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Projected Opening Day 25

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL – With just about a week and a half until the Opening Day first pitch is thrown from Tropicana Field against the New York Yankees – how is the 25-man roster shaping up? How will injuries factor into outside shots becoming locks? While there are still a couple of questions to be answered before next Sunday, here’s how we see it shaping up.

Starters:

C Luke Maile – Defensively he and Casali are about even. Offensively, Maile has the better upside. More of a contact hitter than Casali. His .433 on-base % in spring training and .393 batting avg doesn’t hurt his cause, either.

1B Logan Morrison – Begins his second year in a row as the Opening Day first baseman for the Rays. He can’t possibly repeat the start he had last season…can he?

2B Brad Miller – Will he repeat his 30-home run performance from a year ago? Probably not. But despite his struggles this spring, he’s taken to his new position nicely and should still produce at the plate.

SS Tim Beckham – He’ll start the year at short for the injured Duffy and will provide a solid bat off the bench, especially against left-handed pitchers.

3B Evan Longoria – No-brainer, here. Rays hope that even at 31 years old Longo can still produce a second-consecutive 30-home run season…something he’s never done before.

LF Colby Rasmus – If he can get some innings in left before Opening Day, this is where he’ll start. Gold glove defense mixed with 20-25 bombs could be steal of the off-season…if he stays healthy.

CF Kevin Kiermaier – The Rays new $50M man puts together his first 150+ game season and continues to improve at the plate. Then of course there’s that defense.

RF Steven Souza Jr – If the Rays can just get him for 140-150 games, he can finally show his true potential. That’s a big “if” heading into 2017. If they can, they’ll have two 20+ home run guys in the outfield.

DH Corey Dickerson – Another power bat who can and will spell Rasmus in left. Dickerson has mashed in spring and should put up another productive season at the plate.

Bench: 

INF Nick Franklin, C Jesus Sucre, INF Rickie Weeks Jr, OF Mallex Smith

Rotation:

RHP Chris Archer – He was held out of the later part of the WBC for a reason…and that reason is Opening Day. His 19-win 2016 was a fluke (hopefully) and he’ll return to his Cy Young-caliber self.

RHP Jake Odorizzi – The most consistent starter in 2016 would most likely be an ace on a few other rotations.

LHP Blake Snell – He’s had some major command issues this spring but when he’s in the strike zone, he’s deadly.

RHP Alex Cobb – Struggled in his return in September last year but has had a good spring. Getting 30 starts out of him would be huge for this staff.

RHP Matt Andriese – Started 19 games last year and pitched the way a #5 would be expected to. He was solid out of the bullpen but the Rays most likely see him as a starter.

Bullpen:

CL Alex Colome – Put aside his stellar pitching in the WBC, Colome should once again be among the AL leaders in saves this season.

SU Shawn Tolleson – With Brad Boxberger likely starting the season on the DL, this opens the door for the former Rangers closer to shine, once again, in the later innings.

SU Xavier Cedeno – Lefty specialist returns for his fourth year with the Rays.

MR Jumbo Diaz – Late spring signing has logged innings during the WBC and will be an welcome addition to middle inning relief.

MR Jamie Schultz – The rookie makes his MLB debut on the Opening Day roster. Pretty cool story for arguably the most consistent arm this spring.

LR Erasmo Ramirez – Unless, of course, he’s traded – he’ll come back and be an innings eater for the Rays where he saw elite success early in 2016 until coming back down to earth later in the year.

Health is the wild card, as it usually is for the Rays heading into Opening Day. Matt Duffy will almost definitely start the year on the 10-day DL and there’s a chance Boxberger does, as well. That would open the door for guys like Daniel Robertson, Jake Bauers, or even possibly a Tommy Hunter to make the 25-man or at least the 40-man if they aren’t there, already.

There’s still time for another move before the games are for real. Cobb and Erasmo have both been linked to interest from a few teams. If either of them are moved – this list could shake up a bit. Until then, this is pretty close to how things will look next weekend when baseball is officially back.

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