Pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Port Charlotte, meaning that baseball is back after a long, grueling off-season. There are still several moves to be made however, as several players are still free agents and the Rays should have an interest in at least a couple of them.
As the Rays begin spring training, let’s check out how the team has transformed and what needs to watched over the next several weeks.
40-Man Roster Subtractions
Pitchers: Drew Smyly, Enny Romero, Dylan Floro, Kevin Jepsen, and Steve Geltz
POS. Players: Alexei Ramirez, Bobby Wilson, Richie Shaffer, Taylor Motter, Ryan Brett, Justin O’Conner, Mikie Mahtook, and Logan Forsythe
40-Man Roster Additions
Pitchers: Jose Alvarado, Austin Pruitt, Ryne Stanek, Jaime Schultz, Chih-Wei Hu, Hunter Wood, Kevin Gadea, Jose De Leon, and Shawn Tolleson
POS. Players: Colby Rasmus, Mallex Smith, Wilson Ramos, Daniel Robertson, and Willy Adames
The Non-Roster Invitees
Pitchers: Jeff Ames, David Carpenter, Dana Eveland, Andrew Kittredge, Justin Marks, Diego Moreno, Cory Rasmus, Neil Wanger, and Ryan Yabrough
POS. Players: Nick Ciuffo, Jonah Heim, Michael McKenry, Ryan Brett, Casey Gillaspie, Jake Hager, Dalton Kelly, Patrick Leonard, Jake Bauers, Johnny Field, Shane Peterson, Jesus Sucre, Dayron Varona, and Rickie Weeks Jr.
Pitchers and Catcher 1st Workout - Tuesday, February 14th
First full squad workout - Sunday, February 19th
First game - Friday, February 24th against the Minnesota Twins at 7pm
World Baseball Classic Begins - Monday, March 6th
World Baseball Classic Ends - Wednesday, March 22nd
Opening Day - Sunday, April 2nd against the New York Yankees at 1pm
A true open competition, the Rays currently have four catchers vying for the opening day roster, with two front runners carried over from last season. Young, top notch defender Luke Maile and long-time back up Curt Casali are the favorites to win the position, given pre-established relationships with the major league rotation, while plus defenders Michael McKenry and Jesus Sucre, who each have major league experience, are sure to challenge for the position. Whichever catchers provide the most comfort to the Rays will win while the team waits for Wilson Ramos to recover from knee surgery.
The Rays surprisingly brought back Logan Morrison earlier this month, meaning Brad Miller will likely be moving over to second base. However, a strong showing from Nick Franklin, or even Daniel Robertson, could mean other things if Morrison can’t show what the Rays expect of him. The Rays are also still in the market for another offensive force in their lineup, which could also shake things up at first base.
The Corner Outfielders
The Rays signed Colby Rasmus in January, a player who brings with him stellar outfield defense to complement Kevin Kiermaier’s extraordinary glove in center. Rasmus will be taking a job in either right or left field, displacing at least one of Steven Souza or Corey Dickerson), depending on who the Rays want to take off the field and employ as a DH. Dickerson came to camp over 20 pounds lighter with the hopes of being an everyday outfielder, but he’ll have to outperform Souza’s defensive capabilities to do so.
The 4th Outfielder
During the Winter Meetings, Kevin Cash stated the Rays goal was to acquire more outfield depth, which they have done by bringing in Mallex Smith (whose contract will likely require at least a month in Durham), as well as Rasmus to help inspire competition in the outfield. The Rays also have org. soldiers Dayron Varona and Johnny Field involved in the competition, but the favorite will likely be former infielder Rickie Weeks, who bats from the left side and will be joining the club on a minor league deal this season.
The Starting Rotation
Chris Archer headlines the rotation, with Jake Odorizzi after him. Then a mess as to how to sort the remaining three spots. Alex Cobb and Blake Snell are the likely ones to go 3-4, but then at number five, the Rays have a plethora of options including Erasmo Ramirez, Matt Andriese, Chase Whitley, and newly acquired star prospect Jose De Leon, and that doesn’t include the minor league guys already present like Jake Faria, recently acquired Ryan Yarbrough, Jaime Schultz, Taylor Guerrieri, and Austin Pruitt.
There are only a couple of certainties with the Rays bullpen, and that’s Alex Colome, who returns as the closer, and Xavier Cedeno setting him up as the veteran southpaw. Then they have Brad Boxberger, Danny Farquhar, and Shawn Tolleson who will have high leverage roles. After that, who knows? The Rays picked up Kevin Gadea, who hasn’t pitched above the A-level in the minors, in the Rule V draft, and have other front office favorites Ryan Garton and Dana Eveland, along with the leftovers from the starting pitcher competition, and rising minor league fireballers Ryne Stanek and Jose Alvarado.