May 28, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals staring pitcher Nathan Karns (57) throws during the second inning against the Balitimore Orioles at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Imagining the Tampa Bay Rays' 2018 Roster

Last week I took a look at when, in a perfect world, the Tampa Bay Rays’ top twenty prospects might make the major league roster. Today, I am going to take a look at what the Rays team might look like if fifteen of those prospects made the 2018 opening day roster. Understand that several of the Rays’ current young players will still be critical pieces of the team and some #21 through #30 prospects will have to be sprinkled in to make a twenty-five man roster.

Starting pitchers:
Matt Moore
Chris Archer
Jake Odorizzi
Enny Romero
Taylor Guerrieri

Summary: Moore and Archer will be under contract/team control in 2018 and the Rays hope they will be aces or pretty darn close. The entire rotation is made up of former top prospects and should make the staff as strong as 2014. Alex Cobb is a candidate for a contract extension and that would force someone to the bullpen or back to the minors.

Bullpen:
Ryne Stanek
Nate Karns
Alex Colome
Matt Andriese
Grayson Garvin
Mike Montgomery
C.J. Riefenhauser

Summary: Lots of young , power arms in the bullpen. Stanek, with a 98 mph fastball and hard slider, becomes the closer. Karns and Colome will fill setup roles. Andreisse, with a hard sinker, is the middle reliever the Rays trust to escape jams with double plays. The top twenty didn’t have any lefthanders so we added #28 prospect C. J. Reifenhauser and former Royals #1 prospect Mike Montgomery. Jake McGee is a candidate for an extension and he would make a good bullpen even better.

Catchers:
Nick Ciuffo
Curt Casali

Summary: It’s a stretch to hand the starting catching job to a 23 year old but the Rays think Ciuffo is ready. They may bring in a Jose Molina type to back him up but Casali (#29) has shown more than most expected.

Infield:
Richie Shaffer
Ryan Brett
Hak-Ju Lee
Evan Longoria
Tim Beckham
Vince Belnome

Summary: Longoria is under contract well through 2018 and anchors an infield that is offensively and defensively strong. Lee is potentially better than Escobar. Brett develops into a valuable leadoff man. Beckham backs up second base and shortstop. Belnome is an unranked prospect who swings from the left and backs up first and third base. Both are offense first players.

Outfield:
Wil Myers
Andrew Toles
Kevin Kiermaier
Brandon Guyer
Mikie Mahtook

Summary:  Toles and Myers are solid in center and right but left field is an issue. The Rays need a left-handed power bat at that position and Kiermaier doesn’t have a lot of power. If those three were the trio to play the outfield, Toles would likely defer to Kiermaier defensively and head to left field. If he hits as expected, that will not be a problem. For this roster, we have added Guyer and Mahtook (#25) to cover the last two outfield spots.

I think this roster could compare favorably with the 2014 Rays. Even without David Price, the pitching is young and talented. All five starters were top five prospects at one time or another. The bullpen is loaded with power arms. Although Ciuffo is young and Shaffer is no James Loney, the defense should be a plus. As with most Rays teams, hitting could be a problem. The roster needs a power hitter who swings from the left side. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this team only has $23 million in guaranteed salaries and plenty of young pitching. That allows the Rays to sign a quality free agent or a make a trade. It looks like the Tampa Bay Rays have a pretty exciting future. Of course, this is mostly fantasy, but wouldn’t it be great if the Rays, an organization built around young talent, could pull it off?

Tags: Jake Odorizzi Matt Moore Richie Shaffer Ryan Brett Tampa Bay Rays Tim Beckham

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