In a couple of weeks we will be neck-deep in free agency and trade season. So let’s take a very premature look at what the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays roster will look like. Keep in mind that this is only based on players currently in the organization…
A few notes on the 25-man roster projection…
- MADDONOLOGY 101: We hate Joe Maddon for this, but for the first time in six years, we are projecting two starting lineups. It only makes sense with Maddon’s platoon mentality. As a result, we are projecting platoons at catcher, second base, right field and designated hitter.
- LINEUP: C, LF and CF appear to be the only locks. Reid Brignac is a lock assuming the Rays trade or decline arbitration for Jason Bartlett. Ben Zobrist is a lock, but where? Matt Joyce and Justin Ruggiano (out of options) seem like a natural platoon in RF. Same for Dan Johnson and Willy Aybar at DH. 1B and 2B seem like the biggest wild cards. Will the Rays think Leslie Anderson is ready? He didn’t get a September call-up, so he likely needs a little more seasoning.
- BENCH: What bench? Under this projection all four bench players will be starting at some point. Would that surprise anybody? Justin Ruggiano and Elliot Johnson are out of minor league options and fit well with a couple of the Rays needs. So at this point, they are both in. But if players are added from outside the organization, these could be the first players out of the projection.
- ROTATION: We still think it is more likely that the Rays return all 6 of their starting pitchers. That means Jeremy Hellickson could start the season back at triple-A. This wouldn’t be the first time (e.g. Evan Longoria, David Price). None of the current 5 are cost-prohibitive yet. So why not see what happens for a few months, slow Hellboy’s service-time clock and wait until July to trade James Shields or Matt Garza when other teams are more desperate for starting pitching?
- BULLPEN: This is where we expect the most turnover. Read THIS POST for our thoughts on what will happen with the bullpen.
The most likely spots for the Rays to add a bat from outside the organization are 1B and DH (Jim Thome?). Adding a DH could shift Dan Johnson into the 1B-platoon. Adding a 1B would move Ben Zobrist into the 2B-RF platoon(s).