Yesterday, Joe Maddon indicated that Ben Zobrist will likely start the season platooning in both right field and at second base. Let’s take a look at what that means for the rest of the players competing for roster spots and playing time…

Notes on the 25-man roster projection…

If Gabe Kapler is on the opening day roster…

  • RIGHT FIELD: Up until now, we have just assumed Gabe Kapler is on the opening day roster. If true, he will start versus lefties and Ben Zobrist starts versus righties.
  • SECOND BASE: If Kapler is on the team Zobrist plays RF versus righties and 2B versus lefties. That leaves either Sean Rodriguez or Reid Brignac to play 2B versus righties. For their careers, Rodriguez is stronger versus lefties (.940 vs .881 OPS) and Brignac has been stronger facing righties (.778 vs .638). But Rodriguez’ mark versus RHP (.881) is still stronger than Brignac’s (.778). Brignac is considered the better defender. But Rodriguez has impressed with the glove so far this spring. Therefore, we give Rodriguez the edge.
  • BENCH: If Sean Rodriguez is platooning at 2B and backing up the outfield, it would seem that Joe Maddon would want to also keep Reid Brignac as the back-up middle infielder. Also, if Ben Zobrist and Gabe Kapler are playing right field, there is no need for Matt Joyce.
  • SUMMARY: If Gabe Kapler’s job is a lock and Ben Zobrist is platooning in RF and at 2B, that means Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac make the team and Matt Joyce is back in Durham. And spring training is a competition between Rodriguez and Brignac for a portion of the 2B job.

If Matt Joyce is on the opening day roster

  • RIGHT FIELD: If the Rays decide to keep Matt Joyce on the roster, there is likely no room for Gabe Kapler as the Rays would already have 2 guys playing right field and Sean Rodriguez who can back-up in the outfield. And if Joyce is on the roster, he starts in RF versus righties and Ben Zobrist is in RF versus lefties.
  • SECOND BASE: If Ben Zobrist is in RF versus lefties, he will start at 2B versus righties. That leaves Sean Rodriguez or Reid Brignac to start at 2B versus lefties. And that is a no-brainer. Rodriguez’ career OPS versus LHP (.940) dwarfs Brignac’s (.638).
  • BENCH: Again, with Ben Zobrist in RF part-time, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to keep both Matt Joyce and Gabe Kapler, so if Joyce is in, Kapler is out and the Rays will have to either eat his $1 million salary, or find a trade partner. That opens the final spot for Reid Brignac as the backup middle infielder.
  • SUMMARY: If Matt Joyce is on the team, he platoons in RF with Ben Zobrist, and Sean Rodriguez platoons with Zobrist at 2B. Reid Brignac would get the final bench spot and Gabe Kapler is filing his unemployment papers.

Ultimately it looks like both Rodriguez and Brignac will make the team and the final spot will be between Kapler ad Joyce. Obviously Kapler has a huge edge as his contract is guaranteed, but it’s not like he is making Pat Burrell-money.

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12 Comments

  1. Pinto says:

    So no Hank Blalock?

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    • A couple of days ago I would have given him an edge over Aybar who has minor league options remaining (although he'd be an expensive minor leaguer). But all the quotes from Maddon and Friedman make it sound like a long-shot. I think we need to see his bat for a couple of weeks and how healthy he is to play the field. If he gets any time at 3B that will be a sign that Rays are really thinking about giving him a job.

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  2. KyleS says:

    Brignac wasting service time on the bench just to back up SS doesn't seem likely to me--or is that issue not really important at this juncture? With Rodriguez and Zo also able to back up SS, Brignac seems superfluous unless JB lands on the DL, at which point Brignac gets recalled from Durham to fill in. This would allow both Kapler and Joyce to make the team, with Joyce the opening day starter, and Kapler basically relegated to 5th OFer (or unofficial coach or something). Bench: Catcher, Aybar, Rodriguez, Kapler? Kapler would play only sparingly, but I would think the RFO would prefer that over Brignac not getting much work--when he could be playing full-time in Durham.

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    • Kapler as 5th OF is certainly a possibility as he can play all 3 OF spots. But I don't necessarily think Brignac would be wasting away on the bench either. Based on the way this team is shaping up, I think all 4 bench spots will get a lot of playing time this year. Kapler (or Joyce) and Navarro would be platooning. Maddon has already said he wants to get Aybar 250-300 plate appearances. That leaves the 4th spot (Brignac?) as only true backup. Anytime Bartlett, Zobrist or Rodriguez are given the day off Brignac would fill in. That's probably 2 starts a week which translates to maybe 50 starts. Not much less than some of the platoon guys.

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  3. carey says:

    No comments/links on "floating realignment"? Color me a bit suprised.

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  4. leningan says:

    Regardless of willy's options, we have to keep brignac and rodzilla (is it ok to have two godzilla references on the same team?). Whether we work a trade (pena?, willy?), get creative with the DL (pena?, kapler?, willy?, joyce?), or outright release someone, the cajun and seanjohn have earned the spot. On a side note, what happened to Wade today?

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  5. Sam Davis says:

    Joyce seems hurt too much. Sore leg at beginning of spring training followed by sore elbow & heard right when he is scheduled to come back he will be taking personal time off next weekend. Makes you wonder if he really wants it. If any of us had the opportunities in front of him i would think we could stay out of the training room. Maybe that's what they mean about his work ethic last year. Seems like guy is always "hurt" but never has real injuries on MRIs.

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  6. If Joyce is clearly the better player then no, I wouldn't think so. But what if both are comparable? Then they keep Kapler, at least for a little while and give Joyce some everyday ABs in Durham for a month or two.

    Also, I didn't address this, but the platoon split at 2B could have an effect on who makes the team between Joyce and Kapler. For example, maybe Rays like Rodriguez as part of 2B platoon but prefer that he faces lefties. That means Zobrist is in RF versus LHP and Joyce would be the other RF.

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  7. Dirtbag Fan says:

    He has at least one option remaining from what I understand, per various sources (including Prof).

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  8. When I asked the Rays last year I was told he had options remaining. I did find out that he used one in '05. I was told that he did not use one in '07 when he did not play all year.

    Is it possible that he was on the 40-man in '04 and used one then? If so, that doesn't jive with what the Rays told me.

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  9. I stand corrected. Thanks for the info.

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