Friday, February 8, 2013

Who Should Durham Bulls Fans Watch This Spring?

Spring is Almost Here!
Four days from now the pitchers and catchers report for Rays Spring Training in Port Charlotte, Florida. Who should we be watching?

The 2013 Durham Bulls will be built almost entirely from the the players on the Rays 40-man roster and the 24 players on the non-roster invitation list. The Rays need to get down to 25 players at the end of Spring Training. The Bulls usually carry *(see update note) 25 players on their roster. So, just to demonstrate my extraordinary skills at arithmetic: 64 guys in Spring Training, 50 jobs — 14 guys are not going to be in either a Rays or Bulls uniform come April. 

The non-roster invitees are an interesting class of ballplayer. Some are youngsters at Spring Training to get a “taste” of the big leagues (e.g., Mark Thomas), some are players with a good bit of big league time trying to crack into the 40-man (e.g., Shelley Duncan), others are “players in waiting” the Rays have kept off the 40-man, but who will surely go to the majors some day, perhaps even by the end of Spring Training (e.g., Wil Myers), and some are AAA professionals who might be able to fill at some time next year and whom the Rays want keep looking at (e.g., Leslie Anderson and Rich Thompson). Some have contracts that have room for re-negotiation at the end of Spring Training and/or mid-season.

Once Spring Training starts we will start seeing box scores of the major league teams, but nobody will be covering the minor league training camp unless Stacy Long of the Montgomery Advertiser decides to visit. That will not matter too much to us because an oddity of Spring Training is that, for Bulls fans, most of the action is over in the big league camp. 

Who should we be watching? Lets take it position-by-position. Players in bold spent some time in Durham last year. Players with an asterisk are on the 40-man.

Catchers

Initially the Rays will have seven catchers in camp, but they will eventually get down to two to start the season. Why so many? Because they start camp with 34(!) pitchers. As the pitchers drop off the roster, so will the catchers.
  • *Robinson Chirinos. Chirinos suffered a concussion at 2012 Spring Training and is still recovering. He played some winter league ball. Best guess, the Bulls or the Biscuits as he continues to recover.
  • *Chris Gimenez. The Rays #3 catcher this year. Maybe with the Bulls early on.
  • *Steven Vogt. Likely his last shot to get some traction with the Rays as a catcher. Else he will move to 1B or outfield. In the meantime he’s more than good enough to work with these platoons of pitchers.
  • Mark Thomas. Getting his taste. Likely to start year in Montgomery.
  • Craig Albernaz. Hard to say where he will end up. Albernaz seems to be functioning more as a playing coach than a catcher these last couple of years. Possibly Durham. I hope so. I like watching him at work.
Infielders

Even though the Rays dropped two infielders last week, they still have 10 on the 40-man and 5 more on the NRI list. Who should Bulls fans be watching this Spring?
  • *Tim Beckham spent all of last year with the Bulls (except for his unfortunate sequestration in the Coventry of drug rehabilitation). I’m guessing he will be competing for a 2B job back with the Bulls.
  • *Hak-Ju Lee is getting a taste and is likely to be the Bulls starting shortstop.
  • Leslie Anderson got a last minute invitation. Probable Bull.
  • Cole Figueroa and Shawn O’Malley are both well-liked by WDBB. Hope they make it back to Durham.
  • Mike Fontenot spent last year with the Phillies and the Iron Pigs. 
Outfielders

The Rays outfield lacks depth, so this could be an interesting list to watch. Much depends on Brandon Guyer’s health. At least one of these players has a shot at staying with the Rays. All of the rest could end up in Durham. Note that none are on 40-man and only one has played as a Bull. However, both Stephen Vogt and Leslie Anderson on other lists have spent time at outfielders for the Bulls.
  • Rich Thompson. Terrific outfielder. Should be back with the Bulls.
  • Wil Myers. On a lot of top prospect lists. Will be getting a ton of attention in the press and on Rays blogs.
  • Shelley Duncan. Strong guy. Struggled last year with Cleveland. 
  • Jason Bourgeois. Another player new to Rays system. Could be fun to watch. Probable Bull.
  • Nick Weglarz. Young, interesting guy out of Indians system.
Pitchers

How can I possibly guess about these guys? Especially the relievers. Here’s one list of starters that strikes me as plausible. All of these guys could be fun to watch. (Well, most of them...)
  • *Chris Archer. Has a shot to jump to the Rays rotation early.
  • *Jake Odorizzi. New guy. Great rep.
  • *Alex Colome and *Matt Buschmann. We’ve seen them. We like them.
  • *Alexander Torres. Will someone figure him out and unlock the puzzle? We can hope.

Relievers? Sorry all I can do is say that there are a couple of guys we’ve seen and liked on both 40-man and NRI list. Such as:
  • Jim Paduch
  • Marquis Fleming
  • Adam Liberatore
There are many, many more relievers in camp, but we just don’t know much about them and, to be honest, we’re too lazy to figure it out at this early date. 

*UPDATE: A careful reader has pointed out that, as simple as it was, I still got my math wrong. The Bulls can carry 25, not 24, players on their roster. 

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