1.5 8.5% 18.9% .295 84 120 0.3 Tim Drew
Brian Shaffer 7.3 2.8 1.7 7.0% 18.6% .297 84 118 0.2 Dick Bosman
Deck McGuire 8.0 4.8 1.5 11.8% 19.7% .286 82 121 0.2 Jim Maloney
Michael Plassmeyer 6.7 2.9 1.8 7.3% 17.0% .293 80 125 0.1 Joe Rosselli
John Curtiss 9.8 4.8 1.3 12.1% 24.7% .293 92 109 0.1 Ruddy Lugo
Tommy Romero 6.9 4.1 1.6 10.0% 16.9% .294 80 125 0.1 Mark Cahill
Sean Gilmartin 8.1 3.5 1.7 8.8% 20.4% .294 85 118 0.0 Jim Umbarger
Brooks Pounders 9.8 3.1 1.6 7.9% 25.1% .306 91 110 0.0 Todd Williams
Ryan Sherriff 5.8 2.8 1.3 7.1% 14.9% .289 95 106 0.0 Joe Grzenda
Phoenix Sanders 9.1 4.5 1.2 11.3% 22.7% .297 92 109 0.0 Casey Daigle
Dalton Moats 7.4 4.2 1.6 10.4% 18.2% .296 83 121 -0.2 Danny Zell
Shane Baz 7.0 6.1 1.5 14.4% 16.4% .293 74 135 -0.2 Adam Harben
Mike Franco 8.6 5.4 1.5 13.1% 20.8% .300 80 126 -0.2 Ed Sprague
Dietrich Enns 6.6 3.9 1.7 9.6% 16.0% .302 76 132 -0.3 Rick Krivda
Edgar Garcia 9.8 5.3 1.5 13.2% 24.4% .287 86 116 -0.3 Mike DeJean
Kenny Rosenberg 6.8 4.9 1.6 11.7% 16.3% .297 76 132 -0.3 Matt Coenen
Blake Bivens 6.1 5.5 1.5 12.9% 14.3% .300 71 141 -0.6 Brett Merriman

Players are listed with their most recent teams wherever possible. This includes players who are unsigned, players who will miss 2021 due to injury, and players who were released in 2020. So yes, if you see Joe Schmoe, who quit baseball back in August to form a Finnish industrial death metal fourth-wave ska J-pop band, he’s still listed here intentionally.

Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR, which is to say, WAR values as calculated by me, Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in the full release of ZiPS. Finally, I will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on a depth chart to produce projected team WAR. ZiPS is assuming that the designated hitter will continue in force in 2021; if it does not, there will be widespread minor adjustments across the board come April.

ZiPS is agnostic about future playing time by design. For more information about ZiPS, please refer to this article, or get angry at Dan on Twitter or something.





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Tony Fernandez is a heck of a nice comp for a teenager who hasn’t played in a year. I’d still take the over, and love the Barry Larkin comp from last preseason.