At the end of the spring training, the Tampa Bay Rays will have to choose the 25 players who will start the season on their roster. Right now, ten days away from Opening Day, there are now 34 names remaining after the Rays made their latest cut. Gone are Brad Boxberger, Jerry Sands, Adam Liberatore, Juan Sandoval, Cole Figueroa, Steve Geltz, Roman Ali Solis, and Justin Christian. Here are the players who remain.
Of those 34, two of them are non-factors–Hellickson and Beckham, both marked with asterisks, are currently injured. Oviedo makes it three because he is unlikely to begin the season with the team after reporting late to camp because of visa issues. Then there are a couple of players who simply who have no chance of making the roster: Acosta, who is being carried as a third catcher this spring to save Hanigan and Molina’s legs, and Olmedo, who has big league experience but pales in comparison to the players in front of him. Taking out those five players, we are left with 29 players for 25 spots. Let’s see who the final competitions have come down to.
5th Starter: Jake Odorizzi, Erik Bedard, Cesar Ramos
The victor of this competition will be decided on Saturday after Bedard makes his final start today, and all three of them have legitimate cases. Odorizzi is the player with the most upside, especially after adding a split-change this spring, and he pitched well last season both at Triple-A and the major leagues. Bedard will opt out if he does not make the roster, and the former Baltimore Orioles ace still has a great curveball and solid movement on his fastball. Then there is Cesar Ramos, who is likely going to take a bullpen spot if he loses but has pitched his way into consideration by managing a 2.63 ERA and an 11-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 13.2 innings pitched. The questions will be how willing the Rays are to lose Bedard and whether they think Odorizzi could use more time in the minor leagues.
Final Bullpen Spots: Juan Carlos Oviedo†, Cesar Ramos, Josh Lueke, Brandon Gomes, Mark Lowe
There are three spots available here, and Lueke, Gomes, and Lowe could all find their way onto the roster if Oviedo is not available to begin the season and Ramos wins the fifth starter job. The assumptions at this point are that Oviedo will not start the year with the team while Ramos will lose out in the fifth starter race, leaving the Rays with four relievers for three spots. Lueke is out-of-options, and while he has struggled in almost all his big league time, his fastball-splitter-curveball combination remains impressive. It is hard to see him not making the team at this point. Gomes has the edge over Lowe because he is on the 40-man roster, and he is looked outstanding this spring with his new-look delivery and newfound cutter. Lowe, though, can take solace in the fact that the Rays have a 40-man roster spot open that he could possibly take, and he has electric stuff in his own right. For the final spot if Ramos does end up in the bullpen, Gomes appears to have the edge, but it is not too late for Lowe to make a move.
Final Position Player Spots: Sean Rodriguez, Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe, Jayson Nix, Wilson Betemit
The Rays have room for three more position players on their roster, so two of these five will have to go. It is almost assured that Rodriguez will not be one of those players as his versatility, ability to his lefties, and $1,475,000 salary give the Rays no reason to send him down to the minors. (It is worth noting that Rodriguez has an option remaining.) Guyer seems like a heavy favorite for the second spot because he is out-of-options and has impressed with his solid bat, defense, and speed this spring. Finally healthy, Guyer has long had the talent to be a big league contributor, and now he will finally get his chance.
For the final spot, meanwhile, the Rays have an interesting decision ahead of them. Forsythe is the only one of the final three on the 40-man roster, but he does have an option remaining and his available playing time is not entirely clear with Rodriguez and Guyer able to serve as the platoon partners for Matt Joyce and David DeJesus. The Rays might like to have a third righty on the bench to give James Loney and maybe even Ben Zobrist (who struggled against lefties in 2013) some days off, but it certainly is not a requirement. That could create an opening for Betemit, a switch-hitter who is stronger against right-handed pitching but does have a strong big league track record at the plate. Nix, on the other hand, seems squarely behind the other four as a worse right-handed hitter whose only advantage is his strong defense at shortstop. Would the Rays rather have a more versatile roster and take Forsythe or take on a stronger offensive option in Betemit? Forsythe is the favorite, but do not count Betemit out.
The regular season is quickly approaching, but the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster competitions are going right down to the wire. It will be exciting to see who makes the team as the Rays begin the most highly anticipated season in their history.