Somehow I watched the game. I took enough notes to fill six posts here at Rays Colored Glasses and two more each at Birds Watcher (the FanSided Orioles blog) and Rum Bunter (the Pirates blog) respectively. Today, the saga finally comes to an end. Let’s finish strongly.
Josh Lueke is fighting for a bullpen spot on the Rays, but the way he’s pitching, he will almost surely start at Durham. Lueke showed a fastball from 91-94 MPH that had some nice late sink, and especially since he has solid control, it’s a nice pitch for him. Lueke didn’t show his splitter, his best pitch, in his outing, but the big question for him is his curveball. A couple of times, he threw a big 77-78 MPH curveball with excellent depth that is a potential swing-and-miss pitch. Other times, it was more slurvy, and when he hanged it, Jake Fox slammed it for a home run. Lueke has to get his breaking ball right if he wants to be a consistently effective reliever in the big leagues. He has a nice arsenal even though is fastball is just in the low-90’s, but he has to get his curveball right. He still has late-inning upside, but there’s remaining work for him to do.
Will Rhymes is another one of these shifty players that can do a little bit of everything. On Sunday he laid down a beautiful bunt for a hit, and we know that he’s a solid tap hitter who can play everywhere. With Brignac’s injury, he could make the Opening Day roster.
Dane De La Rosa posted an 9.82 ERA in 7 major league relief appearances in 2011 (although most of that game from one ghastly appearances in New York, 1.1 IP and 6 ER) and he didn’t look like a reliever who could succeed in the major leagues with any consistency. His fastball hit the mid-90’s, but it had very little horizontal movement and to make matters worse, he struggled mightily to control it. De La Rosa showed nice break on his slider, but it breaks too early to be a great strikeout pitch. De La Rosa is working on a changeup that showed some nice sink, but he had a ton of trouble controlling it. De La Rosa has nice stuff, but also a ton of questions surrounding him. He looks to be a Quad-A reliever riding the Durham-St. Petersburg bus in 2012.
Non-roster invitee and ex-Yankee Romulo Sanchez is at just 90-91 with his fastball with a little run, although he does have a nice changeup. He looks like Triple-A depth to me.
Another non-roster invitee, Matt Mangini, saw a lot of playing time with Evan Longoria out, and he has some talent. He has a solid line drive swing with some power and he can hit fastballs well, although he’s below-average on offspeed pitches and lacks very much plate discipline. What’s nice for Mangini is that he can play both infield corners and just maybe play second base in a pinch. He’s an emergency bench option that the Rays will stash in Triple-A, but there’s worse things in the world than having a bench bat with power on your bench.
We finish this off with Stephen Vogt. I already wrote a whole anecdote about Vogt earlier, but here are my scouting notes on him. Vogt has been a revelation thus far in spring training, posting a .323/.382/.484 line in 15 games. Vogt has shown nice power gap to gap and he punishes pitches up in the zone for nice power. But he struggles on pitches that are located well (something that happens much less than usual in spring training) and specifically on offspeed pitches. Vogt has some nice pop, but he swings and misses too much and his plate discipline is average, which prevents him from being a good offensive player. Defensively, Vogt is known for his ability to play catcher as well as the corner positions on the field, but he’s never going to be more than a fringe-average player anywhere. Plus, he needs a full year at Triple-A despite being 27 years old. Vogt profiles as a power bat off the bench with bonus points for his versatility, and although he won’t begin the year up in St. Petersburg, he’s an interesting player for Joe Maddon to toy with as the last man on the roster at some point. If Elliot Johnson or Will Rhymes aren’t seeing much playing time on the team, I could see Maddon replacing them with a player like Vogt who has more value in pinch-hitting situations.
Heading down to Port Charlotte for Rays spring training, I had an absolute blast, and it’s simply a bonus to have all these scouting notes to share with you here at RCG. When I head to games I’ll try to do some more of this because watching the game live you pick up on things that you can’t understand watching on TV, and every once a while you get a profound insight.