Heading into the 2016 season, the Tampa Bay Rays middle infield is mostly settled, but there are still a few questions that need to be answered regarding the depth and talent of this group. Let’s take a look at where their middle infield depth currently stands and how the Rays can utilize it the best way possible.
Forsythe’s breakout 2015 campaign garnered him the Rays 2015 team MVP award as he set career highs with 153 games played, 17 home runs, 68 RBI’s, nine stolen bases and a .281 batting average. The Rays are relying on Forsythe to be a staple in the lineup and provide productivity on a consistent basis. He will be the Rays starting 2nd baseman on Opening Day and if he can duplicate his 2015 season, he will be an asset for the Rays both on the field and at the plate.
The shortstop was acquired as part of the Karns trade during the offseason and the Rays are hoping he can turn into their everyday shortstop. He has struggled hitting against LHP’s from both sides of the plate (switch hitter), slashing a worrisome .234 batting average during the 2015 season. However, he reached double-digits in both home runs and steals, which is reason for optimism heading into the season. In the field, his arm can be wild at times, but the defensive metrics indicate he’s still an average defender. Bottom line: If he can play adequate defense and be an average hitter against LHP’s, he will be the Rays everyday shortstop. If he can’t do those things, the Rays will still have a utility man they can bring off the bench.
Beckham, who can play both shortstop and second base, will be heading into his 2nd season as a Ray. He possesses an above average bat against LHP’s, and provides a solid glove at the shortstop position. If Miller can’t figure things out against lefties, you may see Beckham take his spot on those days. Personally, I believe Beckham has the potential to be a valuable tool off the bench, providing a solid glove while giving the Rays some much needed offensive punch towards the back end of the lineup.
Franklin is currently fighting for an opening day roster spot and will need his bat to come alive during Spring Training if he wants any chance at grabbing it. In 44 games (101 AB’s) a year ago, Franklin hit a horrid .158 from the plate. He does, however, provide solid defense (.981 Fld%) at second base and can play both middle infield positions if needed. My guess is he starts the season in Durham, but will be the Rays go-to (bar continued offensive struggles) if others don’t perform or are unavailable due to injury.
The Rays have plenty of talent and depth at the middle infield positions heading into the 2016 season, and I’m sure Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman will certainly do everything they can to utilize it the best way possible. The upside is there. The question is if they can turn that upside into consistent production.