Making the Case for Brandon Guyer Once Again

Devon mentioned a report that the Rays are looking for any bat available on the market. But there’s a significant chance that the Rays don’t make another significant offseason move. Here’s why.

 Let’s take a look at a projected 2012 Rays lineup.

1. Desmond Jennings, LF

2. B.J. Upton, CF

3. Evan Longoria, 3B

4. Ben Zobrist, 2B

5. Matt Joyce, RF

6. Luke Scott, DH

7. Russ Canzler, 1B

8. Jose Molina/Jose Lobaton/Robinson Chirinos, C

9. Reid Brignac/Sean Rodriguez, SS

Needless to say, the bottom third of that lineup isn’t scaring anybody (although I do have faith in Brignac figuring out something in 2012 and seizing the shortstop job). But let’s try out this lineup.

1. Desmond Jennings, LF

2. B.J. Upton, CF

3. Evan Longoria, 3B

4. Ben Zobrist, 2B

5. Matt Joyce, 1B

6. Luke Scott, DH

7. Reid Brignac/Sean Rodriguez, SS

8. Jose Molina/Jose Lobaton/Robinson Chirinos, C

9. Brandon Guyer, RF

The big thing to notice here is Matt Joyce playing first base, something he has never done as a professional. But with some work in spring training, maybe he could figure out to play the postion on at least a part-time basis. But having Guyer in at the bottom of the lineup is huge. As I talked about last month, Guyer is a prospect that was a late bloomer who turns 26 before this month is through (January 28th to be exact), but he can do it all. Guyer isn’t the best pure hitting prospect in the world, but he features nice power and outstanding speed, and he plays outstanding defense in right field. Guyer has very limited major league experience, but he has the potential to be a player who puts up a .275/.340/.450 line with 30 doubles, 20 homers and 25 stolen bases while playing Gold Glove worthy defense in right field. Matt Joyce isn’t a horrible defensive right fielder, but he’s certainly worse than Jennings and Upton while Guyer can make the competition for the Rays’ best defensive outfielder a three-horse race (four if you count Ben Zobrist). We know the Rays love speed, and Guyer gives them that along with power, something they always need. Guyer is the type of talent the Rays need to give an opportunity.

Joyce is certainly athletic enough to play first, but even if he isn’t adept at the postion, we know that Scott, when healthy, is an average defender there, and maybe Joyce could get some type at DH. Scott’s career UZR in 41 games at first base is an even 0.0, and he might get better with more experience at the postion. Joyce also could very well be a plus defender at first base with enough practice. Joyce’s power isn’t elite, but it’s not too far from prototypical first base power, and his solid basestealing ability is an added bonus at the position.

There’s another side to all this: the money. We know the Rays are one of the thriftiest teams in baseball, and signing another bat just makes their limited budget a little bit tighter. And Guyer’s pure offensive ability is as good as anybody available on the market, and he’ll make the MLB minimum in 2012. If the Rays are to acquire a bat, it will be in a trade for one of their starting pitchers (I would say a possible B.J. Upton trade, but that would be losing one bat for another). Between Guyer and Russ Canzler, a player who lacks Guyer’s upside but already looks like a professional hitter in the batter’s box, the Rays have a couple of hitters who have the potential to be major league contributors in 2012, and possibly in a very big way.

Is this the ideal? Of course not. I’m on the optimistic side in evaluating Guyer so positively to begin with, and no matter how great a player Guyer has the potential to be, he lacks big league experience and the Rays can’t be sure about what they’ll get from him in 2012. And there’s the factor of Joyce needing to learn a new position. But considering the situation the Rays are in right now, this is probably the best scenario the Rays have right now, pending a trade. At this point, with a strong spring training Brandon Guyer will get an opportunity to be an important player on a contending team. Is giving Guyer this opportunity the right move for the Rays? We don’t know. It will all depend on how well Guyer performs as a rookie. But he’s the kind of talent that you have to give an opportunity to, and in the long term, that could really be for the best.

Tags: Brandon Guyer Luke Scott Russ Canzler

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