The Tampa Bay Rays have 67 players in camp competing for a place on the 26-man roster. We take a look at a few players who are battling for a spot.
The Tampa Bay Rays are in their second week of spring training and barreling toward the season. There are still a few roster spots they need to get lined out this spring. Today we take a look at a position that could be up for grabs this spring.
We know Mike Zunino is locked in as the primary catcher after Travis d’Arnaud signed with the Braves. The Rays responded by locking Zunino up for 2020 with a club option in 2021. Zunino is known for his defensive prowess, power, and his career .202 average. Even if Zunino improves on his .165 average last season, he has a long way to go with the bat. His offense could provide plenty of opportunity for whomever his backup ends up being.
The likely candidate is the man who entered camp last season as the favorite. Michael Perez has been a very solid defensive player in the minors and shown good ability with the bat. He was so good with the glove in the minors that Anthony Banda used to beg the managers to make sure Perez was catching when he pitched.
Here’s a small sample from Rays Colored Glasses’ Player Profile on Perez. Perez has shown serious power from the left side in the minors. Last season in AAA-Durham he hit a homer every 15.33 ABs. If you multiply that out over 350 Abs, that’s 22 homers from one half of your catching tandem. Additionally, Perez provides the left-handed option in the lineup and he ate right-handed pitching for breakfast last season with a batting line of .272/.381/.511.
His primary competition comes from veterans Kevan Smith and Chris Herrmann. Herrmann has parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues with four different organizations. He has played with Minnesota, Arizona, Seattle, and most recently Oakland. Herrmann has a career average of .205 with a .282 on-base percentage. He has a career -0.6 WAR with a 0.1 career defensive WAR.
Kevan Smith is an interesting player. Outside of being the catcher in the Danny Farquhar-Astros’ trash can banging incident, he’s a veteran catcher who profiles similarly to Travis d’Arnaud prior to his arrival in Tampa. His career slash line is .272/.318/.381. Compared to Travis d’Arnaud’s .245/.306/.406 prior to donning a Rays’ uniform. Smith has excelled vs. LHP with a slash of .304/.435/.439.
The favorite is still Michael Perez, but Smith is a serious contender. This is not to discount Herrmann’s several years’ major league experience. He brings something to the table the Rays like.
Who do you think will come out on top as the backup catcher?