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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  • phattitudes

    The Rays have a whole lot of potential in their young outfield. Jennings, Joyce, Myers, and Guyer all are plus defenders who have put up significant numbers in the minors. All have shown power in their game. Personally I would love the Rays to work a couple of them out at 1B to see if there is an aptitude there. I believe they all are only going to improve offensively. We have never had stability at 1B. It doesn’t matter who plays where, the point is to get all their bats in the lineup and optimize the defense in doing it. In all cases you could project their better years are in front of them as they mature a major leaguers. Hopefully their splits keep them in the lineup daily, but if platooning is the answer so be it. For now I would give them the shot to prove they can do it. Many a player has made a late career shift to 1B so it is not impossible. The Rays are going to demand plus fielding from the position but these are all young athletic guys who could be developed. If 1B doesn’t work out then DH is the other possibility. That has been another rotating position in the lineup. They could rotate through as DH and save their legs a bit from ware of turf play. Best wishes for a swift and successful recovery to Brandon. This group could provide a lot of future excitement to Rays fans.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      Why would you move a plus defensive outfielder like Guyer to first base? I think the Rays’ primary concern at this point is going to amass as many quality hitters as they can and worry about positions later shifting around all their versatile guys.

      • phattitudes

        Joyce, Myers, Jennings, and Guyer all all plus defenders. With his recovering status, Guyer is low man on the totem pole. Assuming he recovers and becomes the player he has hinted at being. He or one of them is either relegated to part time play as a 4th outfielder, or he or someone else can pick up another position and earn a starting spot. The Rays history is to scrape through the scraps to find someone to play 1B for a year or two. They have even had some success. However it doesn’t have to be that way. If a Guyer or a Joyce could pick up 1B skills he may just find himself with a regular spot in the lineup. It’s not as if they would lose their outfield skills. Swisher, Trumbo, Morales, Grant Jones and others play the OF / 1B combo and gain ABs doing so. If Guyer turns out to be Roberto Clemente in the OF, keep him there and move someone else. Just don’t put him or one of the others on the bench and start a lesser player at 1B. Right now Guyer will most likely be sent down and therefore he could uniquely have the opportunity to learn a new position at Durham. It may even ease the stress on his shoulder and accelerate his recovery. Adding a skill would not make him a lesser player.

        • Robbie_Knopf

          Joyce is not a great defender (although he’s better than he has looked next to Upton and Jennings the past couple of years) and he also happens to struggle against lefties. Myers isn’t big league ready yet. And Jennings is a centerfielder and doesn’t really affect Guyer, who’s more of a corner guy. If Guyer comes up in mid-April or May and hits well, the Rays will certainly make room for him in their outfield. The Rays have worked Joyce out at first base in the past, and maybe he moves there. But the bottom line is that you don’t put platoon players or bench guys at first base because they don’t hit enough for a premium position. You put Guyer in the outfield even if he’s spelling Loney because what he might lose at the plate he gives back with his great defense. It makes more sense for the Rays to move Ben Zobrist, a player they trust at so many positions, to first base rather than fool around with Guyer, divert his attention from his hitting, and more than likely end up with a below-average offensive and defensive player at first base at least in the early going. It simply isn’t worth it.

          • phattitudes

            The entire comment was based on the premise all these players reach their potential relatively quickly before their gone in FA. There was no intent to force the issue with platoon or bench players. If the premise falls apart, then it is on to the next dream. However in this Camelot vision, they all are above average defensively and offensively. In that world, I want all four in the top six of the order every day. No platoons, just solid ball players living the dream. Each of them could do it. Will they all do it? Probably not, But it would be a great team if they did. The reality is we are going to break without Myers or Guyer so this vision is of a future time, maybe this year maybe next. Sorry for all the positive thoughts. Spring training is a time of hope. Didn’t mean to waste your time.

          • budman3

            If Guyer isn’t healthy(or struggles against ML pitching), the Rays will still be looking for a RH’ed bat to play LF. The same concern that they may have at 1st base as well. Both situations occurring is problematic, IMO.