The Rays were burdened by yet another long-term injury in last night’s game, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that outfielder Mikie Mahtook suffered a fractured left hand when he was hit by a pitch and could be on the shelf for up to two months as he recovers. While Mahtook isn’t exactly a household name, he’s a former first-round pick that had been seeing quite a bit of playing time for the Rays with Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza and Brandon Guyer all currently on the disabled list. Now, he’ll join his teammates there and likely remain on the DL longer than any of Tampa Bay’s currently injured outfielders.
[Related: Updated Tampa Bay Rays depth chart]
Mahtook, 26, was hitting just .154/.200/.185 through a fairly tiny sample of 70 plate appearances, so the Rays won’t be losing one of their more productive bats due to this injury. However, the former No. 31 overall pick flashed his upside in his MLB debut last season when he batted .295/.351/.619 in 115 trips to the plate as a late-season call-up with the Rays. While it’d be overzealous to expect production along those lines again from Mahtook, some form of middle ground between last season’s excellence and this season’s futility is probably Mahtook’s true talent level. He’s batted a combined .241/.293/.453 in that time. When paired with his ability to play all three outfield positions, that makes him a useful piece even if he’s not necessarily a starting-caliber player.
Looking at the bigger picture, Mahtook’s loss further thins the outfield depth for a Rays team that presently sits 8.5 games out of the division lead at 31-37. While it’s too early to deem the Rays to be sellers — manager Kevin Cash told Topkin after last night’s loss the organization “believes … we can kind of right this ship” — they are currently facing an uphill battle to get back into contention. The presence of an entire starting-caliber outfield on the disabled list is further compounded by a short-term injury to surging slugger Steve Pearce, who, as Topkin notes, will miss a few days with a hamstring injury sustained in last night’s contest.
As the aforementioned depth chart notes, the Rays look lined up to rely upon Corey Dickerson, Desmond Jennings and Jaff Decker in the outfield for the time being, though perhaps the versatile Brad Miller could see some time in the outfield as well, with Nick Franklin getting another look in the Majors (my own speculation).