Learning a brand new position, after following an awkward outfield campaign in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Rickie Weeks Jr. went from “stud” to “dud” at seemingly the snap of a finger. Known as a superstar second baseman in Milwaukee, the 2011 All-Star signed with the Seattle Mariners in order to see a platoon role before heading to Arizona, where he hit .239 with 9 homeruns in Chase Field, one of the more hitter-friendly ballparks.
Weeks Jr. was beyond terrible defensively after being shifted to the outfield for the first time in his career, and just when it seemed that he was being pushed out of baseball, he took his best offer; a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.
A non-roster invite, especially for a guy who once hit 29 homeruns in a single season at the Major League level isn’t exactly enticing. However, when you’re given some sort of opportunity, and it’s likely your last, you siege it. That’s exactly what Weeks Jr. did. He saw a small window of opportunity and took full advantage of it. For a team that ranked last in on-base percentage in 2016, Weeks Jr. has led the team in on-base percentage for the spring at .325, while posting a stellar .947 OPS to go along with it.
Hitting .270 with 3 homeruns, he has even impressed defensively, as he quickly adapted to a new position to give Tampa Bay a platoon option with Logan Morrison at first base. Weeks Jr. thrives against lefties (which the East is full of), and Morrison thrives against righties, proving that this could be a perfect combination.
Calling his clubhouse presence “off the charts”, Rays manager Kevin Cash said his biggest strength is more than likely his clubhouse attitude and work ethic. While most guys see they’re likely on the roster and goof off, Weeks was serious his entire time on the field, setting a fantastic example for these prospects.
Heading into spring training, there were six players that were guaranteed a spot on the active roster: 3B Evan Longoria, Closer Alex Colome, CF Kevin Kiermaier, 2B Brad Miller and SP’s Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer. With everyone else having to work their way into their role, Weeks Jr. has proved to Tampa that he still belongs in the majors, and is finding himself on the Opening Day roster.
After being informed on his future with the club, he was quoting saying that “this is one of those things where I’m happy and blessed to be in the position I’m in, but the next step is the real world. I want to win games and bring a championship to Tampa.” Tampa could make a run for a wildcard slot, with Boston at the helm, but with the pieces they have put together, is it enough? Let’s take a look at their projected 40-man roster:
OPENING DAY ROSTER
SS Tim Beckham
3B Evan Longoria
Alex Colome (Closer)