The Last 25-Man Rays Roster Projection

We're just six days away from the Tampa Bay Rays opening the 2017 regular season at home against the New York Yankees, and it's time for my final opportunity into figure out who gets announced on the first base line April 2 at Tropicana Field.

ARMS: The starting rotation has been set, and it consists of the same five arms that I've been saying will begin the season.  Chris Archer will make his third straight Opening Day start, followed by Jake Odorizzi (the only starter that posted a winning record last year), Alex Cobb, Blake Snell and finally, Matt Andriese.

Starting pitchers: Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell

Questions still abound in the bullpen, as manager Kevin Cash said there could be as many as three spots still yet to be won.  Reliever Jumbo Diaz, claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds, has made just two appearances since returning from the World Baseball Classic.  Both he and Danny Farquhar are out of options.  Shawn Tolleson's back problems and lack of velocity could mean his chances of making the team are 50/50 at best.  Erasmo Ramirez's name has been bandied about in trade rumors, and Justin Marks or Chase Whitley right now look like the names that would fill his role if dealt.  Jaime Schultz's spring has him being mentioned as a possibility to make the club out of camp, and the coaches and front office are big on Austin Pruitt's physical and mental makeup, though I feel he might be better suited as the #3 starter in Durham behind Jose De Leon and Whitley.

Relief Pitchers: Xavier Cedeno, Alex Colome, Jumbo Diaz, Danny Farquhar, Tommy Hunter, Erasmo Ramirez, Jaime Schultz

BATS: The infield appears to be set as starters go, with Evan Longoria at third, Tim Beckham at short, Brad Miller manning second base, and a platoon of Logan Morrison and Rickie Weeks Jr. playing first.  Nick Franklin seems to be in-line for the super-utility role, with Daniel Robertson right on the heels of everybody not named Longoria.  The fact that his service time clock hasn't started yet means the team will likely want to keep him in Durham for the first couple of weeks in order to buy a year of control on the back side. However, the injury bug may mean the Rays won't have that luxury.

Infielders: Tim Beckham, Nick Franklin, Evan Longoria, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Daniel Robertson, Rickie Weeks Jr.

In the outfield, with Colby Rasmus not ready to play on the field for Opening Day, that will give Mallex Smith his first big-league Opening Day.  That leads to a starting outfield of Corey Dickerson in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center, and Steven Souza Jr. in right.  The team could end up bringing in another outfielder (rumblings about former Rays outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. returning are out there if he were to be cut by Toronto), but this projection can't predict moves like that occurring, so it would be Franklin getting the nod as a fifth outfielder possibility.

Outfielders: Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith, Steven Souza Jr.

The catching situation has changed dramatically with the signing of Derek Norris on Saturday, meaning instead of three catchers competing for the two spots on the roster, they're all fighting for likely the backup spot until Wilson Ramos is ready to get back behind the plate.  Jesus Sucre has performed best this spring, and I think that he ends up getting the nod with the big club.  Both Luke Maile and Curt Casali have options remaining, though one could end up being trade material to free up a valuable 40-man spot.

Catchers: Derek Norris, Jesus Sucre

INJURED: By my tally, the Rays could have seven players start the year on the disabled list.  We already know that Nathan Eovaldi will not play this year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, and catcher Wilson Ramos shouldn't be back until midway through the season.  Reliever Kevin Gadea will be on the 60-day DL until his elbow tendinitis subsides, at which point he'll be offered back to the Mariners.  Brad Boxberger and Matt Duffy have yet to play, and every week of baseball activity they miss pushes their return further and further back.  Colby Rasmus will hopefully miss just a minimum amount of time while he prepares to play in the field, while Shawn Tolleson's back could mean the reliever could miss either a short or long amount of time.

10-day DL: RHP Brad Boxberger (lat), SS Matt Duffy (heel), OF Colby Rasmus (hip/core), RHP Shawn Tolleson (back)

60-day DL: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (elbow), RHP Kevin Gadea (elbow), C Wilson Ramos (knee)

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