The Tampa Bay Rays roster is beginning to take shape with spring training starting in a few weeks.
The offseason moves have amassed a collection of talented players who should field a very competitive team in 2014.
Through free agency and trades, they have added catcher Ryan Hanigan, relief pitcher Heath Bell and closer Grant Balfour. They have even gone as far as using the “C-word” that manager Joe Maddon typically avoids for the pitcher called upon for ninth-inning duties.
They also were able to sign James Loney to keep their infield from 2013 intact. In addition, they came to terms with all of their arbitration players before the deadline and signed them all to one-year deals.
The biggest move of the offseason so far is probably the retention of David Price. By holding on to their ace pitcher this long, it seems very plausible that he could be the Rays' Opening Day pitcher.
Players like these, along with starters including Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist, have their positions essentially locked on the roster. Unlike them, there is a group of players who have the major league talent to make the squad, but will have to be very impressive in spring training to make the 25-man roster.
Here are four players who will be fighting for a roster spot this spring.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
The loss of Sam Fuld could open up an opportunity for Brandon Guyer to make the Tampa Bay Rays' Opening Day roster. Outfield depth is slightly lacking on the Rays roster.
Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers have center field and right field accounted for, barring injury. That leaves a need for a starter in left field to be decided this spring.
The left field spot in the lineup will likely go to either David DeJesus or Matt Joyce. Whichever one is not the left fielder will likely find time as the designated hitter. This leaves open a need for some outfield depth.
Guyer could earn the spot with a strong performance in spring training. His line in his 18 career games in the majors is .188/.204/.396 from the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
His 2013 Triple-A season showed promise. He finished 2013 with seven home runs, 23 doubles and a .301/.374/.458 line for the Durham Bulls.
Some of his competition for the roster spot includes Sean Rodriguez, Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier.
Opening Day Prediction: MLB
The Tampa Bay Rays bullpen is loaded with talented pitchers.
Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Juan Carlos Oviedo, Joel Peralta, Cesar Ramos and Jake McGee should make up the core of the relievers. This leaves room for probably one more pitcher on the 25-man roster.
Josh Lueke has an outside shot of filling the final spot in the 'pen. In 2013, he had a very impressive season with Triple-A Durham. He appeared in 40 games and finished the season with a 0.63 ERA. He had a 5.06 ERA in 21.1 innings over 19 games for the Rays in 2013.
Opening Day Prediction: Triple-A
Brandon Gomes is another reliever who will be fighting for a roster spot in spring training. He did not have an impressive 2013 season. He got injured in May 2013 and spent time on the 60-day disabled list before returning to the bullpen in August.
He finished 2013 with a 3-1 record and appeared in 26 games with a 6.52 ERA.
A healthy Gomes should win what will likely be the final bullpen spot on the roster.
Opening Day Prediction: MLB
Jayson Nix can fill a lot of needs the Tampa Bay Rays have.
He finished the season with a .236/.308/.311 line and 13 extra-base hits, including three home runs with the New York Yankees. While his offensive performance does not scream must have on roster, his speed and ability to play multiple positions are qualities the rays value and need.
His ability to play third base, second base and shortstop provides the Rays with infield flexibility to give starters rest or for late-inning substitutions. He has also played 137.1 innings in the corner outfield positions during his major league career.
Rays manager Joe Maddon likes to give his starters a break from the turf of Tropicana Field, either through a day off or in the DH spot. Nix can start in their place and still provide a decent level of defense.
He also brings speed to the table, which is needed.
Nix stole 13 bases in 2013 while playing in only 87 games due to injury. In just over half a season, he stole more bases than any Rays player from 2013 other than Desmond Jennings, who finished with 20 steals.
Opening Day Prediction: MLB (Even if not with Rays)
Source confirms that Jayson Nix is going to #Rays. Minor lg deal includes ST invite and and opt-out clause if a major lg job is available— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 9, 2014