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Tampa Bay Rays season preview: Catching depth...or lack thereof

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The Rays have two solid catchers, but not much to back them up.

Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays have a situation behind the plate.

Wilson Ramos is their starter, Jesus Sucre is the backup.

That’s about as solid a catching combo as you’ll find in the majors. However, behind that, the Rays depth is severely lacking.

Wilson Ramos — if healthy — can be counted on to provide plenty of pop at the plate offensively, hitting 11 HR over just 64 games this past season with the Rays. Unfortunately, defensively, he is rated as among the worst in baseball when it comes to framing other catching defensive metrics.

For those in search of a bright side, there is one. Ramos is only one year removed from his 3.4 fWAR campaign in 2016 with the Washington Nationals, a season that resulted in him winning a Silver Slugger award. If he’s able to regain his offensive composure, his poor defensive skills can be excused.

Behind him is Jesus Sucre, who came to the Rays at the onset of spring training in 2017 and quickly went from being typical minor league fodder, to landing a spot on the Opening Day roster as he won over the Rays pitchers and coaching staff.

Sucre excelled at the start of the 2017 season, but his bat cooled off towards the middle of the year. Still, he served his position as the backup catcher well and managed to stay healthy over the course of the entire regular season.

These two are primed to return to their same roles for the start of the 2018 season, barring injury.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If there is an injury, the Rays will have to find some way to fill their roles, but they won’t find much help internally.

2013 first round selection, Nick Ciuffo, has been suspended for 50 games due to violating MLB’s drug policy. He would have been first in line to assume the backup duties in the majors, but with his recent lapse of judgement, the Rays suddenly find themselves very short handed.

The Rays have several non-roster invitees in camp currently, some of whom will presumably be released when camp finishes up. However, there are some candidates who could wind up with Triple-A Durham, that who might find their way to the Rays at some point in 2017.

Adam Moore, 33, was a 6th round selection by the Mariners in 2006. He played in the majors every year from 2009 to 2016, in extremely limited situations as he has a grand total of 96 games played.

Johnny Monell, 31, a 30th round selection by the Giants in 2007, is an offensive-minded catcher. His major league experience has been brief thus far, spending 8 games with the Giants in 2013 and then a 27 game stay with the Mets in 2015.

Xorge Castillo, 28, has yet to reach the majors, having spent all of his professional career with the New York Mets minor league system. A 14th round draft pick in 2011, Castillo has played at the Double-A level or above since 2013, mainly serving a backup catcher for his respective teams.

Brett Sullivan, 24, has already been reassigned to minor league camp. He is slated to start the year in Double-A Montgomery, but could progress to Triple-A fairly quickly depending on his performance. An offense-first player, Sullivan has hit well at each stop in the Rays system during his three years with the club, with the exception of some struggles during his first taste of Double-A action in 2017.

The Rays depth this season will be tested as it extremely rare for a team to go through an entire season with two fully healthy catchers on the major league squad. As of now, their depth in the minor leagues is lacking with Ciuffo’s suspension. If it comes to it, the lacking quality of talent in the minors may lead to the Rays looking outside the system for improvements, should a situation arise where Wilson Ramos or Jesus Sucre are out for any amount of time.