Now that some form of a Major League Baseball season is going to be attempted the first step will be for teams to submit a 60-player roster by this Sunday afternoon. Players on this list will include the active MLB roster and players that are allowed to workout in Port Charlotte acting as their de facto AAA roster to call players up as needed.
This is the pool of players who will be allowed to practice at your facilities and once removed from the list will be unavailable to play the rest of the season.
There will be a need to balance depth and getting prospects work even if they aren’t in game situations. Tampa Bay Rays General Manager Erik Neander suggested that the Rays focus would be on winning this season, though there would be some room for prospects noting that the Rays used the most players they have ever used in a season with 57 last year.
Juan Toribio reported that the Rays are expected to add prospects Wander Franco, Shane McClanahan, and Ronaldo Hernandez to the 60 player pool. Hernandez is the only one that was already on the 40 man roster. He’s the furthest from MLB ready of the prospects on the 40 man roster, so I’m going to start with the 40 man roster while attempting to create what I think the Rays 60 man player pool might look like.
The Rays 40 man roster is position player heavy with 22 spots occupied, so a majority of the adds will come on the pitching side when the 60 are set.
Note: Any player not on the 40 man roster will have assigned an * by their name.
Rays Projected 60-man Roster
Last season the Rays saw every catcher they play get injured. They ended up using 6 catchers with 3 of them not getting more than 20 plate appearances (Nick Ciuffo, Anthony Bemboom, and Erik Kratz). They picked up some AAA veteran depth when they needed and ultimately were able to get Travis d’Arnaud from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He took a payday in free agency, so d’Arnaud won’t be in the mix this season.
No team is going to be expected to experience or withstand 2019’s level of attrition behind the plate in 60 games, but the Rays will need to add some bodies behind Mike Zunino and Michael Perez. Hernandez isn’t MLB ready yet, but Kevan Smith had a shot to make the roster out of spring training, so I think he’s a near lock. Herrmann also has major league experience.
First Base (3)
I don’t foresee the Rays adding another first baseman since they have three players capable of playing the position on the 40 man roster.
If injuries force them to go deeper down the depth chart it likely will be from Michael Brosseau, Kevin Padlo, or moving Yandy Diaz across the diamond from third as occurred in 2019.
Second Base (2)
Brandon Lowe should see the bulk of the time at second base and if he goes down he’s likely to see the Rays utility infield depth cover him with Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson, or Michael Brosseau getting the playing time.
If and how the Rays use prospect Brujan this season will be interesting to follow. He was a candidate to try more positions this year in search of major league playing time, but even without that added utility, he has a fair amount of speed on the bases.
Willy Adames grabbed hold of the starting shortstop job for the Rays in the short to medium term. The 40-man doesn’t provide much help beyond him, but the Rays do have prospect depth at the position including the number one overall prospect in the land Wander Franco.
I don’t expect Franco to play for the Rays this year, but he’ll have a shot to earn playing time. Ultimately, I think a major IL stint for Adames might be his only true path to the majors in 2020.
Third Base (2)
Yandy Diaz showed his big league potential last year and should be given all the playing time he can handle. The utility infielders should hold down the fort when needed, and there’s even been talk of seeing Yoshitomo Tsutsugo getting some innings at the hot corner, thanks to his past experience playing there in Japan.
Utility Infielder (4)
Daniel Robertson and Joey Wendle played meaningful roles for the Rays in 2018. Both had disappointing 2019 seasons. They’ll be ready to handle any opportunities given to them on the infield.
Esteban Quiroz was the PTBNL received in the Tommy Pham trade with the San Diego Padres. He’s an older prospect that isn’t on the 40 man roster, but should be capable of filling this type of role.
Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, and Manuel Margot should make the major league roster with the potential for Randy Arozarena to join them especially with early expanded rosters. As rosters reduce from 30 to 28 and 26 he may lost out to Brian O’Grady, a speedy OF/1B that the Rays picked up off waivers this winter.
The rest of the 60-man outfield slots playing in Port Charlotte likely belong to Dylan Cozens, who signed a MiLB deal with the Rays last winter as a AAA depth in the outfield, Josh Lowe, and Moises Gomez are the best outfield prospects in the system right now and would have started the season in Durham (AAA) and Montgomery (AA) respectively.
Starting Pitchers (12)
Brent Honeywell Jr.
Some combination of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, Brendan McKay, Yonny Chirinos, and Ryan Yarbrough should form the starting rotation throughout the season, with a six-man rotation not out of the question.
Trevor Richards should be ready to fill in as needed. Brent Honeywell Jr. hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game in two years, so I wouldn’t expect any contribution from him this year, but he does need to get in the work and is already on the 40-man.
Shane McClanahan and Joe Ryan are not on the 40-man roster yet, but would be knocking on the door of almost any other organization’s starting rotation. Yet here they find themselves as the eighth and ninth options. The quality depth is enviable.
Riley O’Brien split the 2019 season between Port Charlotte (A+) and Montgomery (AA). He likely would’ve started the season repeating Montgomery. If it gets down to him a lot of things have gone wrong, but he’s not a bad 10th option.
Shane Baz was a late addition to this list. He’s the best pitching prospect that wasn’t scheduled to start the year in AA or better, but getting him this experience is good for his development.
The bullpen is stocked with quality depth. I would expect all the 40-man players to get some time in the majors this year.
As for the additions, Aaron Loup was brought in on a MiLB free agent deal, and at the time Spring Training stopped I expected Loup to make the Opening Day roster. With an initial 30 player MLB roster to start the season I feel more strongly that this will be the case.
Tyler Zombro received a lot of talk during spring. It is hard to see him jumping the others to make the initial roster, but I do think it makes him one of the obvious adds as a reliever.
Past that things get much trickier and I become much less confident in my picks. It feels like a picked random AA/AAA relievers out of a hat. it’s not quite what I did, but this is where I expect to be wrong the most.
The last couple years the Rays have used 25-30 pitchers in a season and I would expect the number to decrease some this year with only a 60 game schedule, but I still think we’ll see them added to the 60 player pool.