Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Training Arithmetic

Days to First Durham Bulls Game — 40;
Days to Home Opener — 47

Today the Tampa Bay Rays play their first game of the spring training season. So let’s try to answer the question:

Once we are able to get our hands on the box score, who should Bulls fans be keeping our eyes on?

Here, with my usual caveats regarding my depth of experience / understanding, is my take.

But first, let’s do some math.

The Rays have 62 players on the 40-man and non-roster invitee lists.

1. By the end of spring training the Rays have to get down to a 25-man active roster.

2. The Bulls usually have a 24-man roster (depending on which source you believe, the Bulls can carry either 24 or 25, but they seem to limit themselves to 24 in any case).

3. That means that by the end of spring training 13 ballplayers are destined for places deeper in the Rays minor league system or may be going elsewhere.

4. It makes my head hurt to even think about pitchers, especially this early in the season. The rosters have 31 pitchers. If I scratch them off my list I don't have to think so hard.

That leaves the 31 position players. At the end of the Spring, the Rays will probably carry 13 position players; the Bulls usually carry 12.

Catchers: At this time the Rays have 5 catchers on the 40-man and 7 in camp. Not to be too cynical about it, but if you’re trying to get a look at 31 pitchers, it takes a lot of catchers to warm them up. Gotta figure that neither Shoppach or Jaso is coming to Durham. Thus, we should be watching:
  • Nevin Ashley
  • Jose Lobaton
  • Robinson Chirinos
Infielders: The Rays have five very solid infielders on the 40-man, plus Ben Zobrist. Because of that, the 7 non-roster invitees are the ones to watch. With the exception of prospect Tim Beckham, you have to think that it’s either Durham or Bust for these guys:
  • Russ Canzler
  • J.J. Furmaniak
  • Casey Kotchman
  • Felipe Lopez
  • Daniel Mayora
  • Ray Olmedo
Outfielders: The Rays have 7 outfielders on their 40-man and room on their 25-man for at most 6, but more likely 5 (Manny Ramirez takes up the 13th slot). Johnny Damon, B.J. Upton, and Ben Zobrist have locks. Matt Joyce, who knows? So we might as well keep an eye on these guys:
  • Desmond Jennings
  • Sam Fuld
  • Brandon Guyer
  • Leslie Anderson
  • Chris Carter
  • Joe Inglett
  • Justin Ruggiano
A huge unknown in these deliberations is the nature of the ballplayers’ contracts. If the past is any example, at least a few of these guys will have “opt-out” contracts. That is, if they don’t make the 25-man Rays roster by a specific date, they can “opt-out” and sell themselves to another team. For others there may be no contract beyond spring training. In other words, a couple of these ballplayers could just disappear.

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