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Rays prospect Joey Rickard may be the starting Left Fielder in Baltimore

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Rickard was the ninth round selection for the Rays in the 2012 MLB Draft out of the University of Arizona. This past winter he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Baltimore Orioles and it appears he could be the starting left fielder.

But instead of injuries paving the way -- as seen with fellow Rays prospect and Rule 5 selection Tyler Goeddel, who is poised to take over left field for the Phillies -- Rickard has earned his keep through performance.

What the O's saw in Rickard

The route Rickard made in order to reach this situation is unique. As a college draftee it isn't that uncommon to start the rest of the season after the draft in A- and follow the season in full season A ball, but in 2014 Rickard was promoted to Montgomery (AA) skipping A+.

For Montgomery Rickard would struggle as would be expected out of a player receiving such a jump in talent level he was playing against. His season would be cut short after getting hit by a pitch in the ankle that would land him in a cast.

To start the 2015 season Rickard was sent to Port Charlotte (A+) and with a good start to his season he was earned a promotion back to Montgomery. Rickard was much more successful in his second stint in AA and would earn a late season promotion to Durham (AAA) where he would continue hitting.

Spring Training Performance

This spring Rickard has taken advantage of the opportunity that the Rule 5 draft had afford him as he has put up a .396/.475/.566 line over 60 plate appearances. Spring results should be taken with a grain of salt, but he has performed well at every level when given the opportunity.

Entering spring he was a candidate for the fourth outfielder position in Baltimore, but with Hyun Soo Kim struggling to adjust to MLB play, his path is suddenly clear.

This is a major surprise as it was probable that Rickard would have been offered back to the Rays before the end of the season if he struggled in a bench role. Now he seems likely to remain an Oriole, possibly even leading off for Baltimore.

Effect on the Rays

These opportunities are what the Rule 5 Draft is set to promote as even with a strong spring I don't think there was any way that Rickard would have been able to leapfrog Mikie Mahtook as the next man in line in Durham waiting for their major league opportunity.

It's likely that Rickard wouldn't have even been the next man up after Mahtook. Moments like these are why the Rule 5 Draft exists, but this is a second serious blow to the Rays outfield depth behind Mahtook.

A speedy fourth outfielder that could cover all three outfield positions without any real power is the profile of a fourth outfielder. Rickard has the potential to build a solid career in that role, but it might begin with the opportunity as the starting left fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.