There is one week until Opening Day and still several questions that need to be answered about the team’s roster.
Who will start at second base?
This past December, the Rays looked like they were determined to corner the market on second basemen, bringing in Ryan Schimpf, Micah Johnson, and Joey Wendle to compete with the Rays internal options (Daniel Robertson, Kean Wong, and Willy Adames).
Thus far, it looks like Wendle is emerging from the group and will likely be the team’s starting second baseman on Opening Day. Ryan Schimpf was traded to the Atlanta Braves in the early days of spring. Daniel Robertson will serve as Wendle’s backup/platoon mate, with Kean Wong remaining in Triple-A Durham. Adames played some at second base, but mainly just to show his willingness to play anywhere the team needed. He will be the Durham Bulls starting short stop.
Who will be the fifth outfielder?
Though he didn’t win the starting second base job, Micah Johnson has impressed everyone this spring, doing all he has to do and playing anywhere that’s been asked of him. He is competing with several other players for the ‘final’ spot on the Rays roster, as they need an extra outfielder.
The #Rays Kevin Cash expects the team to have 5 outfielders on the Opening Day roster, and versatility is very important.— Neil Solondz (@neilsolondz) March 22, 2018
Unfortunately for Johnson, who bats lefty, the Rays would prefer to have another right-handed bat, as Kiermaier, Smith, and Span are all lefties as well.
The other options are Johnny Field, Brandon Synder, and Jason Coats, all of whom hit right handed.
Currently, the Rays will have Denard Span, Kevin Kiermaier, and Carlos Gomez as their starting trio most given nights with Mallex Smith backing up anyone in need of a night off or serving as a late inning replacement. The Rays will go with a 5th outfielder, but as noted above, they’re looking for versatility as well.
Snyder would give the Rays all of the versatility they need, with the ability to play in the corner outfield, third and first base, and can even go behind the plate in a pinch. Meanwhile, Johnny Field has impressed this spring. Field has an all out style of play in the outfield and can play any position well, he has put up solid offensive performances at every level in the Rays system since being drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 draft.
Then you have Jason Coats, who likely would have been the Rays 4th outfielder in 2017 if not for a torn UCL suffered prior to spring training. His offensive potential gives him an edge among the rest of his competitors, but he’d be limited to the corner outfields spots only.
None of these players are on the team’s 40-man roster, so a move would have to be made if they were to make the team (putting Jose DeLeon on the 60-day disabled list would clear a spot).
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Who will pitch out of the bullpen?
The Rays bullpen is hard to project.
They have a number of high variance arms, and they will be using the shuttle numerous times throughout the season. The opening day bullpen may look nothing like the mid-season bullpen.
With that said, the Rays have an exciting mix of seasoned veterans and exciting young arms in camp that could form a very solid bullpen. With the experiment of a 4-man rotation, they will be tested as multiple arms will have to go multiple innings on most nights.
Jose Alvarado, Matt Andriese, Yonny Chirinos, Alex Colome, Daniel Hudson, Dan Jennings, Andrew Kittredge, Austin Pruitt, Chaz Roe, Sergio Romo, Jonny Venters*, Ryan Yarbrough
These are the players the Rays still have in camp vying for the eight open spots in the bullpen.
Alex Colome is the team’s closer and takes one of those spots.
Sergio Romo joined the Rays halfway through last season and dominated. He re-signed with the Rays in early February and looks to be a late inning arm for the club.
Matt Andriese would have been the team’s 5th starter if they went with a normal rotation, but drew short stick and will serve as one of the team’s long man, being looked to help eat innings for the club.
That leaves 5 spots for 9 players.
Meanwhile, you have Austin Pruitt, Yonny Chirinos, and Ryan Yarbough as all starting pitchers looking to make the bullpen as well in the same role as Andriese.
Chaz Roe, Dan Jennings and Daniel Hudson are three of the veterans looking to make the pen. If the Rays were to release Hudson, they’d be on the hook for the $5M still owed to him, so he seems likely to make the roster. Meanwhile, Jennings presents a question on whether the Rays want a LOOGY in their pen. They have been trying to work him deeper, but it seems his role is limited to facing LHB.
Jose Alvarado is the most exciting arm of the entire group with the ability reach triple digits on occasion, he served the Rays well at times during the 2017 season when his command didn’t fail him. That will be the test of whether or not he can last in the majors, is how well he can command his pitches.
Andrew Kittredge is being given a long look as well, after debuting with the Rays late last year.
Jonny Venters, the best comeback story you’ll ever hear, is still in camp with the Rays continues to impress anyone watching. He has yet to allow a run this spring. However, he has the unfortunate distinction of not being on the 40-man roster, limiting his chances.
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So, how do you think these battles will play out over the next week?