Every spring a few rookies on the 40 man roster show up at spring training looking to win a spot on the 25 man opening day roster. Unless you are a Matt Moore or a Wil Myers, it’s tough to make the team. Veterans with guaranteed contracts and minor league free agents with big league time on their resume often block their path. Plus, only thirteen position players will make the team and it looks like there is only one spot up for grabs. Let’s take a look at the four Rays rookies on the position player side that are on the 40-man roster and in camp and see what their odds are of going north with the team.
Vince Belnome: Belnome came to the Rays in a minor league deal with the Padres and spent last season at Durham. He had a nice year at the plate, hitting a .300/.408/.461 slash line. As he is not the game’s greatest fielder, his bat is the key to him winning a spot with the team. He plays first, second and third base and that doesn’t hurt his chances. However, he swings from the left side of the plate so that does not help him in the battle for a platoon job with David DeJesus and Matt Joyce.
Brandon Guyer: Guyer came to the Rays in the Matt Garza deal. He is a terrific athlete who can play three outfield spots and hit with power. His problem is that he can’t stay healthy. Last year, he managed to play 98 games for Durham and posted a .301/.374/.458 slash line. However, he hurt himself at the end of the year and missed the chance for a September call up. This year, it’s assumed that he is healthy and if he has a good spring training, Guyer should be in line to be DeJesus’s platoon partner.
Kevin Kiermaier: Kiermaier flew under the radar for his first three years in the Ray’s organization but broke out with an excellent year between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013. He posted a .296/.362/.431 slash line in 136 games, and even more impressive were his defensive skills at all three outfield positions. Once thought of as a young Sam Fuld, the Rays want to see if he has everyday player skills. For that reason alone, he will start the year at Durham. A good start at Durham and the inevitable injury to an outfielder could put him in the majors at any time.
Hak-Ju Lee: Lee also came over in the Matt Garza deal and has been regarded as a top 10 prospect since day one. But last year, he was cruising through the Rays system when he was taken out at second base on a double play and tore up his ACL. That was eight games into the 2013 season and he is just now getting back to full strength. A brilliant fielder, speed is a big part of his game and the Rays will want to see if he has it back or lost a step. Between that and a guy named Escobar being on the team, Lee will probably play the whole season at Durham before making his big league debut in September. As always, though, injuries could change that plan.
Three of the four Rays rookies are going to have a tough time making the roster. Kiermaier and Lee, through no fault of their own, are headed for Durham. Belnome has a slim chance to make the team, but his lefty swinging hurts him. Guyer, however, hits from the right side and therefore, could make the team to platoon with DeJesus and be a fourth outfielder.
Aside from the rookies, there are minor league contract players such as Jayson Nix, Wilson Betemit, James Darnell and Jerry Sands in camp. A hot spring training could move any of them into 25-man roster contention. But the end, with probably only one position slot available for the Rays 25 man roster, I like Guyer for the job. What do you think?