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Meet the Rays: Ranking the Rays in order of importance

Kevin Kiermaier needs to maintain improved approach at plate.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Kevin Kiermaier needs to maintain improved approach at plate.

Meet the Rays

What players will be most critical to the team's 2016 success? Tampa Bay Times staff writer Marc Topkin ranks 'em (x-disabled list; roster with position, player and number as of Thursday):

1. CF Kevin Kiermaier, 39

Speed and athleticism to change a game on the field (see Gold Glove) and bases; needs to maintain improved approach at plate.

2. RHP Chris Archer, 22

Emerged in '15 as All-Star ace of the staff and leader of the team in Shields/Price mold; remains driven to get better.

3. 3B Evan Longoria, 3

Reported lighter, more flexible, liberated from leadership burden he shouldered in '15 in search of return to MVP-type form.

4. SS Brad Miller, 13

Acquired for lefty bat and speed, has to prove past throwing troubles won't be an issue, or it could be a big problem.

5. DH/OF Corey Dickerson, 10

Biggest of the bats brought in during offensive offseason, and at the cost Jake McGee, has to provide needed thump.

6. LHP Drew Smyly, 33

Has shown the talent to be an elite starter; key is if he can stay healthy for a full season after missing most of '15 (shoulder).

7. 2B Logan Forsythe, 11

After breakout '15 season made him team MVP (.281-17-68, .804 OPS), now being asked to adjust to move into leadoff spot.

8. LHP Matt Moore, 55

Great spring has fueled confidence after showing glimpses of return to pre-Tommy John surgery form by end of '15 season.

9. OF Steven Souza Jr., 20

Is he ready to be the multi-dimensional impact player Rays envisioned? Or is he just a role player? Or still a work in progress?

10. LF Desmond Jennings, 8

Somewhat of annual question if this is the year Jennings takes full advantage of multi-talent package to star.

11. RHP x-Brad Boxberger, 26

Closer would have been higher if healthy; how he's replaced, how close to slated mid May return from surgery now key.

12. RHP Jake Odorizzi, 23

Least heralded member of rotation arguably had best '15 season, ranking in AL top 10 in ERA (3.35), opp. avg. (.231).

13. RHP Alex Colome, 37

Expected to get primary closing opportunity in Boxberger's absence; how he does could be tone-setting or deflating for season.

14. 1B Logan Morrison, 7

Has to prove he won't hurt the defense while flexing enough muscle vs. RHPs to make offense better, especially hitting No. 2.

15. INF/DH Steve Pearce, 28

Righty option at 1B/DH can be huge add if anywhere closer to '14 form (.293-21-49, .930 OPS) than '15 (.218-15-40, .711)

16. C Curt Casali, 19

Earned his share of job after showing big bat (10 HR, 110 AB), improved pitch blocking/throwing in small '15 sample.

17. C Hank Conger, 24

Won his job based on having pop in bat as switch-hitter and strong pitch-framing/receiving skills, throwing is the issue.

18. LHP Xavier Cedeno, 31

Impressively consistent after unheralded April '15 pickup, takes over with McGee gone as primary late-inning lefty slayer.

19. OF/DH Brandon Guyer, 5

Will be a key part of lineup vs. left-handers (.387 OBP), provides depth at all three outfield spots and DH.

20. RHP Erasmo Ramirez, rhp

Returning No. 5 starter moved to bullpen during Boxberger absence with plan to be used in high-leverage and swing roles.

21. RHP Steve Geltz, 54

Versatile enough to start, close and work anywhere in-between, led Rays with 70 appearances last year, though tired at end.

22. LHP Enny Romero, 45

Converted starter has shown enough strike-throwing to be considered a weapon in 'pen, and potentially in an impact role.

23. INF Tim Beckham, 1

Primary backup middle infielder will get some starts at SS vs. lefty pitchers, can also serve as pinch-runner.

24. RHP Ryan Webb, 58.

Veteran Clearwater native comes home to fill role as ground-ball specialist, can also work multiple innings.

25. RHP Danny Farquhar, 43

Has the most closing experience of Rays healthy options, converting 18 of 26 during stint with Mariners.

26. RHP x-Alex Cobb, 53

Eyeing a late-July return to rotation after Tommy John surgery; return to anywhere near past form could be big boost.

27. LHP Dana Eveland, 51

Veteran worked as a starter and reliever, could provide welcome experience to a relatively young bullpen corps.

28. OF Mikie Mahtook, 27

Combination of power, speed and strong arm make him appealing option coming off bench in various roles.

29. RHP Andrew Bellatti, 59

Hard-thrower had mixed success in '15 rookie campaign with 2.31, has the ability to work multiple innings if needed.

30. RHP x-Chase Whitley, 47

Former Yankees starter also eyeing late-summer return from Tommy John surgery; could join rotation or bullpen.

Staff

Kevin Cash, manager

38-year-old Tampa native in second season, was 80-82 in first year managing at any level.

Coaches: Rocco Baldelli, 1b; Stan Boroski, bullpen; Tom Foley, bench; Jim Hickey, pitching; Charlie Montoyo, 3b; Jamie Nelson, catching/asst. hitting; Derek Shelton, hitting.

Medical: Ron Porterfield, head athletic trainer; Paul Harker and Mark Vinson, assistants.

Meet the Rays: Ranking the Rays in order of importance 04/03/16 [Last modified: Sunday, April 3, 2016 8:32am]
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