Saturday, February 18, 2012

Getting Ready for Spring Training

I will be out of pocket for a couple of weeks and Rays’ pitchers and catchers report on Monday the 20th. To try to get ahead of the curve just a little bit, here’s my judgement on what Durham Bulls fans should be watching for on the Rays’ blogs and Tampa Bay area newspapers once Grapefruit League box scores start being published.

We need to get our heads around two long lists, the 40-man roster, and the non-roster invitees. Very likely that all of the Bulls will be coming off of those lists. The non-roster list just had three players added to it, outfielders Brad Coon and Jeff Salazar, and catcher Chris Gimenez.

It’s the non-roster invitees we Bulls fans should keep an eye on, because those are the guys who 1) we may not have seen before and 2) could easily show up in Durham this year. Of the 19 players on the list, we saw only five of them last year. Since they are all signed to minor league contracts the Rays have to place them somewhere in the system and certainly they wouldn’t invite them to spring training if they didn’t think they could play at least at the AAA level.

An exception would be the catchers on the list. That’s simply arithmetic. At the beginning of spring training the Rays have 30 pitchers in camp. Somebody’s got to warm them up. No surprise that there are 8 catchers in camp, but a couple will probably start the year in Montgomery.

The odds of a non-roster invitee breaking into the Rays’ 25-man list (or even the 40-man) aren’t very good. But you can bet that one or two of them are going to shine and create one of those problems the Rays front office probably loves.

So, my advice is keep cross-checking the non-roster invitees against the box scores and see who’s getting playing time. That could be a clue.

Minor league camp opens on March 3 and we will start seeing reports of a player being sent “to the minors.” Very likely it will be one of the non-roster invitees and it’s quite likely he will show up in a Bulls (or Biscuits) uniform. Unfortunately, no one is reporting on that activity with the possible exception of the Montgomery Advertiser’s Stacy Long (or possibly one the the guys over at Rays Prospects who apparently lives nearby).  So, keep an eye on Stacy’s blog (it's on the sidebar).

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