Fansided
Rays News

Tampa Bay Rays: Candidates for the Bench

badger64
Aug 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) forces out Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) and throws the ball to first base for a double play during the fifth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Tim Beckham (1) forces out Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) and throws the ball to first base for a double play during the fifth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

With the numerous off-season moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays, there will be positional battles, the same could hold true for the few destined to be in a bench role.

Going into spring training, the Tampa Bay Rays appear to be set at seven of the eight position players and the designated hitter. Only the catching position seems to be unsettled. The bench is a slightly different story.

Typically an American League team has a backup catcher and three other position players on the bench. The Rays have three candidates for the position players but each comes with flaws. Let’s take a look at this group and see if they are the answer.

The strongest candidate is Tim Beckham. We all know his history of struggles in the minor leagues after being the team’s first round draft choice in 2008. However, since playing in the major leagues in 2014 thru 2016, he has 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in 408 at bats.

More from Rays News

He has been particularly strong against left handed pitching with a .259/.302/.457 slash line. His flaw seems to be that he can’t keep his head in the game and was benched and demoted after several base running blunders last year.

The Rays have hung onto Beckham and seem to be willing to give him another chance. If Beckham redeems himself in spring training, he can play all four infield positions and is solid as a middle infielder. His powerful right handed bat will play well as a platoon player with Brad Miller, Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison. Let’s hope he takes advantage of what may be his last chance with the Rays.

Next up is utility man Nick Franklin. He too has had a checkered past. He failed as a middle infield prospect with Seattle and didn’t do much better with the Rays. He couldn’t seem to find a position or any consistency with his bat. Suddenly, in 2016, after another stint in the minors, he seemed to find his offensive game and finished the season with a .270/.328/.443 slash line in 174 at bats.

Franklin’s a switch hitter who hits right handed pitching better than left handed pitching. He’s primarily a middle infielder who has learned how to play other positions and the Rays see a bit of Ben Zobrist in him. The issue in whether he has turned the corner offensively and can duplicate his 2016 numbers on a consistent basis or whether he will fall back to his earlier level of performance.

More from Rays News

The last strong candidate is Rickie Weeks. Weeks is an interesting story as he was chosen as the second choice in the 2003 draft after the Rays chose Delmon Young as #1. He played 11 seasons for Milwaukee and Young played one full season for the Rays. Weeks has a career .261/.382/.457 slash line over 13 seasons.

Primarily a second baseman throughout his career, Weeks has become a part time outfielder in the past couple of years. Nobody is going to confuse him with Kevin Kiermaier but he plays an adequate outfield and last year delivered a .239/.327/.450 slash line in 180 at bats. He could work nicely as a fourth outfielder and right handed platoon for Colby Rasmus and Corey Dickerson. The question, at age 34, is how much he has left in the tank. He is signed to a minor league contract.

The last possibility is rookie Daniel Robertson. Once seen as the shortstop of the future, Robertson is now seen as a quality utility infielder. He played at AAA Durham last year and had a decent season. He can play three infield positions and is a line drive hitter who knows how to work a count. He will probably go back to Durham to start the year but he wouldn’t be a bad alternative if any of first three under performs in spring training.

That pretty well sums up the choices for bench positions. Other spring training invitees are career minor leaguers, marginal prospects or top prospects just getting a taste of big league baseball. The bench has always been important for the Rays especially when the have so many one dimensional left handed hitters.

Next: Rotation Could be Strength for 2017

That makes the right handed power bats of Beckham and Weeks a plus. Franklin is also important to give a lot of different regulars a day off. Robertson has decent upside. I like the four choices. Let’s hope at least three of them work out.

facebooktwitterreddit