Friday, December 24, 2010

Rays Roster Projections

Cork Gaines over at RaysIndex has a pretty good track record at thinking through where the Rays might be going. Recently he posted his 25-man and 40-man roster projections and they are worth looking at. I particularly like the way that Cork puts these together. And a lot of interesting information is buried in the notes.

Why should we Bulls fans care?

A couple of reasons.

First of all, if this is the way it shakes out, a huge number of 2010 Bulls are going to be playing in the big leagues in 2011: Dan Johnson, Elliot Johnson, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, Justin Ruggiano, Jeremy Hellickson, and Mike Ekstrom were all Bulls regulars last year. That’s a huge transfer of talent from minor to major leagues. I’d bet it is easily the biggest shift in Bulls’ history — but I’ll defer to any careful reader out there with a better handle on history than I. Note also that John Jaso, Reid Brignac, Ben Zobrist, Wade Davis, and Jeff Neimann are barely out of their Bulls uniforms.

The second, and more interesting, reason to take a look is that the Bulls’ 2011 roster will come from two pools of players — those players on the 40-man but not on the 25-man roster, and the group of players labeled “non-roster invitees” (that is, the guys who get invited to spring training by the Rays). We have little information on the non-roster invitees so far.

However, if Gaines is close to being correct, and the Bulls continue to carry 12 position players in 2011, only four position player slots are filled. He’s got Anderson on first, Ashley and Lobaton catching, and Perez in the outfield.

Interesting times.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Weaving

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.

Rogers Hornsby

Back in 2009 most of the Durham Bulls promotional gear was Tampa Bay Rays-themed. We happened to have two Diamond Club memberships that year and we ended up with a lot of Rays t-shirts.

In 2010 the emphasis went back to the Bulls. As a result, we ended up with more t-shirts than we would ever wear.

It's winter. Time to indulge my other obsession.

First, take a bunch of those Rays t-shirts.

Then cut them up to strips.

After that, get some very strong cotton yarn in baseball-ish colors and string up my loom.

Then start weaving the strips of t-shirts into the red and white yarn.

A few days later, cut it off and here you are with a Tampa Bay Rays/Durham Bulls placemat. Suitable for fine dining, or maybe just a hot dog.


Winter isn't over, so we'll have to find a few more projects to get us to spring.

In the meantime:

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Elliot Johnson Interview

As careful readers know, things are looking up for veteran Durham Bulls infielder Elliot Johnson. He's on the 40-man and looks to be a regular middle infielder for the Rays next year.

Steve Slowinski over at DRaysBay has just put up a terrific interview with Elliot and his wife, Nicole (one of our favorite bloggers). Here are a couple of quotes just as teasers. You really should head over and take a look.

On stealing bases:

Charlie [Montoyo, Bulls manager] is actually a little conservative when it comes to stealing bases believe it or not.

On his late development as a shortstop:

We had a guy by the name of BJ Upton playing short during the time when I was in the minors, so they developed me as a second baseman and we all know how that played out. So I only started playing short regularly late in the ‘09 season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Charlie's Back ... and More

The Bulls website is reporting that Charlie Montoyo is coming back to Durham for the 2011 season. Dave Myers, hitting coach, is back for his third season. To replace pitching coach Xavier Hernandez, who left the Bulls at the end of last season, Neil Allen has been brought up from the Rays' Single-A franchise, the Charlotte Stone Crabs.

Good news. We speculated some last year that Charlie, who has garnered just about every award a minor league manager can earn, might be due to move up to the big leagues. We're happy to have him back.

In the meantime ...

Over at RaysProspects we were pointed to a terrific article at that mentions a bunch of last year's stars. The author obviously spent a good bit of time talking with Montoyo and he got some great quotes. Montoyo had good things to say about Chris Richard, Dan Johnson, Elliot Johnson, Justin Ruggiano, Leslie Anderson, and Desmond Jennings. Particularly telling was this quote about Jeremy Hellickson:

“The joke in the clubhouse was, ‘Is Jeremy gonna work today or is he gonna pitch?’ because they always had him working on this pitch or that pitch instead of just pitching a game, and he still had a really good year.”

There's also a hint that Chris Richard might be back for 2011. We can hope.

Then over at DRaysBay we have FreeZorrilla with a first-rate interview with Alex Cobb. With any luck, we're going to see a lot of Mr. Cobb next season.

Back at RaysProspects we find their Top 30 list. These are the guys to keep an eye on during spring training. A couple of them will end up with the Rays, but a few will be spending a lot of time in Durham next year.

Update: The Durham Herald-Sun apparently called Charlie and picked up a couple of quotes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Richest (Best) Bull Ever?

Carl Crawford is probably the first AAA Durham Bull to have a shot at the Hall of Fame. You can bet that after signing that $142,000,000 contract with the Red Sox all of his major league career, past and future, is going to be scrutinized and watched. I'd say he's got a great chance of making it in.

He didn’t spend much time with the Bulls, as far as I can figure out. Looks like he started the 2002 season with the Bulls and played 85 games before being called up to the then Devil Rays. At the time he was 20 years old. He never looked back. Pretty good numbers as a Bull — .297/.335/.456; 26 stolen bases; 17 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs.

Still can’t get my head around that other number — $142,000,000. The Rays are never going to be able spend that kind of money. What they can do, and what makes it fun for a Bulls fan, is keep on looking for and finding the young and mid-level guys that know how to play the game and play it well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Three Bulls Back with Rays Organization; One Gone

Good news from the Rays today. J.J. Furmaniak, R.J. Swindle, and Richard de Los Santos have all been signed to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training. [Tampa Bay Rays]

We looked at J.J.'s season with the Bulls here; Richard's season here; and R.J.'s here. Here at WDBB we are really happy to hear they have a shot with the Rays and would be pleased to see them back with the Bulls in 2011.

Two other players were also signed, infielder Russ Canzler and RHP Cory Wade. Don’t know anything about them, but expect we may be seeing them in the coming year.

Meanwhile, to darken an otherwise pleasant day, DRaysBay is passing on a report that Winston Abreu has signed a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Given the terrific year he had with the Bulls in 2010, and the apparent lack of interest from the Rays, you had to expect that he would be looking elsewhere.

We wrote about Winston's 2010 season here. If the report is true, at least the Bulls won’t have to face Abreu if he ends up in AAA, the Blue Jay’s AAA team is Las Vegas.