Tampa Bay Rays: Who Will Start in the Field in 2018

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 09: Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 09: Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Positional players for the Tampa Bay Rays are pretty much set, nonetheless they still need to add players for the right side of the infield and outfield via trades or free agency.

The Tampa Bay Rays are in pretty good shape when it comes to the position players in the field. Barring trades, they have five positions with solid starters and interesting candidates for the other three. They will still have to add a couple of low rent free agents or make some trades for major league ready young players but at least they are not starting from scratch.

Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre will man the catching position. Assuming Ramos is healthy, that will be the best duo the Tampa Bay Rays have had behind the plate in a long time. The only problem is that the Rays will only have Ramos for a year and may trade him mid year if the team is not doing well.

The left side of the infield is solid with Evan Longoria at third base and Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop. Both play terrific defense and give the team a better than average offensive output. Longoria is still capable of 20 or more home runs and 80 or more RBIs. Hechavarria has consistently hit between .250 and .275.

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Two thirds of the outfield is solid with Kevin Kiermaier in center field and Steven Souza Jr. in right field. Kiermaier is a gold glove outfielder with speed who seems to be developing into a solid top of the order hitter. His only issue is staying healthy.

Souza Jr. had a breakout year in 2017 and improved in almost all offensive categories. He still strikes out too much but that to may improve with time.

That leaves the Tampa Bay Rays with three open jobs. The right side of the infield has no established starters. Brad Miller finished the year as the starting second baseman but he was a disaster both offensively and defensively. He is up for his first year of arbitration and probably will be traded.

Matt Duffy was acquired to play shortstop but he has been hurt and didn’t play in 2017. He came to the major leagues with San Francisco and was a rookie of the year candidate in 2015. Duffy is athletic enough to play anywhere in the infield and, if healthy, would be a talented and inexpensive player at second base.

Jake Bauers seems to be the logical choice to play first base. He is the #5 prospect in the Rays organization and the #72 prospect in all of baseball. He had a solid year at Durham in 2017. His only down side is that he is not your typical power hitting first baseman and is probably more of a James Loney type contact hitter.

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That being said, the Rays could use more of that type of hitter. He’s only twenty-two and may need more AAA time. However, the Rays don’t have any other choices outside of a low rent free agent.

Left field is another open position. Corey Dickerson played a number of games at that position but he was just average in the field and very up and down offensively. He is scheduled to make $6 million next year and will probably be traded or end up as the team’s DH.

Next up is Mallex Smith. Smith is a very interesting ball player who showed incredible speed and ability on the base paths and in the outfield. The question is whether he can get on base often enough. He also needs to cut down on his mistakes on the bases and in the field. I’m a big Mallex Smith fan so I hope he does well in spring training.

There are certainly more shoes to drop before opening day but a lineup that would include this group would not be a bad thing. Filling in the two or three bench spots beyond Sucre and Daniel Robertson remains to be done and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peter Bourjos return as a platoon with Mallex Smith.

Next: Five Rays Prospects That Saw Their Stock Rise In 2017

All and all this 2018 Tampa Bay Rays lineup could finally have a balance of power, contact hitting and defense.