Who Goes Down When Brandon Guyer Comes Back?

By Peter M. Gordon

After a lackluster beginning to the season, Brandon Guyer transformed into one of the team’s hottest hitters in Mid-May. He even got a hit after he fractured his thumb during the game on May 26. However, after he was examined by a doctor, the Rays put him on the 15 -day disabled list. Assuming he heals well, he’ll return to the team relatively soon, perhaps after a rehab assignment. Who will the Rays send back to Durham?

After bringing up Alex Colome to pitch, the Rays recalled Kevin Kiermaier to the majors on May 28 to take Guyer’s backup outfield spot. Kiermaier moved up to semi-regular status when Wil Myers went down for 6-8 weeks with a stress fracture in his wrist. The Rays then brought Jerry Sands up to replace Myers. Kiermaier has long been considered the best defensive outfielder in the organization, but the team kept him in Triple-A to start the season to work on his hitting.  Kiermaier hit .330 in the minors, and since May 28 he’s hit a sizzling .471 with two home runs. At this writing that gives Kiermaier a season average of .379 at this writing, with an .828 slugging percentage and a 1.247 OPS.   He’s also played great right field, for example holding a Miami Marlins batter to a single on a ball down the right field line that would have been a double if almost any other outfielder were out there. Even if Kiermaier cools off a little, he’s shown too much for the Rays to return him to Durham. When Guyer comes back, someone else will have to go.

The obvious candidate is Jerry Sands. Sands has been a good power hitter in the minors- he was hitting .268 with 9 home runs at Durham this year. However, he’s only gotten one hit so far for a .167 batting average, although it was a pinch hit single to drive in a run. He’ll get a few more chances to show if he can hit, but if Sands is still hitting .167 when Guyer comes back, Sands will go down to the minors. If Sands starts to hit, though, the Rays will have a much tougher decision to make.

If Sands hits well, it’s possible that Logan Forsythe will be sent down. Forsythe has had some good games, this year, but at this writing still has an average under the Mendoza line. The Rays can use Ben Zobrist to back up shortstop, and Sean Rodriguez to back up second and third. Jerry Sands could play first when Joe Maddon wants to rest James Loney. Sending down the main backup infielder does leave the team thin in the infield. But the Rays desperately need some offense.  It might be better for both the Rays and for Forsythe if he goes to the minors so he can play every day and work through his problems. If the Rays do find they need a backup infielder, both Forsythe and Cole Figueroa are only a phone call away.

A lot of times, situations like the one the Tampa Bay Rays will face when Brandon Guyer returns simply work themselves out. If Sands doesn’t start hitting better, the Rays will simply demote him when Guyer returns. Even if the situation does get more complicated, though, the Rays face a good problem as they figure out which players give them the best chance to win.