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Predicting The Opening Day Roster Version 5.0

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

It’s Monday, and as the late Brodie Lee used to say, “you know what that means.”  It means it’s time for the latest of my weekly roster projections in advance of Opening Day.  Every week, we look at what the 26 players could be for the April 1 regular season opener in Miami against the Marlins, and as always, we have some ground rules.  However, one of those ground rules has been changed.

  • 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.
  • With MLB not enforcing the 50/50 split on position players vs. pitchers, it looks like I can indeed select more than 13 pitchers to begin the year.  So (spoiler), I will.



With the last ground rule changing, allowing me to go to a split of 14 pitchers and 12 position players, the injuries that have occurred during the spring will allow me to add another arm to the bullpen.  The five starters have not changed, and with Kevin Cash saying they want lefty Shane McClanahan to be used as a starter, it makes sense that instead they go with another short reliever.

Pitchers (14): Nick AndersonChris ArcherDiego CastilloPete Fairbanks, Tyler GlasnowRich HillCollin McHughCody ReedChaz RoeTrevor Richards, Ryan Sherriff, Ryan Thompson, Michael WachaRyan Yarbrough


It looked less and less likely that Kevan Smith was going to be able to overtake Francisco Mejia for the role of backup to Mike Zunino, and now that Smith has been dealing with another back issue (his second of the spring), it’s almost a forgone conclusion that the young backstop ends up starting the year in that role.

Catchers (2): Francisco Mejia, Mike Zunino


Word that first baseman Ji-Man Choi may not be ready to start the regular season because of inflammation in his right knee may be one of the biggest curveballs to this projection, because it means instead of looking at guys to be flexible to possibly play in the corner outfield, players will get more of a chance to play on the right side of the infield.  Yoshi Tsutsugo has gotten rave reviews by the coaching staff, and Yandy Diaz and Mike Brosseau each have gotten opportunities to play firs base.  Still, none of them have quite the defensive acumen as the large, yet lithe left-hander from South Korea.

Infielders (6): Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Joey Wendle


The Choi injury, along with Brett Phillips‘ hamstring strain, have left the outfield corps light.  Of course, that will allow Meadows a greater opportunity to play right field on a regular basis and allow Randy Arozarena to play every day.  Manuel Margot will again get a chance to play all three outfield positions, while still giving the Rays the speed factor they could use in late-inning situations.

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


There’s a couple of more guys on this list than would be desired for the start of the regular season, but hopefully it spells a short stint for Choi and Phillips.  Brendan McKay‘s shoulder isn’t ready for big-league hitters just yet, but his bat could be a welcome sight early in the year, and perhaps he could be another piece that could play first base while his pitching arm continues to rehab.

10-day IL (3): 1b Ji-Man Choi, LHP/1B 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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