Scouting Notes From Spring Training: The Veterans and Mainstays

By Robbie Knopf

After talking about the prospects in my scouting notes this afternoon, we transition to the major leaguers tonight. We’ll arbitrarily start with the major league players who were on the team at least in 2011 before heading to the offseason acquisitions tomorrow. Here’s what I saw.

Wade Davis continues to work on his sinker, we does feature the type of sink Davis wants, but he has to locate it better. If he can accomplish that, it will make him a much more effective pitcher and like I’ve said previously, the most overqualified 5th starter in the major leagues.

Sam Fuld is still masterful defensively in the outfield. Good. And he also remains an outstanding runner with nice speed unafraid to be aggressive and take extra-bases. Did we learn anything here? I don’t think so.

Jeff Niemann looked great when I saw him on Sunday. His fastball ranged from 89-91 MPH with nice run and late sink, and he mixed in a big 76 MPH curve with great depth and an 85 MPH slider with great downward movement that he used as a strikeout pitch. He may have inferior stuff to Davis, but he’s not going down in the 5th starter race without a fight.

Reid Brignac was absolutely on fire. He looked very comfortable in the batters box and drilling line drives (he also laid down a beautiful squeeze bunt), and he looked incredibly smooth at shortstop, but now planar fasciitis in his right foot puts his status for Opening Day in question, let alone his ability to retake the Rays starting shortstop job. If he can come back strongly from this injury, he looks much better and has more ability than Rodriguez on both sides of the ball and I believe that by the end of the year he will be the Rays starting shortstop and play pretty well.

Joel Peralta‘s fastball was just 88-91 when I saw him, and he absolutely has to locate it down in the zone. He left a fastball up and Pedro Alvarez hit it a long way. Peralta has solid command, but he’s always the kind of guy who could give up home runs and a lot of them. Hopefully he’ll refine his command by the end of the spring.

Jake McGee has dominating stuff but still drives us insane with his control and command problems. He worked exclusively on his fastball which ranged form 93-96 MPH with excellent late run, but that late movement has hindered his control. And he can even locate his fastball better, he could be a dominant reliever.

Brandon Gomes pitches with a crossfire delivery that’s very hard to pick up, but otherwise he was pretty unimpressive when I saw him. Disclaimer: he only worked with his fastball and a fledgeling change, abandoning his splitter and curve for his outing. His fastball ranged from 88-89 MPH with some nice movement that makes him hard to square up.  His changeup ranged from 78-80 with some sink, but it still needs a lot of work. Gomes showed little bits and pieces of why he was so effective in 2011. He got lucky in terms of not allowing home runs and doesn’t have great control, but he’s an interesting middle reliever for the Rays for this coming season.