With Pitchers and Catchers report only around 22 days away, we are approaching the conclusion of the off season. However, the Rays are still far from done shaping their roster. Though the starting positions will garner the majority of attention and speculation, a critical part of roster construction is depth. As we saw last year, a number of injuries and wacky scenarios (Beckham suspension, Bush incident, etc..) can leave a team reliant upon the quantity and quality of its depth.
Here is a brief look at how the Rays stack up, in terms of depth, at every position.
1B: The starter figures to be James Loney. Since first base is considered an easy position to play, especially for infielders, the Rays should never find themselves is a scenario in which they do not have a player capable of playing first base. The main question is if the Rays want the player playing first base. Should someone like Sean Rodriguez or Ryan Roberts occupy the position following an injury or disastrous performance by Loney, the Rays would receive mediocre offensive production from a position that demands offense. The Rays could move Zobrist to first base, but that would only shift the hole to his former position, making it no different than moving Rodriguez or Roberts to first. The Rays could also just move their DH (whoever they sign) to first base and use the DH as a rotating rest spot should the need arise. As far as the minor leagues go, Henry Wrigley is a minor league free agent, Brandon Allen is in Japan, Dan Johnson is here no more, and Leslie Anderson is not an enticing option. Vogt can play the position, but he needs to show he can hit. Acquiring a first base option to stash in AAA should be one of the Rays main priorities.
2B/3B: You normally see similar, if not the same, players act as depth for these two positions, so I will group them together. At the major league level, Zobrist, Rodriguez, and Roberts are all viable options. Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac should struggle to stay on the roster past spring training, so they are gone unless they accept a demotion to the minor leagues. In AAA, there is a collection of useful pieces. Tim Beckham has yet to show much offense in Durham, but he should be ready as soon as he hits or the Rays deem him so. Chris Gimenez can play third base, but considering that his offense is not considered good enough for a catcher, he is not a desirable option. Cole Figueroa, a piece in the Jason Bartlett trade, offers speed and defense, but he won't offer much in the power department. Regardless, he is still a solid option. Earlier this winter, the Rays traded for Vince Belnome, who has a .901 OPS in his minor league career. Unfortunately, he has played in many extreme offensive environments, his defense is solid rather than spectacular, and he profiles as more of a utility player, never having been much of a prospect. Finally, the Rays also have Mike Fontenot, who might be the first option out of Durham. During his seven years of MLB time, Fontenot has a .265/.332/.401 batting line, good for 5.5 WAR in 1586 PAs. His best position defensively is second base. Further down the depth chart, minor league signing Jason Bourgeois has played some second base, but his bat is very weak for the position. All in all, the Rays are pretty well equipped to overcome an injury at second or third base.
State of the Rays Depth
D-Rays Bay | Jan 21