The flowers are blooming, and no, not for Valentine's Day, but Spring Training is here as pitchers and catchers have already reported to Orlando for the start of camp.
Although everyone is excited for camp to officially kick off this weekend, all eyes will be on who the Rays are going to find as their shining light.
Outside of 1B, C, OF, and pitching possibly needing some filling, the Rays have a majority of their lineup and rotation set to go for 2023, but the Rays are known to find a diamond in the rough, and there are five players who were invited to spring training that have a chance to make a splash on the Rays in 2023.
Ben Heller was a surprising non-roster invite for the Rays coming into this spring.
Heller has shown in the past to have good numbers in both the minors and majors, despite having a small sample size in the majors, pitching in 31 total games with 2 wins and no losses and a 2.59 ERA.
While the numbers only come from 31.1 innings pitched in his big-league career, those are solid numbers that should at least allow the Rays to give him a look in the bigs, especially if he turns out to have a solid spring.
Culberson, a late non-roster addition to the club, adds veteran presence to a Rays lineup that desperately needs it.
Culberson, who averages near .250 batting average, brings not only a solid bottom-of-the-order bat but also solid defensive numbers, averaging above.900 in the field for his career.
While Culberson's age is something to keep an eye on, he can be someone who brings playoff experience and will be someone who the Rays may want to get a closer look at as he could get some playing time in the infield with the corners being somewhat of a mystery.
Crick is an interesting pitcher to watch this spring.
As someone who actually believed he would be signed by the team, Crick has had some solid seasons in his early years in Pittsburgh and could be someone who makes the big-league club come March 31st.
Although his numbers dipped in the last two seasons with Pittsburgh and the Chicago White Sox, he posted a 3.06 ERA and a 2.39 ERA in both 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Crick can be someone who can be dominant out of the pen if he can rekindle that magic he had, but the question is, does he still have it?
We will have to find out this spring and possibly in Durham if he doesn't break camp with the big club, but watch out for Crick at some point this year.
Spraker was a late addition with Culberson arriving in 2023; however, prior to 2022, he was someone the Jays could have definitely used based on the numbers.
Our first player who has yet to make the big leagues, Spraker, has a career ERA in the minors of 3.05 and has had 3 out of his first 4 years with an ERA under 3.00.
A Great Britain representative in the WBC, Spraker will be getting some competitive innings playing in the WBC for a Great Britain team that may compete in their pool, and it should be a good chance for Rays personnel to see how he does against big-league level competition on a big-league like stage.
Although there are other names that can fit in this pool, there is one outlier, and that is minor league outfielder Jordan Qsar.
Qsar, who has 63 career home runs over 4 minor league seasons, has brought massive pop to the lineup for the Rays minor league system and comes off back-to-back double-digit home run seasons with Bowling Green in '21 and splitting with Montgomery and Durham in the '22 season.
Although his numbers are eye-catching, with a rather high OPS in his first four pro seasons, Qsar may still need some time in Triple-A early this season; however, if he can bring what he brought to the minors, he could be the power bat the Rays could use in the lineup.
While these are just five candidates to keep an eye on as potential contributors to the Rays this season, players such as Heath Hembree, Trevor Kelley, Mason Montgomery, Kyle Mandrazo, and the returning Daniel Robertson are others that were high up on the list; however, the five above were players that I felt could make a big impact for the team and can help get the team back to the postseason here in 2023.