Casey Gillaspie looked like he could be a key part of the Tampa Bay Rays future. After Jake Bauers‘ performance in Spring Training, one has to wonder if Gillaspie has been passed by.
Given the uncertainty surrounding first base for the Tampa Bay Rays, it was expected that Casey Gillaspie could get a look at some point this season. The tandem of Logan Morrison and Rickie Weeks was not exactly a given, as neither player had a particularly strong 2016 campaign. As Gillaspie performed well in his stint with Durham last year, it was thought that he could be a factor at the position later in the year.
However, Gillaspie’s window of opportunity may have already closed. Jake Bauers was thoroughly impressive during Spring Training, producing a .371/.465/.857 batting line, hitting four homers and three doubles. His swing was compared to Ken Griffey Jr.’s. Bauers looked like he belonged at the Major League level.
While he will be starting the year in Durham as well, one has to wonder how long he will stay there. Should Morrison and/or Weeks struggle, there will be calls for Bauers to come up to the Majors. Should Bauers dominate at AAA from the beginning, picking up where he left off in Spring Training, those shouts will be even louder.
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But where does this leave Gillaspie? He is a solid prospect in his own right, producing a .284/.388/.479 batting line. His 18 homers were the most in the Rays minor league system, putting him squarely on the prospect map. Giallaspie was even named as the Rays fifth best prospect, just behind Bauers, according to MLB.com.
The problem is that, while Bauers can play in the outfield, the only real opening is at first base. The Rays future outfield may well consist of Mallex Smith, Kevin Kiermaier, and Steven Souza, a defensive alignment that could be amongst the best in baseball. Corey Dickerson appears to be firmly entrenched as the Rays designated hitter. There is just that one opening.
So where does that leave Gillaspie? For now, he appears to be on the outside once again, albeit through no fault of his own. Instead, the Rays have one of the hotter prospects in the game on the cusp of the Majors, with his ascension coming at the same time that Gillaspie is closing in on being ready for the Majors.
Casey Gillaspie could still end up playing a key part in the Tampa Bay Rays future, although it may be as a trade chip. His time to impact the Major League roster may have already passed him by.