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Tampa Bay Rays Crowded Outfield Leading to Tough Decisions

By Kasey Kuhrts
Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Corey Dickerson (10) singles during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Corey Dickerson (10) singles during the second inning against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Tampa Bay Rays outfield situation is rather crowded. Manager Kevin Cash will have some tough decisions to make.

With opening day under two weeks away, the Tampa Bay Rays carry six outfielders on the roster, which will be cut down before the Rays take the field against the Yankees on April 2nd.

Centerfield is locked up by Kevin Kiermaier, and left field being occupied by Corey Dickerson or Colby Rasmus, whoever isn’t serving as the designated hitter. Dickerson served as the Rays DH for 62 games last season while Colby Rasmus played 87 games in left field last season with the Astros.

Finding a way to keep both of their bats in the lineup nightly will be a key for the Rays. Both hitters are power threats, Dickerson hit 24 home runs last year, tying his single season high, and Rasmus launched 15 home runs last season in only 369 at bats.

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This leaves right field as the only open position for the three other outfielders listed on the roster.

Steven Souza has been the starting right fielder for the past two season; however, Souza has had problems putting the ball in play. In the past two seasons combined, Souza struck out 303 times in 803 at bats. Nearly 38% of his at bats end in a strike out.

Super utility man Nick Franklin, and Mallex Smith are the other two outfielders listed on the roster. Franklin, who played games at 1st and 2nd base, along with shortstop and the corner outfield spots last season, serves as Kevin Cash’s version of Ben Zobrist. Franklin is hitting exactly .400 on the spring, making it hard for Cash to keep him off the roster.

Smith, who was acquired when the Rays sent Drew Smyly to Seattle has an outside chance of grabbing the spot. In his rookie season last year with the Atlanta Braves, Smith hit only .238, but had an on base percentage of .316. Smith also has good speed, stealing 16 bases in the 72 games he played. At only 23 years old, Smith will have plenty of time to contribute to the Rays, even if he doesn’t make the opening day roster.

Next: Thoughts on Kiermaier extension

One other outfielder worth mentioning is 21-year-old Jake Bauers. According to MLB.com’s 2017 Prospects watch, Bauers is the 76 prospect in all of major league baseball, and number four in the Rays system. Bauers is crushing the ball this spring, sporting a .353 average, along with four home runs, and 11 runs driven in. Jake spent the 2016 season with the Rays AA affiliate Montgomery Biscuits posting 78 RBI’s along with an eye popping .370 OBP. Bauers is not likely to break camp with the Rays, but is showing he can be a major contributor in the near feature.

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