When the Rays signed Rickie Weeks to a minor league deal this offseason, they were hoping he could provide stability next to left-handed hitting Logan Morrison at first base, returning the veteran to the infield after an awkward season in the outfield with the Diamondbacks.
Weeks is coming off a fairly productive 2016 season (108 games) in which he hit .239/.327/.450 while accruing 102 wRC+ with nine home runs and 27 RBI’s. While producing at a fair level from both sides of the plate, his bat from the left side was what really intrigued the Rays, even before missing out on sluggers Mike Napoli and Chris Carter in free agency.
Although Weeks isn’t the caliber of a Napoli or Carter, he will provide real value against southpaws, against whom he slashed .284/.368/.642 with six home runs in 2016.
The non-roster invitee has gotten off to a great start this spring, mashing to the tune of .409/.480/.1000 with three home runs, four doubles, and 10 RBI’s in 22 at bats — but the most encouraging number, in my opinion, is the .480 on-base percentage. For a team who ranked 27th in OBP and first (which is not good in this scenario) in solo home runs a season ago, Weeks’ potential ability (career OBP of .344) to get on base at a league-average level would be a nice boost to the Rays offense.
Defensively, Weeks has adjusted well moving from outfield to first base, committing just one error in 39 innings and 45 total chances. At times, he’s even looked like a natural - picking short hops due to poor throws by his fellow infielders.
Great pick from Rickie Weeks Jr. over at 1B to get the Rays out of the inning. Pretty tough, late hop.— Sandy Kazmir (@SandyKazmir) March 5, 2017
While the Rays will very well need Weeks to produce at first base, they also need another leader in the clubhouse this season. This is another area where Weeks can help, especially after trading clubhouse-favorite Logan Forsythe this offseason. Weeks certainly helps fill that role, as evidenced by his mentorship thus far of last year’s clubhouse outcast Tim Beckham, and comments by Kevin Cash:
"Just his presence has probably been the most important thing and the way that he has come in," Cash said. “[Longoria] and I talked about him [this week], everybody has raved about him, in the clubhouse, in the dugout. His work ethic. He's been a great addition... It's pretty impressive to watch him take a round of batting practice. A lot of people take batting practice, it's a loose environment -- Rickie kind of stands off to the side and that's his time to work... Anytime he's on that field he is working. That's not to take away from the other guys that go about it maybe differently. His BP, is kind of like the no-fun zone, he's getting ready for the season."
With few answers at first base - and with highly-touted prospects Jake Bauers and Casey Gillaspie still a year away - Weeks is in a great position to not only make the roster in a platoon at first base, but could possibly take over the position long term if Logan Morrison has another down year.
There are not a lot of known’s for the position battles in camp, but one thing appears clear as Spring Training comes to a close: Rickie Weeks is making the team.