With Spring Training set to begin this week, let’s take a look at what the opening day roster might look like and some of the questions that remain to be answered…

A few notes on the 25-man roster projection

LINEUP:

Andrew Friedman said Elliot Johnson would share middle-infield duties with Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac, but with the addition of Johnny Damon, that probably pushes Ben Zobrist back into the mix and Johnson to the bench most days. As for Damon, until Joe Maddon says he is going to see regular playing time at first base, we are assuming he will be the left fielder most days.

We have also learned that Matt Joyce will only start against righties to start the season. And there are rumblings that Robinson Chirinos has an outside shot at beating out Kelly Shoppach for the second catcher spot.

The other big question remaining over the starting lineup is Casey Kotchman. Supposedly he is in great shape and his swing looks good. But is it enough to beat out Dan Johnson, or at least win a roster spot? If he does, look for Kotchman and Dan Johnson to share first base duties with the starter being a day-to-day decision.

BENCH:

If Casey Kotchman does win a spot on the roster, it does not necessarily mean Dan Johnson is out. If Zobrist is indeed back in the middle-infield mix, Elliot Johnson could be moved to make room for Kotchman. And even without Kotchman making the team, Elliot Johnson’s spot will be challenged by Felipe Lopez.

With Justin Ruggiano recently removed from the 40-man roster, Sam Fuld appears to be a lock for the final bench spot. When the Rays signed Johnny Damon, Chris Carter’s chances of making the team went from “slim” to “oh crap.” And of course Fuld is just keeping the spot warm for Desmond Jennings who should make a mid-season appearance.

ROTATION:

Joe Maddon recently said in an interview that he expects Jeremy Hellickson to step right in and take Matt Garza’s spot. So any thoughts of Andy Sonnanstine making a few starts in April, now seems unlikely.

BULLPEN:

What a mess. At this point, the relief corps will be led by Kyle Farnsworth, Andy Sonnanstine and Joel Peralta. The rest of the jobs will be filled by throwing about 10 names against the wall and hoping four will stick.

Adam Russell is out of options so he is in. Cesar Cabral was a Rule 5 pick, so he has to make the team or be sent back to the Red Sox. And one of the spots will eventually go to JP Howell, but that might not happen until June.

Other names with legit shots at the bullpen are Mike Ekstrom, Rob Delaney, Juan Cruz, Dirk Hayhurst and Cory Wade.

 
 

19 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Where is McGee? Did he get injured and I don’t know about it? If not, he will probably be in the pen and you don’t even have him listed as having a shot. What gives?

    • Cork Gaines says:

      McGee will start camp as a starting pitcher. I think he is their backup plan in the bullpen right now, but that can certainly change if they can’t find enough arms out of the rest of the group.

    • MJ says:

      Agree mike. I understand that they want him to start out as SP, but I think he is a better RP option than a Mike Ekstrom for sure. I don’t know much about all these new names, so its hard to say until I see them live.

      • Alex says:

        They are just doing what they did with JP Howell. They want him to be a “starter” which we all know is a load of crap. He’ll be in the pen at some point this year if not to start the year.

  2. sledge says:

    Let’s hope Cruz us the second coming of Beniot or there is someone similar on the scrap heap we haven’t heard of yet. Bullpen just looks downright ugly.

    Cork – you should put up your assessment of the pen from pre-2008 season. I think we are all nervous about these no names, but I can’t recall how much I knew about the 2008 crowd at this point.

    • Hal says:

      Exactly, even looking back on it NOW, after going to the World Series, you look at the ’08 pen and say, “REALLYYYY????”

    • Big difference between 2011 and 2008 bullpens is the 9th inning. The 2008 team had a bunch of crappy arms anchored by Troy Percival. No matter what happened later… Percy had a hell of a first half in 2008 and helped the Rays gain a foothold in the AL East race.

      This year, the Rays really don’t have a closer or even a guy you trust in High leverage situations. I think that’s what scares me most.

      As for 1st base… does anyone really want to see a 1B platoon?

      • Hal says:

        I agree that we tend to overlook Percy’s first half, but he broke down and was a non-factor later in the year and we managed just fine. I will say that I’d love to see McGee in this year’s pen.

  3. Joe says:

    McGee, Cruz and Wade(replaced by JP) instead of Ekstrom, Ramos and Cabrel please.

    I hope they give a good look at Brandon Gomes, really like that guy.

  4. David Bloom says:

    Farnsworth, Peralta,Russell, Sonny most likely top four picks for pen. Though Russell is in his third org and out of options. Its a huge competition for last 3 spots. Wade is intriguing. McGee starts as SP (why?)

  5. John says:

    I really don’t understand the reluctance to move young starting pitchers to the pen. For a team always looking for ‘market efficiencies,’ it’s baffled me for a while now. Now, I know you don’t want to do this with your middle & long relief slots, but slotting cheap, young & talented guys into the high leverage bullpen slots seems like a no brainer to me.

    • Andy says:

      I think their philosophy is that they want to always see if a guy can succeed in the rotation first, as guys who can nearly always give more value than short men. Its a debate about long-term value maximization vs. short term.

      However, as it concerns McGee, I dont ever see him as a starter.

      • John says:

        Yes, it’s all fine and dandy to want to get the max value out of each prospect. But as much as I loved Soriano last year, how much did we pay him? For one year? Is that really a good allocation of resources considering the pitching riches we have assembled on the farm? Especially when there are only five (or six if you count the long man in the pen) starting pitching spots?

    • Derek says:

      The idea of Mcgee, Archer, Moore, davis, And Helickson in the rotation makes me smile. Torres could be switched out with Archer if one fails to gain better control. A starting pitcher>A relief pitcher, no matter the leverage. 200 innings are worth more than 60.

      • Alex says:

        McGee has also already had Tommy John Surgery and I believe a shoulder injury or two. He won’t be a starter past his spring training stretch out. Cabral won’t make the team. The guy hasn’t pitched above single A.

        • Derek says:

          Has he had shoulder injuries or not, because “I believe” isnt going to cut it. I did a quick search and couldnt find anything. He might have though. TSJ isnt really that much of an issue. You also have no idea what he will or will not be, so saying he wont be a starter, after hickey said he would, is nonsense to me.

          Maybe you have heard of a guy named Jeff Niemann, ask him about shoulder problems.

          Cabral? I never spoke his name.

      • Alex says:

        Where did Price and Niemann go?

        • Derek says:

          Moore is at least two years away. By that time, Price’s contract will be up. I see no scenario where we sign him long term. Niemann. I know this is a bold statement, but I think all of those arms are better than Niemann’s. Who knows what can happen in two years though.

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