ST. PETERSBURG -- With the season set to start on July 23 or 24, the Rays will report to “summer camp” on Wednesday, with the first official workout set for Friday. On Sunday, the Rays announced the 60-man player pool that they will be carrying throughout the season.
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Consisting of a combination of Major League talent and top prospects, the Rays’ player pool will include five catchers, 15 infielders, 10 outfielders and 30 pitchers. All of the players on the 40-man roster are in Tampa Bay’s player pool, except for Brent Honeywell, who will miss the season after undergoing a decompression procedure on his right ulnar nerve. Wander Franco, the game’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline, Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz and Joe Ryan lead the list of prospects and non-roster invitees that fill out the other 20 spots.
“We really, really, really like the group we have,” said general manager Erik Neander. “On the position player side, I think we’ve got a group that allows us a lot of flexibility with how we match up on any given night. There’s a lot of different ways that we can put a starting lineup together, and I think that’s something that will certainly help us.
“On the pitching side, versatility and adaptability has kind of been our thing, and we have a lot of pitchers to suit us in a lot of different roles. And we’re likely going to need to take advantage of that. But the depth we have, it’s something that I think should help us navigate this and allow us, also, to be responsible in the early going with how we build our length.”
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Prospects on the 60-man player pool will only gain service time if added to the active roster, giving the Rays an opportunity to continue to develop each player, even if they don’t make an appearance this season.
The Rays will have two camp sites over the next few weeks. One will be Tropicana Field, where most of the players expected to compete for a spot on the 30-man roster on Opening Day will be. The alternate training site will be Tampa Bay’s Spring Training facility in Port Charlotte, Fla., and that will consist mostly of prospects like Franco and Baz.
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Let's take a look at the Rays' 60-man player pool:
Catchers (5): Mike Zunino, Michael Perez, Chris Herrmann, Kevan Smith, Ronaldo Hernandez
Barring injury, Zunino is the only player on this list that is fully expected to be on the Opening Day roster. Behind him, Perez has an advantage given that he’s on the 40-man roster, but Smith and Herrmann were in the thick of the competition during Spring Training, and that backup catcher battle is expected to continue.
Infielders (15): Willy Adames, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Díaz, José Martínez, Ji-Man Choi, Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson, Nate Lowe, Mike Brosseau, Wander Franco, Vidal Brujan, Taylor Walls, Lucius Fox, Kevin Padlo, Esteban Quiroz
The Rays have a deep and talented group of infielders, but with a 30-man limit in the first two weeks of the season, there are some spots up for grabs. Adames, Brandon Lowe, Díaz, Martínez, Choi and Wendle will all be on the Opening Day roster, with Robertson, Nate Lowe and Brosseau having a realistic chance at nabbing one of the few last roster spots. Before Spring Training was suspended in March, Robertson was making a strong case to be on the roster due to his defense and versatility. Nate Lowe was likely going to start at Triple-A Durham, but with his ability to play both corner infield spots, he could have a chance to make the expanded roster. Brosseau’s ability to play all over the infield also helps his chances.
Then there’s Franco, who isn’t expected to make his Major League debut this season but certainly has a chance. The game’s top prospect will be given plenty of looks over the next couple of weeks, and months, and if he continues to hit at the current pace, the Rays might not have a choice but to give him an opportunity down the stretch. Brujan, Walls, Fox, Quiroz and Padlo provide quality depth and all five could make an impact with the big league club, if needed.
“The prospects that we added, they’re some of our more advanced prospects,” Neander said. “Certainly on the position player side, that’s where things went and why Wander was a leading candidate for a spot here, just being one of our more advanced position player prospects that are non-roster.”
Outfielders (10): Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe, Kevin Kiermaier, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Manuel Margot, Brian O’Grady, Randy Arozarena, Ryan LaMarre, Dylan Cozens, Josh Lowe
Meadows, Renfroe, Kiermaier, Tsutsugo and Margot will be on the Opening Day roster, leaving O’Grady and Arozarena in the mix for one of the last few spots. The Rays will certainly look to beef up their pitching during the start of the season, but they could also benefit from having six outfielders at the start.
Starting pitchers (13): Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Yonny Chirinos, Ryan Yarbrough, Brendan McKay, Anthony Banda, Trevor Richards, Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Joe Ryan, Josh Fleming, Sam McWilliams
The way the Rays handle their starting staff will be one of the storylines to watch over the next couple of weeks. Heading into the season, Snell, Glasnow and Morton were going to have their innings monitored closely, but a shortened season could be really beneficial for the trio. If the Rays decide to go with just five traditional starters on the roster, they will be Snell, Glasnow, Morton, Chirinos and Yarbrough. If they want six, McKay, who is also 100 percent healthy after dealing with a left shoulder issue during the spring, would be the likely addition.
Relief pitchers (17): Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, Colin Poche, Oliver Drake, José Alvarado, Peter Fairbanks, Jalen Beeks, Andrew Kittredge, Aaron Loup, Ryan Sherriff, Ryan Thompson, Sean Gilmartin, John Curtiss, Dylan Covey, Aaron Slegers, D.J. Snelten,
If healthy, Anderson, Castillo, Roe, Poche, Drake and Alvarado will be on the Opening Day roster. After that, there are some competitions to watch. Fairbanks, Beeks and Kittredge were in the mix for a few spots during the spring, and that will continue over the next few weeks. Non-roster invitees Loup and Sherriff also have a chance to break in, but that would require the Rays to clear a spot on their 40-man roster. With a couple of extra places on the 30-man Opening Day roster, the Rays will certainly look to add more arms than in a traditional 26-man roster.
Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.