I just wrote a whole piece about who the Tampa Bay Rays should call up to replace Ryan Brett, and the player that the team actually did choose, Jake Elmore was not in it. Obviously my prediction of the Rays choosing Eugenio Velez was wrong, but it isn’t that I forgot about Elmore–I considered him and counted him out. The reason was simple: I didn’t think that he could contribute much to the current Rays roster.
Ryan Brett is a righty-hitting infielder and so is Jake Elmore. By that logic, the swap of one for the other makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, Brett is a top prospect and potentially the Rays’ second baseman of the future. Obviously his first big league stint did not end well, but the Tampa Bay Rays look at him and see a potential above-average player in terms of hitting, plate discipline, speed, and maybe even fielding. They thought he could receive starts. The same can’t be said of Jake Elmore.
Elmore, 27, has gotten into big league games each of the last three years, so he’s doing something right. That something is his versatility. Elmore played all nine positions with the Houston Astros in 2013, even catching for 4.1 innings in a game. The Rays had to lose their DH after they pinch-hit for Bobby Wilson, necessitating Rene Rivera to move from DH to catcher, but with Elmore on the roster, they may put him into the game instead.
We know the Rays lose versatility, and Elmore also has a .314/.410/.419 line in 1188 Triple-A appearances. His plate discipline is excellent, and he also has a little speed. However, he is a righty-hitting backup infielder on a team that already has two such players in Logan Forsythe and Tim Beckham and has less offensive potential than either of them. Elmore has just a .221/.288/.291 line in 221 big league plate appearances, and is only marginally better at .246/.325/.304 against lefties.
Maybe the Rays think that despite Jake Elmore’s flaws, his ability to play the infield causes him to edge out Velez and Mikie Mahtook. He hit to a .333/.462/.333 line at Triple-A Durham to begin 2015, and while he didn’t show any power, maybe they made some adjustment that can help him to big league success. The Rays know more about their players than I do, and they clearly have their reasons for calling up Jake Elmore.
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My issue is that Elmore doesn’t profile as a starting player for the Tampa Bay Rays even in the short-term. Against left-handed pitching, they are best off playing Forsythe at first base, Beckham at second, Brandon Guyer at DH, and Kevin Kiermaier in centerfield over him. Then, once James Loney returns and Allan Dykstra is presumably sent down (if not DFA’d), isn’t Elmore no better of a 25th man than Beckham and quite possibly worse? Would the Rays really keep both of them on the roster?
Maybe when Loney comes back, Dykstra will become a power bat off the bench and Beckham will be optioned to Triple-A. That would allow him to get regular at-bats and come back stronger. However, Beckham has been one of the Rays’ best backups and why should the Rays choose Elmore now after they chose Beckham to begin the season? The dots don’t connect yet with the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jake Elmore promotion, but hopefully everything will make sense before long.