As mentioned yesterday rightchea the Rays have a pretty heated competition for the last spot on the 25-man roster. Elliot Johnson has the advantage that he’s out of options while Joe Inglett and Felipe Lopez can be sent to the minors. The Rays don’t usually like to just give away talent, which would seemingly give Johnson the advantage.
Yesterday I looked at Helliot’s splits from his last three years in Durham to see if he had any noticeable difference vs. lefties and righties. Now let’s add in the other two players. All forecasted values are sourced from The Hardball Times OLIVER projection system. I’ve found this to be a very nice projection system thus far. (Note that Elliot’s projections were updated yesterday afternoon so I will use the more recent projections which are much less favorable.)
V. LHP (OBP/SLG/wOBA)
V. RHP (OBP/SLG/wOBA)
Felipe Lopez certainly looks to be a much better hitter as he brings balance against both types of pitchers. Unfortunately, he’s probably the worst defender at multiple positions. Additionally, Lopez seems to carry a bit of baggage around that he’s not the best teammate. Put whatever stock into that that you do, but when it comes to 25th men I think character does matter a bit.
Inglett is a pretty solid hitter against righties and could probably form a very solid 2B platoon with Sean Rodriguez, BUT, the Rays are already pretty stocked with guys that bat left-handed and should only face righties. Mighty Joe Inglett is around an average defender which just doesn’t bring enough to the table compared to what we already have. I think he will be a very nice addition at Durham and a good guy to have only a phone call away if someone gets hurt.
Elliot Johnson probably has the best glove of these three which means he could probably be an average SS when called upon, but he also hits like an average SS sans supplements. He does offer a good bit of speed and smarts and from all accounts is a wonderful teammate.
Inglett is redundant so I think it’s a lock he starts in Durham which leaves us with EJ and Felipe. The Rays love to value defense, but when your starting middle infielders are good glove, wide-platoon split guys, then I think it makes sense to go with the guy that doesn’t have much of a split and actually can swing it a bit. Over 200 plate appearances, the difference between a .318 and a .283 wOBA is around six runs. I’m not sure that Johnson’s flexibility, pinch-running, and character is worth six runs so I would probably lean towards trying to pass him through waivers and start the season with Lopez.
On the one hand, you’re taking a chance that you give a player away for nothing by potentially losing EJ, but you’re also stacking the deck against him if you start him in St. Pete and he gets off to a miserable start his first 25 plate appearances or whatever. It would be an unfair evaluation period that would see Elliot sent through waivers, so why delay the process just to try to hang on to a player. They’re pretty close when you look at the grand scheme, but I think it’s enough that I’d like to see Lopez start with the Rays and see if we can pass Elliot through waivers to start in Durham. Stay ready Elliot, injuries happen and we’ll need your positive attitude and good glove at some point this year. I just hope that point is when we’ve locked up the division in early September.