Nick Franklin had been hitting very well for the Rays in the second half this season, becoming a strong contender for next season’s roster by fielding at SS and 1B, while working out in CF during batting practice.
The switch hitting infielder boasts a remarkable 140 wRC+ against right handed pitching (135 PA), and has cut his strikeout rate from 32% to 17% in the second half. Unfortunately, we may not see much more of that this season.
Franklin came up lame while stretching for the out at first base last night, and his hamstring might be done for the season.
He got the double play, and he may have secured the place on the roster he was expected to keep two years ago, but he also might be shut down for the rest of the year.
If that is the case, his roster spot may need filled by another short stop capable player on the Rays roster, but that depth is running thin. With starting short stop Matt Duffy injured, the Rays already brought in SS Alexei Ramirez.
Ramirez can still take the bulk of the defensive reps at short, while Brad Miller covers first base, and when needed Miller can cover short with Richie Shaffer at first base, as we saw in this game, but Franklin’s roster spot will need filled, and preferably by someone who can cover short stop as well.
Who are the Rays’ options?
Tim Beckham and Taylor Motter
Not happening. Both players were removed from the 25-man roster for disciplinary reasons by the team, and the Rays have been sticking to those guns, as evidenced in the signing of Ramirez.
Beckham is a natural short stop, and Motter proved to be adept at the position this season as he sought a full time utility role with the Rays, so perhaps another injury could necessitate one of them being promoted, but the situation is not yet dire enough for the Rays to backtrack on their punitive measures.
The only other infielder on the 40-man roster is Ryan Brett, but he is still recovering from mid-season Tommy John surgery.
The Rays will have room on the 40-man roster shortly, as first baseman and pending free agent Logan Morrison will require wrist surgery, allowing the club to transfer him to the Disabled List and open up a slot.
Among the top hitting prospects in Durham this season are two mid-season promotions, who I will mention first to bury the lede.
1B Casey Gillaspie barnstormed the Durham Bulls this season. He’d made the leap from Class-A to Double-A and hit well (145 wRC+), but then dominated further in Durham, batting .307/.389/.520 with a .407 wOBA and 163 wRC+. His plate discipline was bonkers, with a 10.8% walk rate and 18.7% strikeout rate, and he even boasted a .212 ISO with seven home runs in his 203 PA.
These sort of emergency call ups tend to be a reward, and Gillaspie might have earned such a nod. The Rays could deploy him in the first base rotation, and allow Brad Miller to keep spelling Ramirez at short.
Then again, the Rays already have Richie Shaffer in tow at the major league level, and Brad Miller might be best suited to getting every day reps at first base for his best use next season.
Gillaspie -- the 23-year old former first round draft selection — might be the future, but Miller is the present, at least until a mid-season call up interferes in 2017.
CF Johnny Field is the other name of note. After repeating at Double-A to start 2016, Field hit a respectable 115 wRC+n 206 PA and earned a promotion to Durham, where he batted an even better 126 wRC+ in 285 PA. At both levels he held a .180 ISO, with five home runs, 7.4 BB% and 22.5 K% at the higher level.
Field doesn’t fit the defensive scheme the Rays would require in this promotion scenario, but it’s worth mentioning how well the 24-year old performed. On the flip side is a player who fills the position of need:
SS Daniel Robertson had quite the challenge set for him in 2016, facing a full season of advanced pitching while recovering from a broken hamate bone. He was one of two 22-year old players to grace the Durham Bulls roster this season, with the other being a mid-season of pitcher Jake Faria.
Robertson played through his rehabilitation, which sapped power and dampened what could have been an eye popping season, but after some work with now-Rays hitting coach Chad Mottola, he rebounded well down the stretch.
On the season, he owns a 110 wRC+ over 511 PA with an impressive 11.4% walk rate and 19.6% strikeout rate, but there was a marked improvement in the last third of the year. Through the first 82 games, Robertson had a mere .648 OPS with 16 XBH through 348 PA, but after the visit from Mottola (around July 17), he finished the year with an .860 OPS and 13 XBH over just 36 games (163 PA).
And Robertson paid his dues. He spent the season in a utility fashion, working his way around the diamond, and proved he could take walks from RHP and make contact against LHP, all while adjusting his swing and returning from injury.
Overall it was not a world-beating season, but if the Rays need a short stop, there’s an argument to be made that Robertson has earned the call.