2011 MLB Fantasy Forecast: Tampa Bay Rays Rookie Jake McGee As Closer

Daniel LewigCorrespondent IFebruary 21, 2011

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21:  Jake McGee #57 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the New York Yankees on September 21, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 8 - 3. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A lot has been stated (and overstated) on the state of the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen.  The Rays lost nearly their entire bullpen in one off-season, and General Manager Andrew Friedman has run out of band-aids trying to patch a 'pen together for the 2011 season.  He's signed a couple of veterans, he's traded for some young arms, but the best and brightest hope to a successful bullpen in 2011 is squarely on the shoulders of someone who was already in-house.

Jake McGee.

The 6'3", 230 lbs. 24 year-old lefty is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and earned his first exposure to the bigs late last season.  During that time he impressed more than one Rays executive on his adapting to the bullpen.

One of his biggest believers is Rays manager Joe Maddon.

While there has been some debate as to whether McGee should be a starter or reliever, Maddon recently stated that McGee will be given every opportunity to earn a spot in the bullpen this spring.

Fantasy nerds went into hyper drive with that announcement.

McGee represents the arm with the highest upside in the Rays bullpen and the highest potential reward.  A lefty that throws a 95+mph fastball are not too common in MLB.  The Rays are always cautious with their pitchers, and McGee won't begin the season as the closer.  But he will be given every opportunity to earn that position by being put into late-inning, high-leverage situations.

The best prediction is McGee becomes the Rays primary closer by mid-season.  If it even takes that long.

2011 MLB Stats Prediction:  5-2, 3.35 ERA, 25 saves, 10.09 K/9IP.