May 12, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Brandon Guyer (11) is congratulated by third base coach Tom Foley (6) after hitting a solo home run in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

His Shoulder Finally Healthy, Rays' Brandon Guyer Looks to Establish Himself in the Major Leagues

Brandon Guyer could not have been any more frustrated. Injuries had forced him onto the Rays’ major league roster, and in his second start on May 12th, he slammed a solo home run. But that would be the last game he would play the entire season. Shoulder soreness that wouldn’t go away prompted Guyer to see a doctor, and it was discovered that he had a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury that would require season-ending surgery. Guyer looked like he might have a real chance to fight his way into regular playing time for the Rays, but his shoulder flared up and his opportunity slipped away. Now 27 years old with only 18 MLB games under his belt, Guyer’s future is very much in question despite his apparent talent, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll ever recover.

Guyer’s shoulder surgery was a big blow to his hopes of breaking onto the Rays’ roster on a full-time basis. But even as things looked so bleak, there was a silver lining. As Bill Chastain of the Rays’ official website wrote about, Guyer’s shoulder issue was not something new but a preexisting issue going back to when he dislocated his shoulder back in 2007 while he was still at the University of Virginia. And now that the problem has finally been resolved through the surgery, Guyer feels as good as ever. Guyer told Chastain that post-surgery he now has more extension in his swing, especially on pitches on the inside of the plate. And with that the case, maybe this is the year everything comes together for Guyer.

Guyer wasn’t much of a prospect until his age 24 season at Double-A in the Cubs system in 2010, when he broke out to an incredible .344/.398/.588 line with 39 doubles, 13 home runs, and 30 of 33 stolen bases in 410 plate appearances. Dealt to the Rays following the season in the Matt Garza, it was a big question whether his breakthrough was real. However, in the past two years at Triple-A, Guyer has done everything he can to prove that his game truly has taken a significant step forward, managing a .309/.381/.510 line with 32 doubles, 17 home runs, and 18 stolen bases in 129 games and 540 plate appearances. Even after everything he has gone through, Guyer has the chance to be a major league regular and soon. He stands out for very good bat speed (something that his healed shoulder makes only better), solid power, and great speed, and defensively he has a chance to be a plus defender in right field with a strong and accurate arm along with very good range. He can even do a serviceable job in centerfield, although not good enough to be a regular there. Guyer’s major flaws at this point are his injury issues and that his plate discipline is good but not great, with Guyer managing a 94-42 strikeout to walk ratio, making a lot of contact but only walking at a decent rate, and major league pitchers were able to exacerbate that a little bit in Guyer’s limited time with the Rays as he struck out 10 times versus 1 walk in 50 plate appearances. Nevertheless, though, Guyer has the ability to be an starting outfielder in the major leagues, and at the very least he could be a very useful 4th outfielder- and that type of player would be useful for the Rays immediately. Guyer is a right-handed hitter capable against pitchers from both sides of the mound, and while the Rays are certainly not going to give him a starting job at this point, he has a chance to make the team as a starting player against left-handed pitching spelling Matt Joyce or one of the Rays’ several other lefty hitters who have struggled against same-side pitching in recent years. From there, more playing time would gradually come if he plays well, and with the Rays not exactly an offensive powerhouse, if Guyer hits, he will find his way into the lineup on a regular basis.

The Rays have their right fielder of the future currently at Triple-A: Wil Myers. Brandon Guyer knows that he’s running out of time and that if he doesn’t break into the major leagues soon, it may never happen in the Rays organization. Guyer is currently dealing with some leg soreness, and although the Rays may have wanted to start him in Triple-A anyway to get him back in the swing of things after not playing in a game since last May, everything could very well be slipping away from Guyer once again. He’s stuck in a terrible place in his baseball career, being too old to be a real prospect yet still not being established in the major leagues. However, with his longstanding shoulder issue finally resolved and his talent still as noticeable as ever, Brandon Guyer has the ability to crack the Rays’ 25-man roster sooner rather than later and be an impact player for the Rays as soon as this year.

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