We know in the back of our minds how little spring training numbers mean, but it’s hard not to be impressed with the production of Tampa Bay Rays prospects Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson nonetheless. Powell went 3 for 7 with a double, a walk, 2 RBI, and a stolen base while Robertson went 2 for 4 with a walk and 2 runs scored. Powell also showed nice defense in the outfield.
However, it was Powell and Robertson who were the first cuts from the Rays’ big league camp. Considering their talent, shouldn’t some other players have been sent to minor league spring training first? Shouldn’t they have received more opportunities to showcase their abilities to the Rays’ coaching staff? Well, the truth is that they already have. And now that they’ve gotten just the slightest taste of the pinnacle, they will be even more motivated to get back. The real reason, though, is more fundamental.
Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson were the two gems of the Ben Zobrist trade. Another fact is that other than Robertson’s playoff run with the Oakland Athletics’ Double-A Midland affiliate, neither has played a game above A-ball. It is tempting to look at two talented players and push them to the major leagues as quickly as possible. Robertson had some issues in the field at shortstop, but given the struggles of Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham, why not give him a chance to win a big league job?
After an offseason where the Rays traded Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Yunel Escobar, Matt Joyce, Ryan Hanigan, Jeremy Hellickson, Sean Rodriguez, and Cesar Ramos, some fans may want to say that they overreacted to one bad season. The irony in that, though, is that there is nothing about the Rays’ approach that screams desperation. They could have made many more trades, and on the opposite edge of the spectrum, they could be more delusional about their 2015 chances.
Other than Hellickson, who was coming off two poor seasons, the Rays didn’t trade any of their starting pitchers. The closest Evan Longoria was to getting traded was a team asking about him and generating a laugh from Matt Silverman. The Rays have a vastly different team in 2015 than they did last season, but they are not starting from square one. They don’t know exactly how their current roster will perform, but they do believe in its ability to be competitive this season.
Maybe the greatest contribution of the 2015 Tampa Bay Rays to the franchise’s future will be helping it tread water. Longoria and the pitching staff represent the Rays’ established core, and they could be joined by talented younger players before long. Next year, the Rays expect that Steven Souza will be coming off a solid rookie year, and they are hoping that the same is true of Kevin Kiermaier and Nick Franklin in their sophomore seasons.
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Next season, Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson will stick around longer in big league camp. Maybe Mikie Mahtook and Hak-Ju Lee will have made their big league debuts and be a legitimate candidates for Opening Day roster spots. And the Rays are certainly hoping that Ryan Brett and Richie Shaffer are factors as well. However, there is a reason that all six players will begin the season in the minor leagues. The Rays understand that developing young players takes time, and they are more than content to wait.
The Rays aren’t going to let Daniel Robertson stay in camp and give himself a chance to become the next Jackie Bradley or Aaron Hicks. They know that despite the temptation, despite the desire to make something happen and change their franchise’s fate, their best move is to be patient and put their players in the best position to succeed. Powell and Robertson were not the worst players in Rays camp, but with their futures in mind, they best move was to go to minor league camp, and go quickly.