Its been a rough offseason for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays what with losing star OF Carl Crawford to the Boston Red Sox in free agency and than seeing almost their entire bullpen also defect led by star closer Rafael Soriano going to the New York Yankees. In addition to Soriano, setup men Dan Wheeler and Grant Balfour also signed with other teams which leaves a gaping whole in the closer’s chair for the team. Right now there is no clear cut ninth inning guy on the roster and so the Rays will have to look inward unless they sign a late free agent such as Jon Rauch to take over the job. One guy who could possibly step up and become the team’s stopper barely registers on fantasy baseball radars but soon could find himself earning those precious saves that all teams desire. I am talking about 25 year old rookie Jake McGee who had a cup of coffee in his first major league action last September with the Rays and who possibly profiles as someone who can take over the job on the club. Since McGee is so little known, I thought it would be a great time to give some more info on the guy and tell you why he can be a deep sleeper for fantasy baseball 2011.
As I stated earlier, McGee will only be turning 25 years old this season and he was originally a fifth round draft pick of the team. During his time in the minor leagues, McGee showcased a very good fastball which he used to pile up strikeouts which is one of the main assets needed for the role. During his five late season innings in 2010, McGee struck out six batters in five innings so despite being a very small sample size, we got a tiny glimpse of the fact he can bring the heat. The usual story with almost all young pitchers however is that McGee’s control leaves him at times and he did walk 3 batters in those five innings last season. No doubt there will be times where McGee will put more men than usual on base via the walk but with good strikeout stuff, he has the ability to minimize the damage that way. Anyone who watched a came-out-of-nowhere Jon Axford last season with the Brewers can see how this type of makeup can work in the job. I am certainly not suggesting that McGee will have instant success like Axford did last season. I am only pointing out that McGee has the same type of profile as Axford did and so its not out of the realm of possibility that he has a similar season in 2011.
All in all, the gaping hole at the back of the Tampa Bay bullpen leaves open the chance for an under-the-radar guy like McGee to come in and take the closer job and so he is worth a speculative pickup at the very end of your 2011 draft. Saves are always volatile but taking a shot with someone with intriguing ability like McGee surely make him someone to pay attention to this spring.
2011 PROJECTION: 2-4 3.89 ERA 15 S 65 K 1.32 WHIP