Camp Preview 2015: The Infielders
With the season nearing, it’s time to preview the Rays’ roster, unit by unit. Here’s the schedule:
Monday – Infielders
Tuesday – Outfielders
Wednesday – Rotation
Thursday – Bullpen
Friday – Depth pieces and minor leaguers
A surprise winter addition, the switch-hitting Cabrera should help fill the offensive hole left behind by Ben Zobrist. He tends to pitch in with a decent average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. It’s unclear where he’ll play defensively, though second base is his better position.
Casali lived up the reputation of being a solid defensive backstop. Having never played above AA prior to 2014, he handled himself well as a receiver with the major league staff. Those they relied on minor league numbers for an offensive projection were disappointed and he showed little to suggest stark improvement. Defense-first catchers have a use and if Casali can swing a slightly better stick he could carve out a part-time position instead of a contractors role.
Somedays second baseman
Forsythe returns for his second season in Tampa Bay. On the bright side, he produced against lefties, played more than competent defense, and remained healthy. On the not-so-bright side, he didn’t perform against righties. Expect Kevin Cash to manipulate his plate appearances so he faces mostly lefties.
Acquired July 31 in the David Price trade, Franklin spent the bulk of his time helping the Durham Bulls playoff push rather than assisting Tampa Bay in their fourth place finish. He made is Rays’ debut in September but Franklin’s value is still perception and upside. A fluid swing from the left-side leads his offensive side while a rigid hack from the right may hold him back. Defensively he is playable on either side of second base especially in the Rays’ shifting scheme. The comparisons to Ben Zobrist are inevitable and unfair; however, Franklin has some tools to become a good Nick Franklin.
Designated hitter/first baseman
Returns to the Eastern Bay Area after several seasons on the West Coast. The former Rays’ catcher was re-acquired for his bat. He will carry a glove as an accessory item and keep his catcher’s mitt behind glass in case of emergency. Altering stances, he shows more pop than the previous version while maintaining control of the zone. He assumes Matt Joyce’s role in the lineup as a middle-of-the-order piece versus right-handers and somewhere in the middle of the bench against southpaws.
Expect the same old from Loney: good bat-to-ball and on-base skills joined to a quality glove at the cold corner.
Apparently as Longoria goes so do the Rays. The franchise player turned in his worst performance to date and left column in the standings followed. Having shed the injury-prone label (he played in 322 of possible 324 regular-season games over the past two years), no one could put a finger on just what went wrong in 2014. The numbers across were down at the plate as was the rate of high-level defensive plays and seemingly some lost confidence. There appeared to be attempts to alter stance and approach but to no avail. Sometimes not having all the answers is not a bad thing, and unless the Monstars returned to Earth and zapped his talent, Longoria should rebound.
Acquired in the Wil Myers trade, Rivera earns his keep on the defensive end. He grades as a quality receiver, thrower, and goalie behind the plate. The outlook isn’t as sweet at the plate. Rivera’s pull-side power is his best attribute, yet it’s undercut by a hitch in his swing and an aggressive approach.