The Rays have announced their non-roster invitees to spring training. We list each one and add a short note on what each could bring to the Rays in 2016
Spring Training is fast approaching and before you know it, we’ll have a ton of information to pass along as we head towards game action and a new season. One of the more interesting aspects of spring training is to see who the teams bring aboard, and who may be trying to make a statement by showing off some skills in spring training games.
This year is no different and the Rays have some intriguing names to mention, so we’ll head straight to the lists.
The Rays recently Tweeted who they’re inviting to Spring Training camp:
RAYS MINOR LEAGUE INVITEES
LHP Jonny Venters (30)
- He last pitched in the majors or minors in 2012, so it’s hard to expect much from the lefty. While it would be great to anticipate a return to glory, that’s a tall feat considering his dominance of days past. It’s more likely that he polishes his stuff in AAA for the majority of the season, but it’s still intriguing to see if he can get himself back on track.
RHP Ryan Garton (26)
- Has 19 minor league saves to his credit and managed a decent 2.95 ERA and 1.246 whip in AA last season. He’s undersized at 5’11” and 170 lbs, but he has been able to rack up the Ks, including 70 in 61 innings last year. His biggest strength is vs RHB, where he managed a .178/.274/.233 line. To be effective, he’ll have to minimize the BB and improve some with runners on.
RHP Parker Markel (25)
- Continued his trend of allowing too many BB (31) while allowing a hit per inning last season, both of which led to an unimpressive 1.508 whip. We’d love for him to figure it all out and he did managed a better performance over his last 8 games, when he managed a .189/.302/.297 line against.
RHP Mark Sappington (25)
- The big righty (6’5″) took a big step forward in 2015, lowering his ERA from 6.44 in 2014 to 4.08 in 2015. His whip also came down from 1.846 to 1.580. The most intriguing part of his 2015 season was that he finished the last 3 months with 12.1, 13.2, and 13.5 SO/9. If it had come with fewer walks, it would be stellar. Still, he’s finally on the right trend and maybe the Rays can top it all off with some adjustments this spring.
RHP Jaime Schultz (24)
- We recently ranked Schultz at #35 in our Top 50 Rays Prospects list and noted he’d jump to #17 if he were used as a reliever. He is yet another pitcher with BB issues on this list, 90 in 135 IP in 2015, but his fastball/curveball combination could prove lethal out of the pen. He already touches 97 MPH as a starter and projects to add to that if pitching out of the pen. Of the guys on this list, he’s one to watch for a possible role in the pen in 2016.
RHP Neil Wagner (32)
- Wagner last pitched in the majors in 2014 for the Jays. He’s returning from elbow injury and signed a 2 year deal with the Rays, an indication that they fully expect him to return to form. His fastball hits the mid-90s when healthy and he has 65 minor league saves under his belt. His best MLB season was in 2013 for the Jays, when he managed a 3.79 ERA and 1.368 whip while throwing 38 innings.
C Jake DePew (23)
- Surprisingly productive in AA last season, hitting 14 extra-base hits in 197 AB. Other than the power at the plate, his bat offers little else and he doesn’t walk much, leading to a .228/.280/.340 line.
CO Patrick Leonard (23)
- Number 30 on our top 50 list, he absolutely mashes LHP and did so to the tune of a .330/.390/.571 line in 2015. As a possible bench option at some point in 2016, he’d provide an option at the corners of the infield and could handle the corner outfield spots. Along with the hitters listed below, he’ll provide some important MLB ready depth and could slot in as an injury replacement.
INF Juniel Querecuto (23)
- Somehow, Juniel keeps flying under the radar and doesn’t get noticed much despite moving up to AAA at a fairly young age for a middle-infielder. If the bat could only follow what is a great defensive player. He is working hard this winter and earned a .344/.373/.406 line in Venezuela.
- His struggles at the plate come mostly vs RHP, where he hit .232/.316/.295 this season, and he doesn’t have any speed on the bases, both of which will limit his role for now. It’s possible the Rays use him in the same way the Jays used Ryan Goins, letting his bat catch up to his defensive play over time.
INF Daniel Robertson (21)
- If you’re looking for a player on this list who could step into the 2016 lineup and make an immediate impact, Robertson and the next two players fit the profile. He’s got an above-average approach at the plate and can assure great ABs with an ability to get on base. We’re all still waiting to see the power play in games, but it’s there and should play well for a middle-infielder.
OF Johnny Field
- Not sure you’ll find any bigger fans of Johnny’s game than here at RCG. We ranked him aggressively at #15 on our top 50 list and he has the potential to be a boon to the OF if Mikie Mahtook and/or Taylor Motter struggle in TB. With 51 extra-base hits in 432 AB and 18 SB while only being caught 3 times, every aspect of his game is average or better. He’s a proven winner, has off-the-charts makeup, and we look forward to seeing his tenacious play in TB soon.
OF Dayron Varona (27)
- We mentioned Varona as a potential impact player for the Rays in 2016. The “too old to be a prospect” Varona hails from Cuba and had a decent 2015, hitting .286/.324/.477 with 36 extra-base hits over 373 plate appearances. To allow Field and others to gain more experience in the minors, it’s possible the Rays call on Varona first and take a peak at what he may have to offer. He projects to be a decent bench option and could drive in a fair amount of runs when called on.
RAYS MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACTS WITH SPRING TRAINING INVITES
We touched on 3 of these recently and suggest you read this article to get more information about our thoughts on each. By far, of all pitchers in this article, Eveland and Marinez are the two we’d peg as most likely to become prominent pieces of the bullpen in TB.
LHP Dana Eveland (32)
- Eveland has re-invented himself as a reliever and managed an impressive 2.11 ERA, 1.012 whip, and 45 K in 55 IP performance while in AAA last season. RHB only hit .198/.261/.305 against him, but he’ll have to work on LHB who hit .269/.366/.346 against him. He has some MLB experience to fall back on and could do decent work for the Rays in 2016.
RHP Eddie Gamboa (31)
- Threw 113 innings in 2015 for the Orioles, and like so many on this list he struggled with walks as he allowed 84 while striking out 79. If he threw more strikes, he could actually have a shot at being a decent pen option. As a reliever in 2015, he only allows 10 hits in 26 innings. The problem is that it came with 21 walks. Still, his ERA was low at 1.04 as a reliever and he matched it with a 1.192 whip. If the Rays were to make him a reliever, he could blossom into a late innings threat.
RHP Jhan Marinez (27)
- There’s something about Marinez that screams “impact in 2016”. His totals in 2015: 67.1 IP, 49 hits, 27 walks, 71 Ks, good for a 2.41 ERA, 1.129 whip, and 7 saves between AA and AAA. What we like most about Marinez is that he’s just as effective against both LHB and RHB, and he’s just as good with runners on or bases empty. In short, he’s impressive overall and we’ll be stunned if he doesn’t get a chance to prove himself with the Rays in 2016.
RHP Tyler Sturdevant (30)
- Just as with Marinez, Sturdevant has an ability to act as a great depth piece for the Rays pen in 2016. His 1.085 whip looked great in 2015 and he has 152.1 IP between AA and AAA with 14 saves overall.
1B Kyle Roller (27)
- The Rays get a good depth piece at 1B/DH in Roller, someone who can provide great defensive play and someone who could turn it all around if the Rays are patient. Just 2 seasons ago, he managed 59 extra-base hits with a .300/.391/.550 line in 456 AB between AA and AAA. Should he find that form again, he could be this season’s Joey Butler.
Overall, there’s a good mix of youth, experience, and intriguing potential within the group above. Unlike the Jays and others who seem to add only old players to their AA/AAA depth, the Rays have a good amount of young talent to look forward to. That’s a good thing, in my opinion, because in most cases, it seems there’s a better chance that young talent will surprise you than older talent. We look forward to seeing what each player listed above has to provide this spring, and wish them all the best.