At some point, Matt Duffy will be back with the Tampa Bay Rays. When that happens, the Rays should let Tim Beckham remain in the lineup and put Duffy in a utility mode.
Matt Duffy was expected to be the starting shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. His heel injury, suffered last season, was expected to be healed by the end of Spring Training, allowing Duffy to return to the starting lineup. If anything, a brief rehab stint would have been needed to get him ready for game action.
Instead, that heel injury has continued to persist, allowing former top draft pick Tim Beckham to get an extended chance at short. In that time, Beckham has surprised, posting a .264/.289/.457 batting line, while tied for second on the team with six homers and 19 RBI. Beckham has even proven to be useful at short this year, having not cost the Rays a run defensively and being generally league average in his defensive metrics.
In a way, this production has caused a bit of a dilemma for the Rays. Beckham was expected to be the super utility player, getting action around the infield and at both corner outfield positions. Duffy, meanwhile, had been brought in to keep the shortstop seat warm until Willy Adames was ready to take over.
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Although the sentiment is that a player should not lose his job due to injury, it is not as though Duffy has held the Rays shortstop position for a decade. In fact, he has just 21 games in a Rays uniform, and his .276/.300/.355 batting line in that time hardly inspires confidence. Yes, he was coming off a strong 2015 campaign that saw him finish second in the National League Rookie of the Year balloting, but can he be counted on to perform at that level?
At this point, instead of putting Beckham back into his expected utility role, such a spot could be a good option for Duffy. This way, he can work his way back into the lineup, filling in around the infield, and helping to give Evan Longoria a day off should his foot issues require it.
Likewise, if Beckham does begin to struggle, Duffy would be ready to step in and take over as the primary shortstop. Or, if Longoria’s foot issues continue to persist, Duffy could slide over and fill in should a DL stint be required. There are still plenty of ways that Duffy could enter the lineup.
It just should not happen at Tim Beckham’s expense, at least just yet. He has earned his chance to remain the Tampa Bay Rays primary shortstop when Matt Duffy returns.