Aug. 6, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price sits in the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

An Early Prediction for the Tampa Bay Rays’ 25-Man Roster

Last week’s acquisitions of Grant Balfour and Logan Forsythe mean that the Rays are probably done making major league moves this offseason. Of course, a David Price trade can’t be completely discounted, but it does look like Price will be with the Rays in 2014 to headline starting rotation. The Rays could sign another reliever, but most likely we will just see minor league depth signings from here on out. With the Rays being largely set, here is an early crack at what the Rays’ 25-man roster will look like come opening day.

Starting Pitchers

1. David Price

2. Matt Moore

3. Alex Cobb

4. Chris Archer

5. Jeremy Hellickson

This rotation is pretty much guaranteed if none of the five get injured. The Rays also have Jake Odorizzi  in line for competition’s sake, but he probably does not have a realistic chance of cracking the opening day roster. When injury or poor performance inevitably occurs, though, he will be the first pitcher out of Triple-A. The Rays’ once again will have a strong rotation in 2014, and a rebound from Jeremy Hellickson could make it scary.

Relief Pitchers

6. Grant Balfour

7. Jake McGee

8. Joel Peralta

9. Heath Bell

10. Juan Carlos Oviedo

11. Brad Boxberger

12. Josh Lueke

The Rays bullpen is what was most affected by the transactions of last week. Balfour, McGee, Peralta, and Bell are all locks for the relief and Oviedo is too as long as he proves he is healthy. Of the remaining candidates, Boxberger seems an easy choice to me because of his solid stuff and success in limited time in the major leagues. Lueke is a tougher choice, but I think he gets the nod over guys like Cesar RamosMark Lowe, Brandon Gomes, and Kirby Yates. Lueke has tantalized with his potential, having the stuff to be a closer, but he has also been wildly inconsistent in the big leagues. He will be out of options, so I think the Rays will give him one more shot rather than expose him to waivers right out of spring training.

Position Players

13. Evan Longoria

14. Yunel Escobar

15. Ben Zobrist

16. James Loney

17. Ryan Hanigan

18. Jose Molina

19. David DeJesus

20. Desmond Jennings

21. Wil Myers

22. Sean Rodriguez

23. Matt Joyce

24. Brandon Guyer

25. Logan Forsythe

All of the guys on this list are guarantees except for Guyer and Forsythe. Of the two, I believe Guyer will make the opening day roster if he is healthy in spring training and does not look absolutely terrible at the plate. Kevin Kiermaier could come out of nowhere in spring training and claim the final outfield spot, but the Rays will give him a chance to keep developing at Triple-A and become more than a 4th outfielder. The utility man competition, meanwhile, will likely come down to Forsythe and Jayson Nix. Of the two, Forsythe has more upside, but he did struggle at the plate in 2013 (although Nix is not too inspiring at the plate either). Nix was brought in on a minor league deal, so he can be sent to the minors. However, he can opt-out of his deal if a major league opportunity arises, or he can opt-out on June 1st. Forsythe, on the other hand, can be sent to the minors the whole year without risk of being lost. Because of this, the Rays could keep Nix on the big league roster and send Forsythe to the minors to keep depth intact. Ultimately, though, I think the upside of Forsythe will outweigh depth issues.

Overall, the Rays’ roster looks very good going into 2014, and features enough talent to make a serious World Series run. Of course, this roster could still change in the coming weeks before the end of spring training. Injuries are always a possibility. You can’t completely discount a Price trade, which would likely have a significant impact on the 25-man roster. Jose Lobaton seems like a lock to be traded at one point or another, which also could potentially bring back a major league piece.  Also, the Rays could sign another player or two to a major league deal, although at this point that does not seem too likely. Overall, however, I think this is a good representation of how the Rays 25-man roster looks at this point, and fans have every reason to be excited.

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  • George from Tarpon

    “All of the guys on this list are guarantees except for Guyer and Forsythe”—As much as I like Sean Rodriguez—he is hardly a lock. In fact, i think he is becoming a long-shot to overtake Forysthe. Sean needs a huge spring. In addition, i think the Rays will bring 2 lefty relievers—-Ramos and Beliveau have excellent cahnces to make the club.

    • Drew Jenkins

      I disagree with you. Rodriguez has shown he is worthy of a major league spot, he plays solid defense all around and hits lefties well. If the Rays were going to acquire someone to replace him, why not non-tender him instead of paying him and cutting him? On the second part, I went back and forth between Ramos, Boxberger, and Lueke. I think that the Rays are going to handcuff themselves a bit by only carrying one lefty, but I think the talent gap between Ramos and Boxberger and Lueke is too much to ignore. Maybe Riefenhauser impresses in spring training and gains a spot, but I think Ramos is just too inferior to make this team once again.

      • George from Tarpon

        You might disagree with me about Sean Rodriguez but the mere fact that Forthsye was just acquired should be enough to convince anyone this is Sean’s last chance. In addition as a Tampa Bay local who watches every single game I see him overmatched so often anymore. I’m not a guy who sits back and simply looks at his numbers. For example Lueke is world beater in the minors with fantastic numbers- but he’s been a train wreck in St Pete. I hope that changes , but at age 29 the light better come on quick–much like Sean Rod (who ironically turns29 this season as well)

        • Drew Jenkins

          .245 BA against for a LOOGY is not good. There’s plenty of other relievers within the org that could do better than that, even right handers. Rodriguez has a spot on this team. They didn’t acquire Forsythe to replace him this year, they acquired him as the 25th man, I’m not saying he’s an all-star, just that he is a valuable player who is very versatile and hits lefties well enough. If there is anyone who is going to over value his versatility, it is the Rays. Rodriguez is the 24th man. The Rays middle infield depth is a bit stretched right now, so they are not going to DFA Rodriguez (He’s out of options), where he would likely get picked up by another club. Who do you think has a better case for him to gather a roster spot?

      • George from Tarpon

        Ramos also showed ability as a decent reverse lefty–meaning he held eighties to a 245 BA. Not fantastic but effective enough to have an inside track of returning

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  • Jason Nereim

    I agree with everything you said except for a couple things.

    First, much like Lueke, Ramos is out of options. Despite the lack of hype and plus stuff, Ramos was an above average pitcher last year. He posted a .301 wOBA versus LHH and .291 wOBA versus RHH. Surprisingly he was more dominant overall against the opposite handed batter but versus lefties he kept the ball on the ground with a 1.82 gb/fb ratio.

    Similarly, Boxberger was much stronger against opposite handed batters, but to a starker degree. Thanks to a plus change up, he held LHH to a .220 wOBA while RHH clobbered him to a .413 wOBA. Much of this is attributed to an inability to locate his pitchers on his glove side of the plate. Hopefully, this is something the Rays staff can work on.

    Clearly Ramos is the better overall mlb pitcher right now while I would argue Boxberger has the higher upside. Lastly, Boxberger still has an option remaining. That alone is enough evidence for me to start the year with Ramos in the bullpen and keep Boxberger in Durham to work on his command. Ramos right now is the best option for a long man in the bullpen, capable of going multiple innings and posting strong peripherals against both hands.

    My last issue was just pointing out Forsythe dealt with plantar faciitis last year, so much of the apparent regression had more to do with an injury. While he may not replicate his numbers from 2012 (187 wRC+ versus LHP), I think he will bounce back nicely with a 120 wRC+ or so versus LHP next year.

    • Drew Jenkins

      A couple of things. First of all, your stats for Boxberger are in a 22.0 inning sample size. If you look into his 2012, numbers, he held lefties to a .352 wOBA and righties a .302, but this is also in a small sample size. Secondly, Ramos had one of the lowest leverage index’s in baseball (if not the lowest, can’t recall off the top of my head). As far as depth, the Rays have plenty, normally you are right, you want to keep depth intact. But the Rays have plenty of bullpen depth going around (by my count they have around 15 relievers that could be in the big leagues next year, not counting starting prospects who could see time in relief a la Alex Torres). Losing one won’t kill them. For Forsythe I agree, he should bounce back nicely, which is why he makes the roster over Nix, even though the Rays depth at middle infield is a tad stretched right now.

  • buddaley

    Initially, I also thought Sean Rodriguez was probably gone once Forsythe can in, but now I don’t think so. There are going to be four bench players on the roster. One is the second catcher. One is probably a fourth outfielder. That leaves two spots, and there are two starters who cannot hit lefties-DeJesus and Joyce. To me that means that Forsythe and Rodriguez become the RH platoon partners in those two spots.

    Ramos was used in very low leverage situations, but he also has two pitches that have been ranked as among the best in baseball, and he can be a spot starter. Plus, he has experience in the majors which probably counts in his favor. My guess is that a Lobaton deal will include one of the relievers to get back a bit more value than Lobaton alone would. Perhaps that will be Ramos, in which case Lueke, Boxberger or Riefenhauser moves up a notch, but it may be someone else.

    • Drew Jenkins

      As far as Ramos having two of the best pitches in baseball, (I’m assuming you are using the data but together by Beyond the Box Score) that data has a good thought, and is a good idea, but it is not an amazing system. If Ramos has two of the best pitches in baseball, wouldn’t he be one of the best relievers rather than competing for a big league spot? I do agree with the fact he can be a spot starter and throw multiple innings out of the ‘pen. That might be the best argument to keep him around. I do like your idea of pairing Lobaton with another reliever to increase his value. Maybe you could pair Lobaton and Ramos together and get back a lefty in the ‘pen that would be better than Ramos.

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