2021 Fantasy Baseball Statcast Deep Dive: Tampa Bay Rays

by Jordan McDonald
2021 Fantasy Baseball StatsCast Deep Dive: Tampa Bay Rays

Welcome to another edition of the 2021 Fantasy Baseball Statcast Deep Dive featuring the Tampa Bay Rays!

For this week, we examine the final team in the AL East, who just happen to be the current leaders in the division. The Rays are the defending pennant winners, but they always take a backseat to the Yankees and Red Sox regarding national coverage. However, they deserve the same recognition as one of the elite teams in the league.

The frugal Rays seem to get more by spending less, and they receive production throughout their entire lineup. And based on some of their players' Statcast pages, they might be the most intriguing team covered so far this season.

2021 Fantasy Baseball Statcast Deep Dive: Tampa Bay Rays

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Randy Arozarena

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Arozarena made himself known during last year's playoffs by winning ALCS MVP and setting a record for most home runs in a single postseason. And because of that, his draft stock skyrocketed heading into this season. According to FantasyPros, he finished with a consensus ADP of 58 and 38th among all other hitters.

Certainly, there was expected regression for Arozarena, but the question was how much? Last season, he was able to slash .281/.382/.641 and seven home runs in 23 games and followed that up with .377/.442/.831 with 10 home runs in 20 postseason games. But teams may have figured out how to pitch to him, as he is only slashing .261/.345/.404 with seven home runs in triple the number of plate appearances from last season.

His Statcast power numbers are similar to where they were last season, but his contact metrics tell a different story. He has recorded a Sweet Spot Percentage of 23.2, which is almost 10 percent lower than last season. That has lowered his Launch Angle to 6.6 degrees (from 9.2) and his expected batting statistics have suffered in response. His xBA is currently .205 (bottom six percent) and his xSLG is .325 (bottom seven percent).

We should not gloss over the numbers he recorded during the 2020 season, but he may not reach those heights based on what we have seen thus far.

Austin Meadows

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Unlike Arozarena, Meadows had a forgetful 2020 season that ended with a miserable .205/.296/.371 slash line. However, many people looked past the shortened season and banked on him to return to his 2019 form when he slashed .291/.364/.558.

His 2020 season was worse than what appeared on the surface. His xBA was ranked in the bottom two percent was .178 and owned a bloated strikeout rate of 32.9 percent. Luckily for him (and his fantasy managers), Meadows has started trending upwards after a slow start to his season. His batting average has crept up to .237, but his OPS remains steady at .854.

One difference between last season and this season is the increase in Sweet Spot Percentage (unlike Arozarena). Meadows recorded a career-low 27.4 percent in 2020, after compiling a rate of 36.2 through his first two seasons. As for this season, he is posting the best mark of his career at 41.8 percent.

The power numbers are consistent with his 2019 season, and he has even improved his walk rate to a career-best 12.6 percent. If Meadows can sustain this current hot streak for the rest of the season, he could be a valuable asset for the outfield position.

Brandon Lowe

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Lowe is another player on this Rays team who is performing completely different from last season. After posting a slash line of .269/.362/.554 in 2020, he has followed that up with a measly .188/.298/.361. Lowe offered positional versatility in multiple formats and he was another Rays player who was drafted early by managers before the season. However, the returns have not lived up to the expectations.

He is showing a noticeable decrease in his power numbers this season. His Hard Hit rate is under 40 percent for the first time in his career, and his Barrel percentage has dropped from 17.5 last season (98th percentile) to 12.2. His Launch Angle has also lowered from 18.7 degrees over the last two seasons to 13.4, possibly contributing to his inefficiencies.

The expected statistics are slightly better than his actual numbers, but not by much. Lowe has the ability to heat up at a moment's notice and moving on from him could be a slight overreaction. However, you may be forced with that decision if the struggles continue.

Mike Zunino

Zunino should begin referring to himself as "Mikey Barrels" from now on. He is your current leader in Barrel percentage with a whopping 27.1 percent and ranks sixth in maximum Exit Velocity. He provides a great source of home runs from the catcher position. but not much else.

Zunino is your typical "three-true outcomes" player based on his hitting profile. Batting average is something you should never expect from him and his career .200 average. And based on this season's slash line of .202/.303/.524, he hasn't deviated away from the norm. Also, his strikeout rate of 38.3 percent is ranked in the bottom one percent of the league.

Since he was traded to the Rays from the Mariners, Zunino had never posted an OPS higher than .600 until this season. The emergence of Francisco Mejía may have provided the spark that prompted Zunino's increase in production. But unless your league values home runs more than batting average, he could be hurting your team as much as he is helping.

Joey Wendle

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Wendle has been quite a surprise at the plate this season by slashing .288/.350/.500, and his seven home runs are tied for the best of his career. The Rays' primary third baseman has been a productive waiver pickup with his ownership rate hovering around 80 percent.

There isn't a clear explanation for Wendle's breakout, as his Statcast page suggests that regression is forthcoming. His xBA (.230) and xSLG (.351) is much lower than the actual numbers are, and the supposed increase in power still leaves him well below average across the league.

Wendle is trying to fend off the future infield of Taylor Walls, Wander Franco, and Vidal Brujan to the best of his abilities. And just like his former teammate Willy Adames, the Rays could eventually make a move including Wendle to ease the crowded infield. Just like them, you should take advantage of the hot streak and strike while the value is high.

Check out the rest of our 2021 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

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