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Projecting the Rays 2024 Opening Day Roster

With one key trade candidate remaining.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Colorado Rockies - Game One Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

There have been a couple comings and goings over the past few weeks, so here’s your current projected Opening Day roster for the 2024 Tampa Bay Rays

Lineup

1B - Yandy Diaz
2B - Brandon Lowe*
LF - Randy Arozarena
RF - Josh Lowe*
3B - Isaac Paredes
DH - Harold Ramirez
CF - Jose Siri
SS - Jose Caballero
C - Rene Pinto

*left-handed

On first blush, it’s clear how slightly unbalanced this roster seems toward right handed hitting starters, and the places with the most opportunity to bring in a left- or switch-hitting player are short stop (with switch-hitting Taylor Walls due back soon after the season begins from hip surgery) and designated hitter.

DH Harold Ramirez picked up 434 PA over 122 games last season, working his way into the lineup more often that a right-handed hitter would in a platoon, and rewarded the Rays with a 128 wRC+ season (1.8 WAR). However, with defensive limitations, a left-handed hitting DH-style prospect ready to take over in Jonathan Aranda, and an expensive salary from the Rays perspective — his projected $4.4 million in his second year of arbitration would be the seventh highest on the team — Ramirez remains a trade candidate ahead of Opening Day.

Bench

C2 - Alex Jackson
INF - Curtis Mead
OF Jonny DeLuca
OF Richie Palacios*

It’s quite difficult to suss out who will be on the Rays bench, with the aforementioned Jonathan Aranda ready for the majors, last year’s shortstop at the end of the season Osleivis Basabe capable of manning a utility role, and top prospect 3B Junior Caminero waiting in the wings; however, I think it’s likely that the Rays will value DeLuca’s defensive capabilities as the new-Margot, Palacios’s left-handedness, and Mead’s major league readiness to spell any of the infielders.

Some might be surprised by Junior Caminero’s exclusion above, but with his defense limited to third base and his hitting still in development, he may be best suited to starting the year in Triple-A now (as I’ve written about previously). Of note: once SS Taylor Walls returns, I would expect Palacios to be demoted ahead of Caballero, despite the handedness complication.

At catcher, the Rays seem to have a great deal of faith in Alex Jackson, who they acquired at the trade deadline from Milwaukee but suffered an untimely injury before he could be promoted. He is not currently on the 40-man roster, but that shouldn’t be an issue. In house competition for backup catcher is limited to Logan Driscoll (Baseball America’s top defensive catcher in the system) so look for the Rays to at least make a couple minor league invites at backstop before the winter is through.

Rotation

SP1 - Zach Eflin
SP2 - Zack Littell
SP3 - Aaron Civale
SP4 - Ryan Pepiot
SP5 - Taj Bradley

The rotation is an easy part of this exercise, even though the Rays have four pitchers out for elbow injuries. Foremost is former top prospect Shane Baz, who had Tommy John surgery in September 2022 and is expected to begin his rehabilitation this Spring Training. That process usually takes a few months, so Baz should be on track for sometime in May this year.

Baz is the first among four injured starters exepcted to return. Drew Rasmussen (elbow brace, July 2023) and Jeffrey Springs (Tommy John, April 2023) are expected to return mid-season, but it would be a surprise if local ace Shane McClanahan returns this season (Tommy John, August 2023).

If the Rays needed another starter to step into the rotation this April (i.e. if more injuries occur), look to future minor league invites who might bridge the gap.

Bullpen

CL - Pete Fairbanks
SU - Jason Adam
SU - Colin Poche*
SU - Shawn Armstrong
MID - Kevin Kelly
MID - Garrett Cleavinger*
LR - Chris Devenski
LR - Tyler Alexander*

Surprisingly, there is very little turnover in the bullpen, with just veteran high leverage reliever Andrew Kittredge departing via trade. His roster spot freeing up allows Kelly to maintain his place in the ‘pen after a strong season as a Rule 5 selection.

The only new addition is Tyler Alexander, who the Rays claimed off waivers from Detroit this off-season, and securing a one year deal shortly after despite being sidelined by a lat injury last season. The longtime Tigers swingman is an intelligent pitcher who fills the zone with a wide arsenal of pitches, making him a logical fit as a longman for the Rays, especially given the team’s penchant for bullpen days.

Down in Triple-A, expect to hear from prospects Colby White and Manuel Rodriguez, who are both on the 40-man roster, as well as NRI Burch Smith, who returned to the Rays organization this winter after playing in Korea last year. Any of the three are top candidates for promotion into the bullpen if an opportunity arises.