The Rays added some depth to their system this offseason. In particular, they’ve added two relievers and one first baseman who could come into play in 2016
There always seem to be a few surprise players and/or pitchers that come in and help an organization out each season. Last season, for example, the Rays brought in the likes of Ernesto Frieri, and in 2014 it was Steve Geltz, both of which proved to be helpful additions to the pen. A financially restrained team like the Rays has to take advantage of such opportunities if it wants to continue competing for a championship.
Here are the three latest additions to the team’s depth, all of which could have some impact on the 2016 season.
RH RP Tyler Sturdevant, 30 years old
Placed on the restricted list in Feb ’15 by the Indians, after being suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance, Sturdevant was activated in mid-June and made the most of the remainder of the season. He wound up electing for Free Agency on Nov 6th and only took 14 days to find a new home with the Rays on Nov 20th. They subsequently assigned him to the Durham Bulls, where he’ll work to get himself into a position for a call up at some point in 2016.
What Sturdevant could provide the Rays with is an arm that is incredibly hard on RHB. His .189/.231/.338 line against vs RHB is outstanding, and he also works very well with runners on base, both of which will make him a valuable depth piece in 2016.
LH RP Dana Eveland, 32 years old (released by Orioles, Sept. 16)
Eveland has a ton of experience and finally turned to relieving full time in 2014 after years of trying to become a regular MLB SP. With over 423 IP in the majors, he’ll provide the Rays with a lot of experience, but it’s his 2015 season in the minors that likely intrigued them most. As you can see above, he had a very productive season overall.
Eveland didn’t allow a single HR, walked very few hitters, and proved to be hard to hit overall. He, like Sturdevant, held RHB to a very low line. In his case, it was .198/.261/.305. Where Eveland lags behind Sturdevant is in pitching with runners on base. While it’s still an effective line of .228/.330/.293, it’s well behind what Sturdevant provided (.182/.294/.386). That tells me that if required, Sturdevant may get the call ahead of Eveland.
With his experience and his recent performances as a reliever, the Rays will likely not hesitate to use Eveland if they need to and he could become an important piece of the pen for at least a portion of 2016.
1B Kyle Roller, 27 years old (released by Yankees, Oct. 26)
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The Rays already haveLogan Morrison
ready to helpJames Loney
out at 1B. However, rumors have swirled that would have Loney moved to another team, and Morrison may play a bigger role as a Designated Hitter, leaving Shaffer as the likely inherent of 1B duties. With his youth and possible struggles at some point in the season, it’s possible thatCameron Seitzer
– or now Kyle Roller – gets the call at some point to help the Rays out.
What Roller has in his repertoire is an ability to use his power and get on base against RHP. Although his average still isn’t great vs righties at .238 in 2015, his .349 OBP with 30 extra base hits in 298 AB allows us to project him as a possible platoon player. He also finished 2015 on a strong note, hitting .284/.377/.448 over his last 77 PA.
It’s not going to be easy for him to get a shot to prove himself in The Show, but Roller could surprise many if he does. What it likely does, as well, is protect the Rays from being forced to use Jake Bauer or Patrick Leonard before they’re ready for the call up.
These players will join others in AAA in working towards getting a shot at proving themselves in the majors. For Sturdevant and Eveland, that means fighting off Johnny Venters as he returns from injury as well as other new additions in Jhan Marinez, Yoel Espinal, and Adam Kolarek. It’s going to be an interesting season for those arms in Durham, and we should expect to see at least a few of these at some point in 2016.