Rays Setting Up Competition For Bench Spot

The Rays Have A Number Of Players Ready To Battle For Roster Spot

With a little over a month before pitchers and catchers report, the Rays have most of the roster that will be taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on April 1st written in ink.

Barring injuries, the starting catcher will be Ryan Hanigan, from first to third the infield will include James Loney, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar, and Evan Longoria. The outfield includes David DeJesus, Desmond Jennings, and Wil Myers and against most right handed pitchers the designated hitter should be Matt Joyce.

The bench includes backup catcher Jose Molina and infield/outfield Sean Rodriguez. The team had hoped the former #1 pick Tim Beckham, who had an excellent finish in Triple-A Durham and debuted with the team in September, was ready to assume a role as the teams utility infielder. Unfortunately he suffered a major setback when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament working out this winter and will most likely miss the 2014 season.

Most American League teams carry 13-position players and 12-pitchers on their 25-man rosters. Currently the Rays have two openings on their bench and have a number of candidates that will be competing when the position players report to Port Charlotte on February 19th.

The Rays may still fill one of the roster openings on the free agent market and have been linked to (among others) is right handed power hitting 1b/DH Mark Reynolds. The Rays are not against waiting for the market to drop for players they are interested in. Last winter the team did not sign Luke Scott until February 5th.

Subject to change based on trades or free agent signings, the main players that will be vying for either the last spot (or possibly two) are Brandon Guyer, Vince Belnome, Jayson Nix, and Jerry Sands.

Brandon Guyer

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Guyer was acquired from the Chicago Cubs along with Sam Fuld, Chris Archer, and Robinson Chirinos in the Matt Garza deal in January 2011. The highlight of his career with the Rays, which due to injury includes only 18 games and 50 plate appearances, was hitting a home run in his first major league plate appearance (link).

He spent the 2013 coming back from shoulder surgery that cut his 2012 season short. He put up impressive numbers with the Durham Bulls hitting .301/.374/.458 adding in 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts. Additionally, he played 96 games in the outfield with 41 games in right field and 29 games in center field and left field .  His season was once again cut short in late July when he was hit by a pitch resulting in a fractured his finger.

He is out of options and will have to make the Rays 25-man roster or be exposed to waivers in order to assign him to the minor leagues. Unless he is traded or is injured again in  spring training he is in the best position to land one of the Rays final roster spots.

Vince Belnome

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Last December the Rays acquired the left handed hitting Belnome from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league reliever Chris Rearick who had been named the organizations top reliever two years in a row.

He spent 2013 with the Durham Bulls and posted an impressive slash line of .300/.408/.446 with 35 doubles, 3 triples, and 8 home runs. He also displayed great plate discipline drawing 84 walks while striking out 109 times in 533 plate appearances.

He has the ability to play first base, second base, or third base. In 2013 appeared in 63 games at first base, 32 games at third base, and 13 games at second base.

He may not be a favorite to break spring training on the 25-man roster but his position on the 40-man roster and having options remaining puts him in a good position to possibly see big league action at some point during the 2014 season.

Jayson Nix

The Rays signed Nix for his ability to play all over the infield, including shortstop, and his track record for being able to hit left-handed pitching. In parts of six seasons he has a slash line of .244/.320/.407 against left handed pitchers while struggling against right handed pitching hitting just .204/.272/.329.

He has appeared in 179 games at third base, 121 games at second base, 83 games at shortstop, and 17 games in left field. The contract to Nix is a minor league deal and will most likely include an opt-out option either at the end of spring training or language that if another team can add him to their 25-man roster that the Rays afford him his release.

With the current makeup of the club there is an opportunity for him to be added to the 40-man roster during spring training and to break camp with the team.

Jerry Sands 

The right handed hitting first base/outfielder Sands was designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates and subsequently claimed off waivers by the Rays on December 23rd. When the Rays signed left handed reliever Pedro Figueroa in early January they designated him for assignment.

He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham and will report to Port Charlotte as a non-roster invitee.

In parts of two seasons with the Dodgers he hit .244/.325/.376 spanning 251 plate appearances. He primarily was a corner outfielder with the Dodgers appearing in 70 games in right field/left field and also appeared in seven games at first base.

The last two years have been a roller coaster for Sands. He finished the 2012 season with the Dodgers but after the season was one of two players to be named later sent to the Boston Red Sox to complete the big Dodger & Red Sox trade in August of 2012.  His stay with the Red Sox was short as he was sent along with Ivan De Jesus, Mark Melancon, and Stolmy Pimentel to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a December 23rd in exchange for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt.

He spent the 2013 season with the Pirates Triple-A affiliate where he had a very disappointing season hitting just .207/.311/.329 with just 7 home runs in 397 plate appearances. For reference, in 2012 with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate he hit .296/.375/.524 with 26 homers in 522 plate appearances.

He’ll have an opportunity to battle for a 25-man roster spot but will be firmly behind Guyer, Belnome, and Nix.

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