Tampa Bay Rays: Prospects That Could Make the 25-Man Roster

Some of the best and most experienced prospects from Triple-A Durham could make a impact by making the Tampa Bay Rays  25-man roster out of spring training.

Baseball America has recently released its list of the top 10 Tampa Bay Rays prospects. Some of the best and most experienced such as Casey Gillaspie may join the Rays by mid season 2017 but most will spend next season honing their skills in the team’s minor league system.

However, there are a few legitimate AAA prospects that fall out of the top ten but still may make the Rays 2017 opening day roster. Let’s take a look at five of those players and how they might fit into the lineup.

1. Mikie Mahtook: It seems like Mahtook has been with the Tampa Bay Rays forever but in fact, he has only had 290 big league at-bats in the past two years. In 2015, he was a replacement outfielder for injured players. In 2016, he took over the fourth outfielder job when Brandon Guyer was traded. Before he could settle into that job, he was injured.

Mahtook’s big league numbers are not impressive with a .231/.275/.410 slash line including 99 strikeouts versus 13 walks. In his defense, it’s tough for young player to be on the Durham to Tampa Bay shuttle and fight injuries. If he has a decent spring, the Rays will probably give him the fourth outfielder job.

2. Richie Shaffer: Shaffer has been a bit of an enigma as he has shown tremendous offensive output at times but struggled at others. He had a breakout season in 2015 with a .267/.357/.539 combined slash line with Montgomery and Durham. He hit 26 home runs and added four more with the Rays at the end of the year.

Unfortunately, in his 2016 season with Durham he couldn’t produce similar numbers. Shaffer has had 142 big league at-bats over the past two years with a .213/.310/.410 slash line. Shaffer has the advantage of being able to play four positions and could be a young Steve Pearce if he shows well in spring training.

3. Daniel Robertson: A former number one draft choice of the Oakland A’s, Robertson was seen as the Tampa Bay Ray’s future shortstop until a guy named Willy Adames came along. Now the question seems to be whether he will be the Ray’s current utility infielder or, perhaps, the future second baseman.

Robertson is a capable fielder at both middle infield positions and can play third as well. Last season, he posted a solid .259/.358/.356 slash line with Durham. The key to Robertson’s immediate future is whether the Rays stick with Tim Beckham or give him a fresh start with another team.

Beckham’s departure and a good spring training could give Robertson a job as a utility infielder.

4. Ryne Stanek: Everyone knows the Tampa Bay Rays need bullpen help and it would be nice to see it come from within their system rather than baseball’s scrape heap. Stanek is one of the players that could fill that need.

A former college pitcher at Arkansas, he has a monster fastball that can reach triple digits and an above average slider. His problems are gaining command of those pitches and staying healthy.

In a rare case for the Rays, they converted Stanek to a full time reliever at Durham last season. The last time that happened was with a guy named Jake McGee. Let’s hope the results are as good for Stanek as they were for McGee.

5. Jaime Schultz: A former 14th round draft choice, Schultz has mostly flown under the radar in his time with the Rays, but you can’t ignore a 98 mph fastball and 163 strikeouts in 130 AA innings for too long. The Rays have been developing him as a starter but most feel that his future is as a multiple inning setup man.

He has command issues but he has cut down on his walk to strikeout ratio and with 370 minor league innings under his belt, a good spring could put him in the middle of the Ray’s bullpen. The combination or Stanek and Schultz in the bullpen could be powerful for years to come.

A successful spring for these players combined with two or three well executed trades and a new offensive approach could put the Rays right in the middle of the hunt for a playoff spot in October. It would also take the pressure off the newly revised front office to spend money on marginal free agents.

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However, as always, the Rays don’t have a lot of room for error when putting together a 25-man roster.

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