Jake Bauers is one of the top prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays system. But where does he fit into their future?
In theory, it should be easy to find a spot for one of the top prospects in a team’s system, let alone one of the top prospects in the game. However, it may not be that simple with first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers.
Bauers placed himself upon the prospect map last season with a strong campaign in Montgomery. In his first full season with the Biscuits, Bauers posted a solid .274/.370/.420 batting line, hitting 14 home runs and 28 doubles. He even stole ten bases, showing speed typically outside the realm of a first baseman. Bauers has a solid batting eye as well, drawing 73 walks and striking out only 89 times in 581 plate appearances.
And yet, as he continues his march towards the Majors, there are questions as to where he will play. Until this past season, Bauers had strictly been a first baseman, but the Rays have another top prospect in Casey Gillaspie. Having already moved up to Durham, and with Logan Morrison on a one year deal, Gillaspie could have an inside track at the position for 2018, if not this season should Morrison falter.
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The continued success of Gillaspie has already led to a potential position switch for Bauers. Last season, he began to play in right, making 62 appearances there for Montgomery. He played relatively well, with only five errors in 151 chances, while notching seven assists. Bauers also made a handful of appearances in left, although his future may be in right field.
At this point, there is a space that could open up in the next year. Colby Rasmus is on a one year contract and is slated to play right for the Rays in 2017. Meanwhile, with Mallex Smith on the cusp of the Majors, and Corey Dickerson splitting time between left and designated hitter, the Rays currently have their corner outfield set.
The best case scenario would involve Smith in left, Bauers in right, and Dickerson serving as the primary designated hitter in 2018. And that may well happen, so long as Bauers continues to acclimate well to right. But his advancement through the system, for as pure of a hitter as he is considered to be, may well be tied to his success as he changes positions.
Jake Bauers appears to be almost ready for the Majors with the bat. The only question now is whether or not he will be able to crack the Tampa Bay Rays outfield picture in another year or two.