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Predicting The Opening Day Roster Version 4.0

Opening Day at Tropicana Field
photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

It’s Monday, which means it’s time to once again try and see if my prognostication powers are worth anything by trying to determine the 26 players that will be in the dugout on Opening Day April 1 against the Miami Marlins.  If you’ve missed the first few iterations of roster predictions this year, I do lay down a few ground rules to try and make things a little easier.

  • Only players on the spring roster as of Sunday will be used in the projections come Monday.
  • No trade predictions.  It’s hard enough to try and do this with the 75 or so players in Port Charlotte.  I don’t need the rumor mill to add any spice to the equation.
  • Injured lists are in play.  The 10-day, 15-day, and 60-day IL’s are fair game when necessary.
  • Pitcher limits are in effect.  With MLB going back to 26-man rosters (after using a 28-man roster for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season), it appears the league will enforce a 13 pitcher maximum on active rosters (not counting players considered two-way players).  My projections will adhere to those limits until ruled otherwise.
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(photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays)


Not much has changed from last week’s projection when it comes to pitchers.  I still think there will be a season-long shuffle between long relief/bulk pitchers to help fill innings at the big league level as well as insure that these young arms aren’t overworked themselves.  So do not be surprised if you see Luis Patino, Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan, Trevor Richards, and maybe even Joe Ryan be a part of the shuttle service between the alternate site and Tropicana Field to start the year, and once the Triple-A season begins in early May, the Durham to St. Pete shuttle.

Pitchers (13): Nick Anderson, Chris Archer, Diego Castillo, Pete Fairbanks, Josh Fleming, Tyler Glasnow, Rich Hill, Collin McHugh, Cody Reed, Chaz Roe, Trevor Richards, Michael Wacha, Ryan Yarbrough

The role as backup catcher to Mike Zunino right now belongs to Francisco Mejia. (photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays)


The catching situation has not changed at all during the time the team has been in Port Charlotte.  Even with Kevan Smith showing some great signs at the plate and with the equipment on, it still looks like the role as backup to Mike Zunino remains Francisco Mejia‘s to lose.  And the young catcher that was part of the Blake Snell trade has shown he deserves the spot right now.  I still think that Smith could make the roster as a third catcher, but it would take a couple of injuries to happen.

Catchers (2): Francisco Mejia, Mike Zunino

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(photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays)


With Ji-Man Choi being shut down for a week to 10 days while he deals with inflammation in his right knee, that will allow players like Yandy Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo to be able to get more reps at first base during the Grapefruit League, and determine who the coaching staff and the front office is most comfortable in putting over there if Choi is unable to play or needs a day off.

Infielders (7): Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Joey Wendle

Bret Phillips

Brett Phillips could be a part of the Opening Day roster, but will he be healthy come April 1 (photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays)


Brett Phillips tweaking his hamstring in Sunday’s game against Atlanta could mean a couple of things for the Opening Day roster.  It could mean that the team may not have to worry about whether they’ll have to expose the speedy outfielder to waivers to try and send him to the minors, and it would allow Tsutsugo to remain on the roster while he makes $7 million this year.  I’m more concerned with this injury than I am with Choi’s knee issues, because it’s a lot more difficult to prevent a recurrence of hamstring issues, and I worry that this problem could rear its ugly head again this year.

Outfielders (4): Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows


We already know a number of pitchers will begin the year on the big-league injured list coming back from arm injuries.  Yonny Chirinos, Colin Poche, and Jalen Beeks all had Tommy John surgery, and have found themselves on the 60-day injured list, while Oliver Drake‘s flexor tendon issues has him on the 60-day as well. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Phillips start the season on the 10-day injured list if his hamstring injury persists, while Brendan McKay could end up on the 10-day while he comes back from his shoulder surgery.  Brent Honeywell finally pitched to live hitters for the first time in a batting practice setting Sunday, and he is not expected to get into a Grapefruit League game.  That leads me to think they will likely use that fourth option on him rather than start him on the big league injured list.

10-day IL (2): LHP/DH Brendan McKay, OF Brett Phillips

60-day IL (4): LHP Jalen Beeks, RHP Yonny Chirinos, RHP Oliver Drake, LHP Colin Poche

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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