Rays promote Jake Bauers to boost struggling offense

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 07: A Tampa Bay Rays glove and cap before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 07, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 07: A Tampa Bay Rays glove and cap before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 07, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

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The past week has been a rough one for the Rays.

The Rays have now dropped six games in a row following an 11-2 loss to Washington on Wednesday afternoon. They’ve been outscored 31-12 during that stretch; the offense has been stagnant over the past week and it needs a boost. Hopefully that boost will come from Jake Bauers, who the Rays announced would be called up for Thursday’s game against Seattle.

Fangraphs has Bauers as the fourth-rated prospect in the Rays organization and the 43rd ranked prospect in MLB. This could be a significant addition for the Rays as Bauers has been a highly touted prospect for a few years now.

Thus far in 2018, Bauers is slashing .279/.357/.426 with 5 homers and 10 steals. Bauers has shown good plate discipline in the minors posting above-average strikeout-to-walk ratios and has proven that he can steal bases.

Bauers has split time between first, right field and left field over the past few seasons at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. However, he hasn’t shown traditional first base-type power. He’s learning to translate raw power to in-game power but he certainly isn’t going to hit 30+ homers this year.

Bauers likely profiles as a corner outfielder at this point for several reasons including the bat profile and his progression as a defensive outfielder. We’re inching past the Super-2 deadline at this point, so Bauers deserves a lengthy look in the Rays lineup.

The Rays need to figure out where Bauers fits into the lineup and that will only come with playing time. If he can live up to the hype, Bauers will play a significant role for the Rays going forward.

The interesting question is how the Rays make room for Bauers.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote on Tuesday about Brad Miller being the odd man out. Miller hasn’t played well this season, posting a sub-optimal .243/.312/.414 triple slash line with below-average defense.

The further we get from Miller’s 30 homers in 2016, the easier it is to accept it as fluky and to realize that’s not his true talent level. The Rays could trade him but it’s hard to say what value they’d get back for him. Miller does have a minor league option left so the more likely scenario is that they send him to Durham.

Another option would be to get rid of Rob Refsnyder. Unfortunately, Refsnyder doesn’t move the needle for this team. He’s slugging just .338 through 82 utility-man plate appearances and doesn’t do enough on the defensive side to warrant a roster spot.

The Rays only gave up cash to acquire him earlier this year, so they wouldn’t be losing anything significant by trading him or designating him for assignment. However, we know how the Rays love versatility, so this seems less likely than the Miller option.

Would the Rays carry 12 pitchers and 13 hitters?

The Rays could always send a pitcher down and roll with a 12 man pitching staff, but with the limitations of the rotation and injury issues, this is unlikely. It’s more unlikely especially considering that Chris Archer was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday with an abdominal strain. Losing another pitcher to injury is not what this team needed right now.

Hopefully the addition of Bauers can help ignite this team because the Rays are going to need their offense in a big way in June. The schedule is brutal for the next month which includes the upcoming series against the Mariners, seven games each against the Yankees and Astros, and another two-game stint with the Nationals.

We’re going to learn a lot about this team in the next 30 days and if the Rays are going to stay in the wildcard race, the offense needs to carry its weight.