One of the position battles this spring will come down to who will win the job as the 25th man on the major league roster. This roster spot should be a middle infielder that could cover multiple positions.
Of the players currently on the 40 man roster Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin, Ryan Brett, and Taylor Motter could be players battling to fill this position.
Age: 26 (DOB: 1/27/1990)
Tim Beckham is the incumbent in this role. After missing almost the entire 2014 seasons due to a torn ACL, Beckham saw his first extended time in the majors during the 2015 season, and showed flashes of talent off the bench, particularly as a pinch hitter.
Last season saw Beckham hit for more power than has been seen from him throughout his minor league career. His ability to play 2B/SS/3B and being a right handed bat make him an easy choice for a utility infielder job that could see regular playing time at SS against lefties.
Beckham struck out a lot for a guy that doesn't draw walks causing him to have an OBP below .300. If he is able to maintain his power his bat can play in this role.
His lack of options make him the most likely addition to the 25 man roster as he would have to pass through waivers in order for the Rays to keep control of their 2008 number one overall pick.
Age: 25 (3/2/1991)
Nick Franklin had a solid rookie for the Mariners back in 2013. After the Mariners signed Robinson Cano, Franklin was not able to hold onto the SS job. Unfortunately for Franklin this offseason the Rays did no favors to him by acquiring Brad Miller. The same Brad Miller who was able to win the SS job in Seattle.
Franklin has played primarily 2B/SS in the majors while also seeing time at 1B, 3B, and RF in a utility role for Seattle.
As a switch hitter Franklin would make a nice addition to the lineup, but he hasn't necessarily shown the ability to hold him own from the right side. Being able to handle the bat against right handed pitching would generally be seen as a positive, but in this role it might not be the best fit.
Age: 24 (DOB: 10/9/1991)
Ryan Brett saw his 2015 derailed by a separated shoulder during his first cup of coffee in the big leagues. This led him to undergo surgery to repair a torn left labrum, his lead shoulder when batting. According to reports, his shoulder "feels the same" as it always has heading into 2016.
Brett would bring a different kind of versatility to this role. While he is unlikely to cover SS duty, due to lesser arm strength, he can play CF in addition to his primary position of 2B thanks to plus athleticism.
On a team with Kevin Kiermaier there might not be the playing time available to make use of his skills unless the Rays are unfortunate enough to suffer an injury to their best defensive player.
A year after struggling once he was able to return from his shoulder injury, he is likely to head back to Durham to get regular playing time and be ready should the Rays need his services mid-season.
Age: 26 (DOB: 9/18/1989)
This off-season Taylor Motter was added to the 40 man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
Despite having the most options remaining Motter is the oldest of the four that are battling for the major league job, and he brings the most versatility of any of the players. He has literally played all over the field, including spending some time at SS this winter.
It would be unfair to make any comparisons, but Motter could bring Ben Zobrist level versatility to the roster.
Motter is likely to head to Durham to start the season, but the Rays adding him to the 40 man roster is a good sign for his prospects of playing in the majors. If the Rays need somebody to fill in while receiving limited playing time mid-season. Motter might be that guy.
Who wins the job?
All four players bring something to the table that could help the 2016 Rays. This depth is necessary to have, as it will will lead to not having to give playing time to players like Jake Elmore this season.
Long term I think Taylor Motter might be the best suited to fill this role, but will likely have to wait for his opportunity. Ultimately Tim Beckham will win this job due to lack of options, above and beyond his respectable playing ability.