Outfielders are have all different kinds of skill sets that can benefit an organization. Generally, organizations value outfielders with: immense power, extreme agility, hitting for a good average, making contact, and perform defensively. Now not all outfielders possess all these traits, but the Rays have many outfielders throughout the organization who possess great ability. Here is a look at the outfielders of the present and the future. Note: as we go down the minor leagues we have less information to go off of.
Starting in the big leagues here is the current outfield roster:
Colby Rasmus is having a solid season so far after starting the early part of the season on the DL. He was brought in by the Rays as a good defensive player and a power bat, and so far has delivered. Through is 50 AB’s he is batting .268 with four homeruns and backs up his power hitting with a .300 ISO.
Kevin Kiermaier has struggled this year both offensively and defensively, compared to his usual performance. Has had 169 AB’s and is hitting a low .231. Additionally, he has more errors this year than last year already with a couple of singles turning into inside-the-park homeruns. The one thing that can’t be taken away though is speed. He has seven stolen bases this year and is taking more walks than his previous seasons. He has seemingly started to turn his season around on Wednesday with a tremendous catch colliding into the wall and hustling for an infield hit.
Steven Souza Jr. has been the surprise this season. Souza started out the season on a hot streak. Although he has cooled off since, he is currently hitting a serviceable .250 as the Rays everyday RF. Additionally, he has been a good middle of the lineup hitter, who is starting to live up to his power expectation with an above average ISO.
Corey Dickerson has, by far, been the best hitter on the Rays this season. Dickerson has found his home in the leadoff (.309 BA) spot and looks like the hitter he was in Colorado, without the Coors benefit. Although Dickerson’s fielding abilities are not very good, his bat allows him to be a backup LF when Rasmus needs a day off. Currently, Dickerson is hitting for a stellar average .347 while being an immediate power threat at the top of the lineup (11 Homeruns).
Peter Bourjos was brought to the Rays as a utility outfielder who can hit lefties well. As of right now, his future with the Rays might be bleak as he his hitting right near the Mendoza line and has struggled hitting lefties. The only reason Bourjos is still around is due to his good fielding abilities. His good fielding abilities allow Cash to place Bourjos anywhere in the outfield (specifically CF and RF) when Kiermaier and Souza need a day off.
Mallex Smith is a promising speedster. Right now, Smith was on the DL rehabbing at AAA before being optioned to that level, but he will return. He can be valuable to the Rays because of his speed. The outfield is currently crowded with good players, but Mallex has good value of being a pinch runner or come in mid-game if one player is struggling.
Jake Bauers was the stud in spring training that Kevin Kiermaier said was the real deal. He is absolutely a promising player.The Rays rewarded him by giving him a new assignment: AAA, on April 4th. Bauers is hitting .243 with 4 homeruns and 17 RBIs. He is dominating left-handed pitching which is always a positive while exhibiting his power against right handed pitchers (40% of his hits against righties went for extra-bases). With the outfield competing at a very high level, Bauers is going to have to wait his turn and continue to develop in AAA.
Johnny Field is a good, top of the lineup, speed threat. Many of his AB’s this year have come in the leadoff spot where he is tasked to get on base. Although his overall stats are not eye-popping, when he is leading off or batting second he does his job well. When he leads off, he bats a respectable .267 with a very good .353 OBP. Seeing Field is not a power threat, he will need some more time to become a better hitter at AAA before he hears his name at the major league level.
Shane Peterson has already had a few stints at the major league level. Many fans have already seen that Peterson probably won’t be a starting outfielder for the Rays. At 29 years old, he is not a prospect that the Rays value very highly. Peterson does provide, at the very least, a veteran bat who has seen major league pitching. Peterson could see himself back to the majors if one of the current starters lands on the DL.
Jason Coats is a more middle of the lineup outfielder who can play any outfield position, and be productive. Coats has had a very productive minor league career with a slash of .287/.337/.458. He has contributed to lineups by hitting 54 homeruns, 286 RBIs, and 124 BB. He had a small major league stint where he struggled immensely. Right now, he has yet to play in a single AA game, but hopes once he is off the DL that he can produce and get back to the majors.
Granden Goeztman has been a productive minor leaguer since his early struggles. In his first few years, Goeztman struggled with averages between .170 and .220. He soon left that behind and started hitting for a very good average, especially this year. He has been with Durham and Montgomery this season where he is hitting over .300 in both AA and AAA. He is currently on the DL and hopes to get back and continue producing. He has not made any kind of major league stint, but if he continues this good production he will continue to see himself promoted.
Cade Gotta is a RF who started out the season in Durham. Due to his struggles however, and a crowded AAA roster, he was sent down the Montgomery. Back at Montgomery he is back to being a productive hitter with a current slash line of .330/.404/.545. He has not made any major league stints, but he could see himself being promoted if he continues to produce.
Braxton Lee is a leadoff type of hitter who gets on base. He struggled in 2016 at Montgomery, but has had a complete turnaround this year. This year, Lee has an excellent slash line of .338/.407/.435. Lee will never be a power threat, but that is not his game. The .338 average and the .407 OBP is excellent. He is not major league ready yet, but a AAA promotion might be in his future if he can continue to produce like this.
Nathan Lukes is at his best when he is at the bottom half of the lineup. He is a RF who hits for an average, and proved his worth by his promotion. Lukes hit a great slash line of .400/.455/.450 in all of 6 games. This propelled him up to AA now where the production has leveled off. Lukes has found a home at the bottom of the lineup where he is hitting a respectable .275 average and a very good OBP of .355, in 109 AB’s. He still has a long way to go, but there is good progress here.
Justin Williams is considered to be an all-around good player at RF. Although Williams is currently on the DL, he has enjoyed some success in AA. Williams usually hits in the 3 or 4 hole where he thrives in the spotlight. He especially loves hitting in the 3 hole where he hits a very good .307 average. Currently, Williams is hitting .304 with 3 homeruns and 9 RBIs, in his 79 AB’s. Like a few others on this roster, he hopes to return from the DL and build off his good production. He could earn an early promotion if the production continues.
In my opinion, the Rays have plenty guys to be excited about.
With an abundance of talent, the Rays will most likely not draft an outfielder in the upcoming draft. The Rays already have solid players in AAA that are close to being major leaguers.
The major league depth already has very good players that are producing well. Bauers and Field are making good names for themselves at the AAA level, while talented players at AA are waiting for their chance, like Williams, Lukes, and Coats. Even more exciting, though, may be what’s waiting below Double-A...