Tampa Bay Rays: Looking at Internal Options for Second Base

May 28, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Brad Miller (13) triples during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Brad Miller (13) triples during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

With the trade of Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers, the question as the Tampa Bay Rays head into spring training what are the options at second base.

It is a day that was inevitable, the writing was on the wall but not very clear as the Tampa Bay Rays listened hard and long before striking a deal that sent incumbent second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prized pitcher Jose De Leon.

It was an opportunity that the Rays could not refuse and now the question is who the Rays options at second base are. From an organizational standpoint at the major league level, depth wise, the top option would clearly favor Nick Franklin followed by Tim Beckham and possibly Brad Miller.

Looking further down the ladder is Daniel Robertson and or Willy Adames, who is projected to begin the season at Triple-A Durham and Double-A Montgomery respectively with a possible mid-season call-up. Another option would of course come from the outside via a trade or stand pat with a platoon of Franklin and Beckham as a stopgap until Robertson is ready.

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Replacing Forsythe’s offensive production will not be replaced by Franklin or Beckham, as Forsythe in his three seasons with the Rays hit .262/.334/.419 with 43 home runs, 69 doubles, 146 RBIs, in 390 games. He hit .264/.333/.444 with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs in 127 games last season as the Rays’ leadoff batter and remains the only middle infielder in franchise history with back-to-back seasons of 15 or more homers.

“Going into the winter, this certainly wasn’t on our to-do list,” said Erik Neander, Rays senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager. “In our minds to acquire a talent, and acquire a pitcher we have evaluated very highly, we felt it was an opportunity that we needed to take advantage of as difficult a decision as it was. We had every intention of Logan being on our club until this presented itself and felt like this is the best decision for our organization moving forward.”

“Replacing Logan Forsythe’s not going to be easy,” Neander said. “We recognize that. But we feel like we have some guys internally who are well positioned to step up, and we’re going to take advantage of what remains of the offseason to do the best we can to add to our 2017 club.”

Franklin’s value in my opinion is in a super-utility role, as he can play both corner outfield positions as well as short, and first. However, his playing time with the Rays has been limited to just 115 games in his three seasons, with the most production coming in 2016 as he hit .270/.288/.433 with six home runs and 26 RBIs in 174 at-bats over 60 games, the most games he has appeared in since his rookie season back in 2013 with Seattle.

One of Franklin’s deficiencies is his inability to hit left-handers – something that Forsythe feasted on. Of his 22 career home runs, only one has come off a left-hander where his line stands at .205/.283/.290 in 200 at-bats, 12 doubles and 17 RBIs. From the left side, though not that much better clearly shows it’s his power-side hitting .225/.290/.402 with 24 doubles and 67 RBIs.

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Beckham has had numerous opportunities the last couple of seasons, but has to capitalize on them. He can hit lefties and he has the potential to be an offensive threat; however can he bury his lackadaisical attitude and baserunning blunders. Over the past two seasons, he has provided defensive versatility playing second, short, third and first but has shown little else.

Over his career, in 105 games against right-handers, Beckham has hit .218/.275/.408 with seven home runs, 29 RBIs, 11 doubles and four triples and against left-handers, he has hit .259/.302/.457 with seven homers, 25 RBIs and five triples. Last season was his most productive against left-handers hitting .276/.344/.448 in 87 at-bats. Overall, on the season Beckham hit .247/.300/.434 with five home runs and 16 RBIs, 12 doubles and five triples in 198 at-bats (64 games).

Defensively, he has been almost flawless – last season he started five games at first (42 innings) and had no errors in 39 chances, at second he started 16 games (159 innings) and no errors in 74 chances and at the hot corner he had four starts with no errors (42 innings) in seven chances. Surprisingly enough his natural position of shortstop he had his only errors of the season coming in with four (195.1 innings) in 23 starts.

The road that I would take would be moving Miller to second, where the transition would not be a detriment as he has logged 37 career games (18 starts – 2013-2015) while with Seattle putting up decent defensive numbers. Over this time, he committed just three errors in 105 chances (196.1 innings).

His athleticism makes him the ideal choice as he’ll have all of spring training to get back into the routine of playing second, as he would work with coach Tom Foley and hopefully the offensive production will carry-over from last season when he had a career year at the plate.

“We’re going to keep an open mind to just about every consideration that we have as well as any opportunity that comes up externally,” Neander said. “We’ll have better feedback, better clarity over the next couple weeks.”

Next: Rays Trade Logan Forsythe to Dodgers for Jose De Leon

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Moving Miller gives the Tampa Bay Rays the opportunity to sign a right-handed bat such as Chris Carter or Mike Napoli for the short term until Casey Gillaspie and or Jake Bauers gets the call for the big time and thus it could be a win-win situation for the Rays.