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Inbox: How good are the farm, infield?

Rays beat reporter Bill Chastain answers fans' questions
March 28, 2017

I've been disappointed with the Rays' farm system, specifically how they've developed position players. Have you seen anything this spring that might change my mind? --Andrew B., AtlantaTotally. Jake Bauers is somebody to really be excited about. They got him in the deal that sent William Myers to San Diego,

I've been disappointed with the Rays' farm system, specifically how they've developed position players. Have you seen anything this spring that might change my mind?
--Andrew B., Atlanta

Totally. Jake Bauers is somebody to really be excited about. They got him in the deal that sent William Myers to San Diego, and he looks Major League ready right now the way he swings the bat. He has a wonderful swing, and he also has a good eye. So he's somebody to be excited about.
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From everything I've read, it sounds as though Matt Duffy won't start the season as the team's shortstop due to his prolonged recovery from heel surgery. If Duffy's not available, does that mean Timothy Beckham is the shortstop, or will they move things around.
--Sally J., Jacksonville, Fla.

I think Tim Beckham will get most of the reps at shortstop. Nick Franklin could see some time there, and also if Daniel Robertson makes the team, you might see him there at shortstop some as well.
I'm really happy that Kevin Kiermaier got his money, he plays hard every day and he's the best defender in baseball. What did you think of the deal? Do you think he'll come around offensively?
--Bill D., Tampa

You look at it from two sides there. Signing him to a long-term deal was a good idea. He's an impact player on defense, he's probably the best fielder in baseball. His offense is not quite on par with his defense yet. I do think he's athletic enough to where it will catch up. I think it's a good gamble for both sides of the equation, for the Rays and for Kevin Kiermaier to stay with the Rays.

Looks like Brad Miller will be playing his third position with the Rays. Now he's the second baseman. Do you think he'll be able to make the throws to first from his new position? He sounds like a great guy, he looks like a good teammate, he plays hard, and all of those positive things, but I'm asking the question because every throw he made from shortstop last season seemed to be an adventure.
--Ken S., Tampa

I would agree with that. He did struggle sometimes, making his throws last year. From what we've seen this spring, though, his throwing from second base looks great, and he's had a real good spring. I don't expect him to have any problems moving over to second.

The Rays were a great disappointment to me last year. Do you think they did enough during the offseason to be competitive? I'm not that enthusiastic about their chances.
--Becky L., St. Petersburg

I think they addressed the problems they identified, such as shoring up the defense, and trying to have an offense that could put up more quality at-bats. Whether the changes they made will be enough to be competitive in the AL East remains to be seen. Like every year, all of the teams in the division seem to have improved.
Of all the new players to join the organization, I think I'm most excited to see Mallex Smith. Kevin Kiermaier can run, no doubt, but we haven't had a real blazer on the basepaths since the days of Carl Crawford and Melvin Upton Jr. What do you think about Smith so far?
--Tim R., Lakeland, Fla.

He's a good one to get excited about. I've enjoyed watching the way he works at his craft. I don't think I've seen a Major Leaguer striving to perfect the art of bunting like Smith. He should be fun to watch this season

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.