PORT CHARLOTTE (620 WDAE) -- Now that we're a week in to Spring Training and full-squad workouts are underway, I though this would be a good point to try and project just what the roster will be when you head to Tropicana Field for the April 2 matchup against the New York Yankees on Opening Day.
ARMS: This is one of the easiest parts of the roster, and there's likely just two guys fighting for the fifth starter position, as Matt Andriese and Chase Whitley battle for the spot behind Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell. While Whitley is an intriguing option, Andriese has shown he can handle the position with no problems, and so I've put him in the spot for the time being.
Rotation: Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell
The back end of the bullpen seems to be in order, with Alex Colome closing out wins, Brad Boxberger setting things up, and Xavier Cedeno coming on to get tough lefties. The rest of the pen is a little hazier. Erasmo Ramirez had a strong first half of the season, but ran out of gas down the stretch. Shawn Tolleson is coming off a back injury, and hasn't done a whole lot of pitching this spring so far. Tommy Hunter signed once camp started, but has impressed the coaching staff. Kevin Gadea hasn't pitched about the Class-A level, but as a Rule 5 pickup, needs to be on the 25-man roster all year or be offered back to the Mariners. Ryne Stanek could be an intriguing option, but I think the front office wants him to get more seasoning as a closer at the Triple-A level, and the loser for the fifth starter competition ending up in mop-up duties as the long reliever.
Bullpen: Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno, Alex Colome, Tommy Hunter, Erasmo Ramirez, Shawn Tolleson, Chase Whitley
BATS: Around the infield, the starters are solidly entrenched, with the return of first baseman Logan Morrison, the move to second base by Brad Miller, Matt Duffy's return from injury and old reliable Evan Longoria. The versatility of Nick Franklin makes him an easy fit for the bench, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Tim Beckham, who worked at first base during last season, get some looks in the outfield also. Two guys who could play any of six positions would help Kevin Cash immensely.
Infielders: Tim Beckham, Matt Duffy, Nick Franklin, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison
The outfield appears to be Colby Rasmus in left, Kevin Kiermaier playing center and Steven Souza Jr. in right, though Rasmus' recovery from season-ending hip surgery could make things interesting. Mallex Smith could be used in a similar fashion to Jarrod Dyson in Kansas City, as a late-inning burst of speed and solid defensive replacement, but he could also find himself in Durham playing every day. Corey Dickerson lost 25 pounds this offseason, but will likely need to demonstrate to the coaches that the weight loss has not just kept his swing the same, but also helped him become a better defensive player, or he may find himself playing a lot of DH. Rickie Weeks could be the clubhouse leader the team hasn't seen since Cliff Floyd left after the 2008 season, but the front office would need to find a way to get him on the 40-man roster.
Outfielders: Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Colby Rasmus, Mallex Smith, Steven Souza Jr.
With the injury to catcher Wilson Ramos, it will be up to the incumbents from last season to hold the fort down behind the plate until he's ready to take the role. Luke Maile and Curt Casali are the easy choices to fill the role, but Mike McKenry and Jesus Sucre could provide alternatives at some point.
Catchers: Curt Casali, Luke Maile
INJURED: Ramos is coming off ACL surgery in September, and won't be ready for any sort of baseball activities on Opening Day. The plan would be to get him ready to DH some time in the first half of the season, and work back behind the plate some time after the All-Star Break. Pitcher Nathan Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery last August, and should not see the field before the start of the 2018 season. His move to the 60-Day disabled list would provide the team with the spot to get Hunter on the roster.
10-day DL: Wilson Ramos
60-day DL: Nathan Eovaldi