Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Jake McGee

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In 2004, the Tampa Bay then-Devil Rays used their fifth round draft pick on a pitcher named Jake McGee. That 2004 draft class seems to have brought the Rays a ton of young talent into their system, and McGee is no exception. McGee has a lively fastball coupled with a dangerous slider, and has used them to his advantage in garnering a career 10.4 K/9 in the minor leagues. After the departure of Rafael Soriano, who was a dependable, dominant closer for the Rays last year, the closer’s job is wide open for the Rays, with the main competition for the job coming from Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, and McGee.

Of these closer candidates, none come without their downsides, with Peralta not being an established pitcher, Farnsworth being inconsistent and an injury risk, and with J.P. Howell being an injury risk as well. McGee’s health is not a concern, nor is his potential to be a good contributor out of the rotation or bullpen, but his biggest problem is inexperience. McGee has just 5 major league innings under his belt, in which he issued 6 strikeouts and 3 walks.

McGee came up through the Tampa minor league system as a starter and was even named Baseball America’s #15 prospect before the 2008 season, but was relatively unheard from after that as he struggled in 2009. In 2010 for AA Montgomery McGee had more success, pitching to a 3.57 ERA and 10.2 K/9 in 19 starts, but in order to get him to the majors faster the Rays converted him to a reliever. In 11 relief appearances for AAA Durham, McGee responded well by posting a 0.52 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, and a 14 K/9. While the Rays still view him as a starter in the long term, Tampa currently has a crowded rotation with David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, and sleeper Wade Davis, as well as swingman Andy Sonnanstine, which essentially blocks McGee from having a shot to crack the rotation this year.

In fantasy baseball 101, I outlined that paying for saves is a move that you should stay away from in your fantasy baseball draft, so because McGee has the best stuff, the cleanest bill of health, and the most upside out of anyone competing to be the Rays’ closer this year, I do think it is safe to assume McGee will be the closer until it is reported otherwise. Don’t assume his youth means that he can’t do well, in recent seasons Jonny Venters, Daniel Bard, John Axford, Andrew Bailey, Neftali Feliz, and Joba Chamberlain have broke out as dominant relievers in their rookie seasons, and because he has two dominant pitches, there is a very good chance McGee puts his name on this list by the end of the season. His 221.9 ADP makes him an absolute bargain compared to other closers, so if you’re looking for saves late in your draft (like every savvy manager should be), here’s your guy.

2011 projected stats: 3-3, 3.30 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 59 K, 21 saves

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