Pitchers and catchers report in just 18 days and now we have a better idea of who we will be seeing in the Tampa Bay Rays’ big league camp. Let’s go position-by-position and discuss the veterans, the prospects, and everybody else that will be playing alongside the members of the Rays’ 40-man roster in spring training.
Competing for big league jobs will be Belisario and Gomes, with Belisario having a strong case for a job while Gomes hopes for a chance in long relief. Marinez and Norberto have lesser chances, but they both have the stuff to crack the Rays’ bullpen if they pitch well at Durham.
The two prospects of the group are Floro and Bellatti, both of whom spent last season at Double-A Montgomery. Floro will take his excellent sinker to Durham (although the Rays have to figure out who will be in that rotation) while Bellatti will head to the Bulls’ relief corps. Floro has back-of-the-rotation upside and could add to the Rays’ starting depth.
Finally, we have Teaford, Stowell, and Zarate. Teaford and Stowell will both likely head to Durham as well, although they are coming off of polar opposite years. Teaford was mediocre in Korea in 2014 while Stowell had something of a breakout at Montgomery. Zarate is interesting because he is coming from Japan, but after mostly pitching in the minors there, he may start 2015 at Double-A.
These three represent Curt Casali‘s hypothetical competition for the backup job, but that probably isn’t the right way to frame this situation. Wilson could certainly be termed the favorite because Casali could use more time at Triple-A. Maile, on the other hand, also has potential but hasn’t yet played a Triple-A game.
Wilson will likely keep the backup catcher spot warm until either Casali or Maile is ready. He isn’t great, but he’s a good defender, has shown signs of hitting lefties, and will not be needed for long. Finally, Acosta is an organizational catcher who will see time wherever the Rays need him. The Rays are rewarding his service to them with some time in big league camp.
It will be cool to see Robertson, one of the Rays’ top two or three prospects, seeing time this spring training. He is the Rays’ shortstop of the future and will hope to show everyone that the future is not so far away.
Francisco, though, is the only member of this group with any real chance to make the major league roster. His power would be an asset off the Rays’ bench and the only question is whether the Rays will be able to have a lefty-hitting backup considering all of the players they have that are weak against left-handed pitching. Francisco needs a David DeJesus trade to earn a spot on the Rays.
Belnome, Casilla, and Dykstra, on the other hand, will all be depth at Durham. Belnome made his big league debut last year and will hope to play his way into an eventual bench role. Casilla has good speed and a little versatility, but his bat is quite questionable. Then there is Dykstra, who can qualify as a sleeper thanks to strong Triple-A numbers but is not regarded highly by evaluators.
The prospects of this group are Motter and Powell. Motter is coming off a strong season at Double-A while Powell played well between Low-A, High-A, and the Arizona Fall League. Both are hoping to show the Rays that they can continue playing better than their raw tools would suggest.
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The others are all set to head to Triple-A, with Butler being the only one with any shot at a big league job. Butler is a righty-hitting right fielder with some power and strong Triple-A numbers. He will at least push Tim Beckham in camp. Brown and Velez face even tougher roads because they bat lefty, but Brown is a little interesting because he’s a strong athlete who can play centerfield while Velez can take pride in his speed and ability to play second base.
At least two of these 22 players are going to make the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster, with Ronald Belisario, Bobby Wilson, and Juan Francisco looking like the favorites. Players like Daniel Robertson and Luke Maile, meanwhile, could work their way into the Rays’ plans before long. There is an exciting group of players heading to Port Charlotte this year and we will have to see who will attract our attention.