Rays have crowded field in 2B competition

Robertson is favorite entering camp, but five others in mix for spot

February 13th, 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Plenty of position battles will take place in the Rays' camp this spring, but none will have as many involved as second base.

Brad Miller played second for the Rays last season, as did and a host of other players.

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Robertson appears to be the front-runner heading into Spring Training, and Miller -- though in the competition -- appears destined to slide over to first base. But this competition has a long way to go before a winner is decided.

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Before the end of 2017, the Rays added four more candidates to the competition at second base.

On Nov. 27, they selected off waivers from the Giants. On Dec. 11, they added Joey Wendle in a trade with the Athletics, and the following day, they picked up in a trade with the Padres. Finally, on Dec. 20, came to the team in the trade that sent to the Giants.

Each of the players bring a little something different to the table.

Robertson, who was known more for his bat coming through the Rays' farm system, fielded beautifully while playing second, shortstop, third, and left field, but his hitting lagged during his rookie season.

Miller fought injuries all season, so his offense slipped from a 30-home run season in 2016, and his defense continued to be suspect, which prompts speculation he will play first.

Johnson has spent parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues with the White Sox, Dodgers, and Braves. Speed is a part of his game, and he can play outfield as well. Positional flexibility is important to the Rays, so the fact he'll be competing for a spot in left as well bodes well for his cause in making the team.

Wendle spent parts of two season with the A's, for whom he played second base. Rays GM Erik Neander touted Wendle upon his acquisition, noting: "Grinder-type player. High baseball IQ, left-handed hitter, infielder that has a history of hitting. Part of what has drawn us to him over time is ... really a high-quality defender and is about as reliable as they come."

Schimpf has spent parts of the past two seasons in the Majors, batting .195 with 19 doubles, 34 home runs and 76 RBIs in 142 games. He has made 126 starts at various positions, including 66 at second base, 58 at third base, one in left field and one at designated hitter.

In Schimpf's career, 67.4 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases, the highest ratio in the Majors (minimum 500 plate appearances) over that span (since 2016). In addition, his 12.97 AB/HR ratio over the past two seasons ranked sixth in the Majors, and third in the National League (minimum 500 plate appearances) behind (11.74) and (12.31).

As for Arroyo, MLB Pipeline had him listed as the Giants' top prospect when the trade was made. Since arriving to the Rays, MLB Pipeline has ranked him as the No. 5 third base prospect in the Minors, the No. 81 overall prospect in baseball and the No. 4 prospect in the Rays' farm system. He can play third base, shortstop and second base.

Arroyo began the 2017 season with Triple-A Sacramento, for which he hit .446 with seven doubles, three home runs, and 12 RBIs in 16 games before earning a call to the big leagues. In 34 games for the Giants, he hit .192 with three homers and 14 RBIs, then was sent back to the Minor Leagues in early June. After eight games, he broke his hand on July 1 to end his season.

Arroyo has tremendous hand-eye coordination, which gives him the ability to frequently barrel balls from the right side of the plate, producing hard contact to all fields.

If all of the above-mentioned aren't enough candidates, highly touted shortstop could be asked to play some second base. But it's more likely that he will stick to shortstop, and he'll be the heir apparent to if the Rays trade the veteran infielder.

Talk about a crowded room. The Rays' competition for second base will be a heated one.