Even after a month on the big league roster, Brandon Guyer remains an unknown quantity for the Tampa Bay Rays. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
What do the Tampa Bay Rays have in Brandon Guyer? Acquired from the Cubs, along with Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Sam Fuld, and Robinson Chirinos, in a trade that keeps on giving for the Rays, this is the season of reckoning for Guyer. Out of minor league options, the Rays have to pass him through waivers to send him down to Triple-A. With Guyer likely to be claimed if they do that, however, the Rays have decided to hold onto Guyer and find a way to work him in. The problem is that his at-bats have been extremely far and few between. While Guyer has appeared in more major league games than any previous season, the Rays need to make more use of Guyer for no other reason than to see if he is worth keeping.
Despite still being a rookie, Guyer is no longer prospect material at age 28. Injury prone throughout his career, Guyer is finally in the majors to stay, in spite of his limited playing time. The reason he is there is his talent, and it is time for the Rays to start using it better. Capable of playing all three outfield positions, Guyer provides greater flexibility than the other options Joe Maddon has at his disposal, save for maybe David DeJesus. His bat is a question mark at the major league level–any statements about Guyer’s offensive capabilities are mere conjecture at this point. Nevertheless, his minor league numbers suggest he has the ability to handle both left-handed and right-handed pitching and he hasn’t really been given the opportunity to do either. Guyer can field, he runs extremely well, and he just might hit, but he finds himself on the bench almost every game. The big hurdle for Guyer is the competition he has for playing time.
Sean Rodriguez and Logan Forsythe are Guyer’s most direct competitors for at-bat. Like Rodriguez and Forsythe, Guyer bats right-handed and hits lefties extremely well. Rodriguez and Forsythe, though, have both shown signs of doing so in the majors while Guyer has not. Guyer is a more natural outfielder than the two and is capable of being a strong defender wherever they put him. What hinders Guyer is the preponderance of outfielders that Joe Maddon has at his disposal. Sean Rodriguez can man left field reasonably well and, if it’s an either or, it will be Rodriguez every time. When you consider that Desmond Jennings and Wil Myers are everyday players, that only leaves left field as the only available consistently available spot and already the Rays have three players who bat from the same side vying for time. Where Guyer lags in this group is lack of major league experience and lack of versatility. Both Rodriguez and Forsythe can play multiple infield positions, making them all the more valued and one of the things that keeps Guyer lower on the depth chart.
Then there are the two lefty bats, David DeJesus and Matt Joyce. Armed with a two-year contract, DeJesus seems locked in as a starter against right-handed pitching for the Rays. Matt Joyce, though, is another ballgame. Every year, Joyce looks like he has figured it out at the plate and every year we are left to ask, “Where’s Matt Joyce?” Originally, it was thought that Guyer would platoon with DeJesus but that has really not come to pass, Forsythe getting more starts against lefties than the other two right handed batters. Guyer’s time in the outfield may increase as Joyce, as he has done every year as a Ray, plays himself out of the lineup. At the very least, Guyer needs to be utilized as a late inning defensive replacement–even though Joyce has made a few diving catches, he is clearly a better defender.
The question is why Brandon Guyer is not getting more playing time ultimately lies with Joe Maddon. Does he trust Forsythe more and that’s the reason why he pencils him in the line-up more than Guyer? Whatever the rationale, Guyer is doing the Rays no good super-glued to the bench. Ultimately, the Rays need to know what type of player Brandon Guyer and if he will be a part of the team going forward.