Every year on report day for pitchers and catchers, I try and predict who I think could be a part of the Opening Day roster. This year, rosters go from 25 to 26 players, with a maximum of 13 pitchers. That takes a lot of the guessing out of the equation and makes things rather simple when it comes to breakdown of the roster. However, there are still questions that will need to be answered.
So let's break things down, and see who my 1.0 roster for March 26 will be.
STARTING PITCHERS (5)
Locks (5): Yonni Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, Ryan Yarbrough.
Barring injury, this is probably the easiest part of the roster to determine. If you're putting together a starting staff, you can't do much better overall: a finalist from the 2019 Cy Young race, the winner of the 2018 award, a big right-hander who may have been the most dominant pitcher of the first month of last year before injury stole most of his season, a right-hander whose splitter might be the best pitch of anyone in the rotation, and a left-hander who has only won 27 games over the last two years. It's not bad.
RELIEF PITCHERS (8)
Locks (6): Jose Alvarado, Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche, Chaz Roe
Others with a chance: Jalen Beeks, Pete Fairbanks, Andrew Kittredge, Aaron Loup, Trevor Richards, Ryan Sherriff
My choices to make the team: Kittredge, Richards
Even with the departure of Emilio Pagan after his trade to San Diego, the Rays have the look of a formidable bullpen. If Alvarado can bounce back from a 2019 season that saw obstacles galore, he probably gets the bulk of work in the ninth inning. Anderson may have been the best pickup any team had at last year's deadline. Castillo is filthy and can work both at the back of the bullpen or as an opener if needed. Add Drake's success against lefties, Poche's potential invisi-ball, and Roe's frisbee slider and you've got hitters waving their bats all over the place. I like Kittredge to make the team if he can keep his fastball velocity around 94-95 MPH, and Richards can work an inning, or four innings if needed.
Lock (1): Mike Zunino
Others with a chance: Chris Herrmann, Michael Perez, Kevan Smith
My choice: Perez
Zunino had a year to forget in 2019. If he can up the power and return to form defensively, Rays fans will be satisfied. I have Perez beating out Herrmann and Smith because he may not be able to hit as well as Smith or throw out runners at Herrmann's rate, but he is also a much better hitter than Herrmann and a better defender than Smith. Plus, he's on the 40-man already, and the other two aren't.
Locks (5): Willy Adames, Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Yoshi Tsutsugo
Others with a chance: Mike Brosseau, Daniel Robertson, Nate Lowe, Joey Wendle
My choice: Wendle
As its stands, your lineup around the horn most likely features Choi at first, Brandon Lowe at second, Adames at short, and either Diaz or Tsutsugo at third. Nate Lowe's lack of versatility in the field probably means he starts the year in Durham, and is probably joined by Brosseau. Of the two remaining, Wendle is probably the more consistent at the plate, and Robertson is probably the better fielder. Each has an option, so this may end up being the toughest decision in camp to make.
Locks (4): Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Austin Meadows, Hunter Renfroe
Expect to see Meadows, Kiermaier and Renfroe as the everyday outfield, with Margot, who played centerfield exclusively in San Diego since 2017, being asked to play all three outfield positions this year. Randy Arozarena and Brian O'Grady probably end up in Durham at least to start the year, and if the starting three stay healthy (a big "if" in Kiermaier's case, even though he played in 129 games last year, the most since 2015), that stay could be extended.
DESIGNATED HITTER (1)
Lock (1): Jose Martinez
Now that he doesn't have to worry about his defensive skills (or lack thereof) hurting his team, Martinez can be free to do what he does best: torture left-handed pitching. He could be joined by Tsutsugo in this spot if Yoshi can't find a home on defense.