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Predicting Rays' roster: flexibility, bullpen key

Club prioritizing multi-positional players, relievers as Spring Training nears
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- Projecting a team's 25-man roster is never an exact science, particularly for a team like the Rays, who remain one of the more unpredictable teams in the Major Leagues.

Having offered that disclaimer, it's time to project the 25-man roster Tampa Bay will employ when it leaves Port Charlotte to begin the 2018 season.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Projecting a team's 25-man roster is never an exact science, particularly for a team like the Rays, who remain one of the more unpredictable teams in the Major Leagues.

Having offered that disclaimer, it's time to project the 25-man roster Tampa Bay will employ when it leaves Port Charlotte to begin the 2018 season.

Rays Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

Of note, the Rays are an organization that likes to look outside the box to identify new ways to give them an advantage. They are not alone in being cautious about allowing a starting pitcher to face opposing hitters for a third time. Based on that fact, the possibility exists that the team will select an extra reliever on their roster.

• Rays hope to compete as prospects mature | Four prospects to watch in camp

The Rays have plenty of guys who can play multiple positions, which, in theory, allows the team to carry an extra reliever. Thus, the following roster projection will have 13 pitchers rather than 12, leaving the team with 12 position players. Here goes:

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Catcher (2): Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre

The Rays finally have a solid tandem behind the dish. Pitchers like throwing to both Ramos and Sucre, and they contribute offensively as well.

First base (1): Brad Miller

Miller appears to be the most likely candidate to fill the position he was projected to play in 2017 prior to the team re-signing Logan Morrison. Look for Daniel Robertson to be the backup initially, and Jake Bauers to take over the job at some point in the season.

Second base (2): Robertson and Micah Johnson

Robertson showed an above-average glove in 2017, and he can play all of the infield positions. Johnson's speed will allow him to earn the backup spot, and he can also play the outfield.

Shortstop (2): Adeiny Hechavarria and Christian Arroyo

If the Rays do not trade Hechavarria in an attempt to lower the payroll, they will have an above-average fielder. Should they trade him, look for Willy Adames to fill the position. Arroyo can serve as the back up at shortstop, and he can also backup at third and second.

Video: Chastain on why Hechavarria is key to Rays' success

Third base (1): Matt Duffy

Duffy looks like he's finally healthy. With long-time mainstay Evan Longoria gone, Duffy will move back to third base, the position he played with the Giants before getting traded to the Rays in 2016.

Outfield (3): Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr. and Denard Span

Kiermaier and Souza will start every day. Span will start, too, if he's still on the team. His $11-million 2018 salary makes him a distinct trade possibility. If he's traded, Mallex Smith would be with the team. Corey Dickerson and Johnson, who has the versatility to play the outfield as well as the infield, should also see time in left.

Video: Outlook: Kiermaier has elite glove, solid on offense

DH (1): Dickerson

Dickerson should anchor the position for the most part. On the days when he plays in the field, the Rays will use the position to give one of their regulars a day off his feet.

Starters (5): Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jake Faria and Matt Andriese

This could change in a heartbeat if the team trades Archer, Odorizzi or both. Brent Honeywell will likely begin the season at Triple-A Durham, but should get an early callup, which would likely push the flexible Andriese to the bullpen.

Video: Outlook: Archer offers elite strikeout skills

Relievers (8): Jose Alvarado, Alex Colome, Nathan Eovaldi, Chih-Wei Hu, Dan Jennings, Austin Pruitt, Jaime Schultz, and Ryne Stanek

This projection is based on the premise that Colome will still be the team's closer. If he's traded, there would likely be a bullpen by committee until somebody won the closer's role.

Video: Outlook: Colome is still solid closer option for Rays

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays