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Tampa Bay Rays soon to take stock of needs for this season

The upcoming June draft is obviously a huge deal for the Rays, given the unprecedented opportunity of 12 of the first 89 picks, with the chance to secure the future of the franchise for a generation.

But once the Rays get past the June 6-8 festival, they will take inventory of their needs for the rest of this season. Except in very rare cases, there is not going to be help from the draft, especially as much as the Rays stress development.

By mid June, the focus shifts to finding help elsewhere, whether from their minor-league system or via trades. And the Rays will have a lot to think about in terms of potential upgrades:

Catcher: Neither John Jaso nor Kelly Shoppach has been impressive, and together they rank as the second-worst offensive tandem in the majors with a .195 average and .572 OPS (through Friday). And they're only in the middle of the pack defensively, throwing out fewer than 24 percent of potential base-stealers. Significant outside help is typically hard to find; prospect Robinson Chirinos (hitting .242) and Jose Lobaton (.323) are at Triple A.

Shortstop: Sean Rodriguez is the third of the season as replacing Jason Bartlett has proven to be more difficult than the Rays expected. Most of that is on Reid Brignac, given his disappointing .170 average and .390 OPS. Elliot Johnson showed some promise before hurting his knee. Unless the Rays reached down to Double A for Tim Beckham (.302) or Class A for Hak-Ju Lee (.377), they'll have to look outside. Help will be available, but it may be expensive.

Leftfield: Sam Fuld's defense will keep him in the lineup as long as his offense is sustainable, and Justin Ruggiano will take some of his at-bats. Matt Joyce could play there when Ben Zobrist is in rightfield. At some point, and, yes, perhaps not until after the potential Super Two arbitration eligibility threshold passes in July, the Rays may deem prospect Desmond Jennings ready, but only if it's for everyday duty.

Also, there's potential need for a "Four-A" veteran starter if Andy Sonnanstine isn't the answer and neither of the Triple-A Alexes, Cobb or Torres, is ready; depth at first base in the event Casey Kotchman cools; relief help; and another bat, though adding a DH would force Johnny Damon back into the field.

Tampa Bay Rays soon to take stock of needs for this season 05/28/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 28, 2011 8:35pm]
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