Rays News

Rays SS Depth: 4 Will Battle for Starting Job

By Mat Germain
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5 of 5

Mar 31, 2015; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Daniel R. Robertson (80) runs home after hitting a three-run home run during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Robertson isn’t getting much play as a possible winner in the SS position battle, but he should. His talent may be above any of those on this list and with a full season of AA playing time under his belt, he could be ready to prove in spring training that he has what it takes to earn the job outright.

Past

Batting

Fielding

Splits

If it weren’t for a short time sitting out in June/July, there’s an argument to be made for the Rays not trading for Miller and company because they’d likely believe Robertson was 100% ready to take over the job as early as 2016. As it is, he did sit out a good portion of the season, but in my estimate he remains the most talented SS we will see play with the Rays in 2016.

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Looking above, I’d like to point out a few details. First, the fact that he was 3 years younger than the average AA player goes a long way. And to maintain a .361 OBP and .415 SLG all while only strikeout out 16.7% of the time is impressive. He walks well, can obviously play vs LHP and RHP as he maintains a great OBP against both and is a very tough out overall.

Defensively, he makes few errors and has good range at SS. He’s not a speed demon, but he’s an intelligent player who sees the play develop well and can anticipate plays effectively.

Finally, once he did return healthy, Robertson finished off the season with a .300/.411/.411 line over his last 107 PA, adding 7 extra-base hits and walking 13 times while only striking out 14 times. In short, he was already proving that he’d improved his approach against AA pitching and was ready for a new challenge.

Present

The question with Robertson is how fast they need him in Tampa Bay and how well he’d be able to adapt to The Show. The Rays will likely take a good long look at him this spring, When they took a look at him last spring training, Robertson didn’t do much….

7 PA / 4 Hits / 2 HR / 5 RBI / 1 BB / 1 SO

Was he making his statement? It sure didn’t hurt, and another performance like that could cause a lot of murmuring in the Rays front office. Now, spring training stats are not to be taken seriously, for the most part, but when a team’s evaluating a young player that’s lacking MLB experience, it doesn’t hurt for him to have success.

With arbitration clocks always being an issue, and with options in house, there’s little doubt that some things would have to happen to Miller and Beckham before Robertson became the starter on opening day. However, once June comes around, if Robertson does begin the year in AAA and has tremendous success, he could be called on to try his hand at taking the job form Miller and/or Beckham if they haven’t grabbed a hold of the job yet.

Future

My thoughts on Robertson are these: the Rays may want to find out sooner rather than later what they have in Robertson. Adames is widely thought to be the answer for the future at SS and he could – or should – begin the year in AA. That’s why I believe Robertson begins in AAA.

Should Robertson be called up in June and play well enough to earn the SS regular spot, Miller’s versatility makes him an asset in the Zobrist kind of way. He can also DH and be a great option off-the-bench. Essentially, bringing up Robertson in June would significantly improve the Rays bench and their overall roster flexibility.

If he fails to do well, he can always be sent back down and he then has extra knowledge of what to work on. More importantly, if he does well enough he – or Brad Miller – can become a significant trade chip for the Rays. Knowing that Adames is close behind makes dealing either a more comfortable thing to do than it otherwise would be.

Overall

If I were a betting man and knew the Javier Baez deal wasn’t happening, I’d bet on Brad Miller earning the majority of the playing tim through April and May with Beckham being on the bench and Franklin in AAA. There’s no reason to believe that Robertson will falter in AAA, so I expect him to be an option for the Rays in June and that it may be hard for the Rays to resist seeing what he can do.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays Top 50 Prospects: #12 Casey Gillaspie

This pretty well lays out the current SS situation, but as well all know the Rays are in the market for improvements and if they do acquire a SS, everything may change. At least we now know that with Miller and Robertson on the radar, Asdrubal Cabrera’s production from 2016 should at least be matched, if not surpassed.

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