By David Miller @DavidMillerRant on March 19, 2014
It has become a bit of a tradition for the Tampa Bay Rays to fight against the high-dollar teams of the American League East over the past several years. There is something special about cheering for the underdog as we all know. This season, with the roster that the Rays are likely to put out for MLB Opening Day, they might be the ones favored for a change. I don’t think anyone with this roster can truly be referred to as an underdog.
Though he has dealt with a little soreness this spring, DeJesus was a great pick-up for the Rays not-so long ago and they should see plenty of dividends from him again this season. He is hitting a clean .500 for the period of time he has played this spring so all looks well.
If you ask Rays manager Joe Maddon, Jennings could be an elite player with a little push in a few categories like on-base percentage and overall defense. I think that is more than fair. He is having a great spring training and could prove to be another one of the up and coming great young players for this team.
The reigning AL Rookie of the Year is likely to start in the outfield again this season. Though it has been mentioned that he could be in the mix at DH, I would look for him in the outfield for most of the season. It would certainly shift things around if he was placed at DH.
Though Longoria has been pretty good this spring, it really doesn’t matter. He will be an MVP candidate from game one through game 162 this year just like every year. Having one of the truly great players in the game on this roster certainly doesn’t hurt their situation.
After wandering around for a while Escobar has finally found the place where he feels at home in MLB. Something about this Rays franchise does that for certain players who do not look or play the same anywhere else. All involved should be pleased that Escobar is returning for at least a couple of years and likely more if he continues playing well.
Last season might have been the big coming out party for Zobrist but he is not looking ready to slow down. If anything this season could begin to look better than 2013 if all goes well. He isn’t at Longoria’s level yet but he is very close. One more all-star season would put him right there.
With the great spring Loney is having, .437 with a homer and 11 RBI, it becomes clearer just how great it was that the Rays re-signed him this offseason. He should be a consistent provider of run support all season long.
Hanigan was a good add for this team going into 2014. They really want an everyday catcher and Hanigan can provide that. There are some whispers that he might split time evenly with his back-up catcher but I really think not. His offense is looking very good right now and he is showing a natural talent for connecting well with his pitching staff.
Because he is out of options and would be lost to the free agent market if he didn’t make the team, you can bet Joyce is a good choice for DH and outfield as well. He will likely move around but this is a decent spot to start him at any rate.
The deal that brought Forsythe over could be the sneaky one that does the most good for this team. He is a utility infielder that has proven time and again the ability to make a large impact when given the chance. When called upon as a replacement he’ll be great and he will be an effective bat off of the bench when necessary.
Molina was someone that many figured would be the odd man out when Hanigan came on but that was not the case. He actually has a multi-year deal and the possibility for even more playing time going into this season.
Guyer came into the spring with zero options left and a determination to play his best. He is doing just that and opening eyes along the way. Giving him the chance to make the roster is hardly a gamble with the way he is playing right now. Look for the Rays to shift him around depending on where he can do the most good for the team.
Rodriguez is one of those great players who can do just about anything he is asked to do. He isn’t a starter but that is the only thing he doesn’t do. His spring numbers are okay but he has proven solid and reliable from the bench in the past. He should be fine to impact the roster positively once again.
There is basically only one spot up for grabs in the Rays bullpen this spring and Gomes isn’t leaving many options for that with his performance. Over 7 innings he has allowed two hits and nothing else. His near perfect season should be all anyone needs to give him the nod for the job.
One of the two all-important lefties in the Rays’ bullpen, Ramos is capable of longer outings when the need arises. His value goes beyond that and his position on the roster is not in question at all. He’ll be there.
Oviedo has some closing experience as is the trend for about half of this ‘pen. The only question about his roster spot on Opening Day is if he will be ready physically. If he is then you can bet he will be there. If he isn’t quite ready to safely pitch then, the spot would probably temporarily go to non-roster invitee, righty Mark Lowe.
Things are so structured in this bullpen that it is actually daunting for other teams or at least should be. McGee is the left-handed set-up man and is returning with a great spring to lead into another season.
Peralta would be your right-handed set-up man for the Rays. He certainly is a quality member of the ‘pen as is shown by his great spring numbers. It only gets better from here if you can believe that.
Bell was recently the closer for the Arizona Diamondbacks. They weren’t too crazy about him in that role lately but it matters not because he will not close for the Rays. He should have no trouble being a good option for the last few innings when a hold is needed.
No matter what the Baltimore Orioles think, the Rays are proud that Balfour was available after the trashed deal the O’s had with Balfour. Now they have a former bullpen member of theirs who has crafted himself into one of the game’s best closers. All should be well in spite of the high ERA he is posting this spring.
Through 8.0 innings this spring Odorizzi has given up two runs on eight hits for an ERA of 2.25. This and the changeup he is learning from Alex Cobb known as ‘The Thing’ should about guarantee him a spot in the rotation at the start of the season.
Archer might not be the name you first think of when you hear about the Rays but the same could have been said a couple of years ago of Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. This spring Archer is showing signs that his career path will continue to move in the positive direction with an ERA of 0.90. That’s pretty low.
For part of last season Moore looked like the best pitcher on this great staff. If he can stay healthy this season there is no reason to believe other than he will have a great full season. He did some extra offseason work that he feels sure will help keep him healthy and strong all year and that is great news for the Rays.
If anything had happened to the status of the other man on this pitching staff, Cobb would easily have been named the Ace of the rotation. He is that good and could just as well be considered a second Ace as long as he remains healthy all season.
Well here he is. Price is still in a Rays’ uniform and he still looks to be one of the best starters in baseball. No matter what the circus of reporters around him might have thought this offseason would hold, Price remains a Rays pitcher and is likely to all year long if this roster performs in the way it appears that they will.
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