The Rays bench is not expected to have many openings next season, on offense or on the pitching staff.
Of the four bench positions on offense, one belongs to Jose Molina (who signed to a two-year deal), and one belongs to Sean Rodriguez (a super utility player). The remaining two seats are up for discussion.
The Rays will also need two platoon partners off the bench -- one to match with David DeJesus in left field, and one to match with Matt Joyce at designated hitter. Both DeJesus and Joyce are left handed hitters, so the Rays are in need of two right handed platoon partners.
Andrew Friedman has already stated he's looking for a left handed player that mashes right handed pitching in his first baseman search, so there's also potential a third platoon player will be needed as well.
Prior to the Rule 5 draft, the Rays already have some options to fill that need. Internally, the Rays could already satisfy each of the bench positions with a right handed bat. OF Brandon Guyer, has excellent speed, quality corner defense, and a projectable bat to pair with DeJesus. For first base or designated hitter, Sean Rodriguez can slot it, and the Rays could call on Durham to fill the final slot with a right handed bat, such as Tim Beckham or Vincent Belnome.
However, the Rays have had too many rumblings outside the organization to indicate they are happy with backfilling that final slot on the bench, having been connected to infielders Jamey Carroll, Mark Ellis, and Eric Chavez in the last week.
My goal is to find a right handed bat in the Rule 5 draft to satisfy the final platoon partner at 1B or DH cheaply.
Right Handed Batters
Xavier Scruggs, Cardinals 1B (AA)
Coming off an incredible 145 wRC+ season in his second season at Double-A, the now 26-year old has severe strikeout problems (32.4% last year!), but a powerful bat (.239 ISO, 29 HR). I'm not enamored, but he's a decent all around athlete.
Ty Kelly, Mariners 2B/3B (AAA)
After a 141 wRC+ season with the Mariners Triple-A affiliate, I think Kelly is worth a look. He satisfies the second utility infielder need, and is considered a solid prospect in a loaded Mariners infield depth. He was acquired from the Orioles for Eric Thames mid-season last year.
Miles Head, Athletics 1B/3B (AA)
Power from the right side and the potential to be a first baseman of the future. 2013 was a wash due to injury, but assuming he can take the field next season, he provides insurance at the corners and a decent pinch hitting option.
Left Handed Batters
Let's say the Rays were interested in using the Rule 5 to find another piece to face right handed pitching off the bench. This would be possible if next year's first baseman doesn't require platooning and is worth a look.
Allan Dykstra, Mets 1B (AA)
A broken fibula will sideline this stud until Spring Training, but if I were to take a flyer on anyone, it'd be this left handed first baseman. He's averaged a 20% walk rate each of the last two seasons between High-A and Double-A, and thumped 21 home runs last season with a 164 wRC+.
Why not invite a player with this profile to Spring Training and see what could stick? Dykstra is the epitome of a Rule 5 athlete.
Anthony Aliotti, Athletics 1B (AAA)
If the Rays find a rental for first base next season, grooming Aliotti on the bench is not a horrible idea. Left handed, this first baseman split time between Double- and Triple-A last season, rocking a 180 wRC+ for 91 games with 12 homeruns at the lower level before batting an 81 wRC+ over 42 games on his promotion.
Aliotti has consistently maintained high walk rates and high in-play batting averages, and now's a great time to "buy low" with a Rule 5 snag.
Matt Long, Angels OF (AAA)
If the Rays are able to land a first baseman that does not need platooned, the left handed bat of Matt Long may be able to survive at the major league level. His defense should play in all three positions and fill the Sam Fuld role from last season easily.