Over the past few weeks the Tampa Bay Rays roster congestion has been cleared and the 2022 roster has come into focus. The expected 26-man roster looks much like it did at the beginning of the winter, but players have moved on the fringes of the roster.
The Rays catching tandem of Mike Zunino and Francisco Mejia is scheduled to return. In 2021 the Rays catchers were the third most productive group in the majors putting up a .237/.307/.505 line and 123 wRC+ that trailed only the San Francisco Giants (125 wRC+) and Chicago White Sox (124 wRC+).
The Rays added two minor league catchers as depth. Rene Pinto was added at the end of the season to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent and Ford Proctor was added to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Pinto spent most of the year at AAA and Proctor spent most of the year at AA.
I expect the Rays will add a veteran on a minor league deal like they have the last few winters with Kevan Smith. The Rays are fortunate to have two capable big league catchers should one fall to injury, but would expect somebody with some experience to step in when needed.
Joey Wendle won’t be returning after being traded to the Miami Marlins last week. The rest of the infield returns with Ji-Man Choi, Brandon Lowe, Wander Franco, and Yandy Diaz lined up to be your infield most days. Taylor Walls showed he is a very good to elite level defender at shortstop. He will fill in the hole left by Wendle and will be able to play all over the infield when injury or a day off is required.
Vidal Brujan and Jonathan Aranda have played second base more frequently than any other position in their minor league careers. Brujan has begun working in the outfield where his elite speed could play and more opportunities could present themselves on this roster. Aranda has played all over the infield, but he played first base more than any other position.
Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena, and Brett Phillips would represent the MLB outfielders returning. There has been some noise surrounding a potential Kiermaier trade. Of course, Kiermaier trade smoke signals are an annual rite of winter and he’s still the Rays centerfielder!
Josh Lowe made his Major League debut last season and as things currently stand he would be the next man up if something changes in the outfield.
As things currently stand the Rays are likely to start the season with a rotation of Shane McClanahan, Corey Kluber, Drew Rasmussen, Ryan Yarbrough, and Luis Patiño. The addition of Kluber is likely the bigger add for the Rays in the rotation. Last year the Rays throttled innings out the rotation and that will likely have to in 2022, as the younger pitchers are still behind in the innings build up.
I expect Shane Baz, Josh Fleming, and Tommy Romero to start in AAA. Baz has had a bit of major league success, but he’s one guy whose innings need to be watched closely, especially if the team hopes to have him for a postseason run. Missing the 2020 season along with spending last summer with the USA Olympic Team probably limits him to 120-130 innings in 2022.
Yonny Chirinos is recovering from Tommy John surgery. As far as I’m aware there isn’t any public information about where he is in his comeback. He could be a dark horse candidate to make the rotation out of Spring Training if things go well.
Tyler Glasnow will miss the 2022 season due to Tommy John surgery performed in September.
Brendan McKay is a situation that is very similar to the one recently departed Brent Honeywell Jr. faced. McKay had Thoractic Outlet Syndrome decompression surgery. He attempted to come back this year, but the stuff had taken a major step back. Expectations should be very low until we see the stuff return.
Pete Fairbanks and Andrew Kittredge are the top returning high leverage arms in the bullpen. Brooks Raley, Matt Wisler, and JT Chargois don’t have options so if they are healthy are expected to make the roster.
JP Feyereisen and Ryan Thompson are healthy guys who might get pushed off the MLB roster by better arms if everybody comes back. It’s not likely everybody remains healthy, so depth is a great thing to have.
Nick Anderson, Jeffrey Springs, Jalen Beeks, and Colin Poche all are coming off major injuries that saw them most or all of the 2021 season. If they are healthy and productive they could easily jump towards the top of the list.
Clavin Faucher was added in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He’s a fastball/slider reliever that is a command project. We know the Rays, however, and we know that any reliever on the depth chart could end up pitching major league innings.
The Rays have filled their two biggest holes bringing in Corey Kluber as a veteran for the starting rotation and Brooks Raley as a high leverage left-handed reliever.
For Rays fans who are used to seeing a lot of roster turnover, the Rays will likely look surprisingly familiar in 2022. That doesn’t mean there will not be more moves to come, but any addition requires the Rays to trade or release players from the 40-man roster, so this may well be the group that reports to Spring Training — whenever that may be.