At times in 2012, it was downright depressing to watch the Rays bat. Evan Longoria and so many others were hurt, Carlos Pena was a disaster most of the season, and Matt Joyce collapsed in the second half as the Rays offense was inconsistent all season. Because of all the injuries and poor performance, a plethora of players were acquired over the course of the season and called up from the minor leagues in an attempt to generate any sort of offense. Basically all of them failed and in hindsight it was unrealistic to expect too much from them. But there was one player who has a chance to be more than that: Brandon Guyer.
Is Brandon Guyer still a prospect anymore? After making just 7 big league plate appearances and 97 Triple-A PA’s in 2012, he went down for the year with left shoulder surgery. He is set to play all of 2013 at age 27 with just 50 career big league plate appearances under his belt. Given his age and inexperience, why should we care about Guyer at all? Simple- he can really play. Guyer was a 5th round pick by the Cubs back in 2007 and was mostly unimpressive his first three minor league seasons before delivering a monster 2010 as he posted a .344/.398/.588 line with 39 doubles, 6 triples, 13 homers, 58 RBI, 30 of 33 stolen bases, and 51 strikeouts versus 27 walks in 102 games and 410 plate appearances. That offseason, he was acquired by the Rays as part of the Matt Garza trade, and in 2011 and before he got hurt in 2012, he proved that his breakout 2010 was no fluke. In 129 Triple-A games and 540 plate appearances, Guyer has a .309/.381/.510 line with 32 doubles, 6 triples, 17 homers, 74 RBI, 18 of 24 stolen bases, and 94 strikeouts versus 42 walks.
Brandon Guyer shows flashes of all five tools. He shows good bat speed, although his patience isn’t ideal at this point. He does make a lot of contact. Guyer’s present power is above-average and he has shown that in his brief big league time, slamming 3 home runs, including in his first big league plate appearance. He’s no burner, but he has above-average speed which he uses to steal bases with good instincts and beat out groundballs, and he is unafraid to bunt to get on base. His speed also serves him extremely well in right field, where he’s a plus defender with outstanding range and a great arm- he had 17 outfield assists in 2011 after nailing down 12 in 2010. He can also handle centerfield, although not a regular basis. Guyer’s problems are his patience- he gets overaggressive at times and saps himself of his power- and staying healthy. Nevertheless, he has a chance to be a player who hits .270/.340/.450 with 30 doubles, 15 homers, 15 steals, and great defense in right field if he can stay healthy and get more relaxed at the plate. There’s no time left for Guyer to improve considering he’s about to be 27 years old- he is what he is now and if he doesn’t deliver big league results quickly his professional career will go nowhere. But will the Rays give him a chance to prove himself as a starting outfielder in the big leagues?
Who are the Rays’ outfielders right now? With B.J. Upton departing as a free agent, they are Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist if he moves from the infield, Sam Fuld, and Guyer. You can take Zobrist out of the picture because the Rays need him as a middle infielder right now with no present solution at shortstop and no one else to play second base even if they acquire a shortstop. We know that Jennings is going to start in either center or left field, and Joyce will be in right field. Fuld had his unbelievable run as a starting outfielder for the Rays in 2011, but he’s best as a high-energy fourth outfielder. The Rays need to figure out who their third starting outfielder will be. They very well could trade a starting pitcher for a starting outfielder, but their most pressing need is simply to find bats considering they have needs on the middle infield, at first base, and at catcher in addition to the outfield- not to mention designated hitter. The Rays are going to find a way to get their best hitters on the field. They had Joyce work out at first base in spring training last season and will do the same this spring in case there are three other outfielders they would like to start. The Rays certainly have moves to make, but there is no way Guyer doesn’t get an opportunity at some point in 2013. He has shown talent and has the ability to be an above-average offensive player. Even if the Rays somehow fill all their holes, Guyer is a right-handed hitter who could spell Joyce against lefties and work himself into a bigger role if he plays well.
At this point, it doesn’t even matter if Brandon Guyer is a prospect. He’s a solid hitter, maybe more, and the Rays don’t have too many of those right now. 2013 will be a pivotal season in Guyer’s career. The Rays will give him an opportunity and he has to seize it.