Spring Preview 2014: The Depth | The Process Report

Spring Preview 2014: The Depth

With the exhibition season opening this week, we’re concluding our preview of the roster segments. Today we’ll focus on the potential members of the roster likely to begin the season in the minors. The format is as follows:

Player name
Position
2013 role
Expected 2014 role
A brief breakdown of the player


Matt Andriese

Starter
Split 2013 between Triple-A and Double-A
Ought to spend at least the first half in Triple-A

Another piece of the Alex Torres return, Andriese is a possible no. 4 starter. He throws strikes with his sinker, splitter, and curveball and generates plenty of groundballs. His physicality suggests he could become an innings sponge, while his polish should lend itself to a quick ascent to the majors.

Jeff Beliveau
Reliever
Split 2013 between Double-A,  Triple-A, and the majors
Likely to start the season in Triple-A

The lefty struck out 76 batters while walking 22 in 44.2 innings of work for Durham last season. He has held lefties to a .211/.261/.284 slash line in the minors over the past three seasons and would be first in line to fill in for Cesar Ramos in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

Vince Belnome
Infielder
Spent 2013 in Triple-A and was the MVP of the Durham Bulls
Ought to spend at least the first half in Triple-A

Belnome has shown an excellent ability to accept his walks in the minors, and has a career .412 on base percentage over five seasons of minor league ball. The presence of Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez make it unlikely he breaks camp with the team, but his versatility (has played 1B, 2B, & 3B for Durham) will likely be called upon this season.

Wilson Betemit
DH/1B
Missed most of 2013 with knee injury
On a minor league deal, but can opt out before the season starts

Betemit is not yet in camp due to visa issues in the Dominican Republic. He is a switch hitter who is much more effective from the left side of the plate and would be a nice insurance policy in Durham should he not opt out of his current deal before the end of camp.

Brad Boxberger
Reliever
Split 2013 between Triple-A and the majors
Likely to start the season in Triple-A

Acquired in the Alex Torres trade, Boxberger has the potential to become a set-up man. For now, he’s probably heading to the minors in order to fine-tune his game. Boxberger has a solid three-pitch mix, but his glove-side command issues need to be smoothed out before he can fulfill his promise. Expect to see him before long.

Justin Chrisitan
Outfielder
Spent 2013 in Triple-A for the Cardinals
Becomes the new Jason Bourgeois in Durham

Christian will be 34 years old in a few weeks. He has 367 career steals in the minor leagues, and is someone who takes few walks but also does not strikeout much.

Alex Colome
Starter
Spent most of the season in Triple-A
Ought to start the season in Triple-A, though he should pitch in the majors at some point

Colome made his big-league debut last season, but saw his campaign end prematurely due to a shoulder issue. When healthy, the Dominican native shows the potential for four average or better pitches. Durability and command will determine Colome’s future role, but expect the Rays to give him every chance to make good as a starter.

James Darnell
Question mark
Missed most of the season due to injury
Who knows

Injuries have derailed Darnell’s once promising career. Though his health and talent level are unknown, there is an off-chance he returns to form and can contribute as a utility player. Given Darnell’s past experience on the infield and in the outfield, he’d fit the role well.

Nathan Karns
Starter
Spent 2013 with the Nationals, mostly in the minors
Likely to spend most of the season in Durham

A late bloomer – thanks in part to 2010 shoulder surgery – from Texas Tech, Karns made the leap from Double-A to the majors last season; making three spot starts for the Nationals. The Rays believed so heavily in his potential they swapped a backup catcher and a pair of top-20 prospects for the big righty. He is stocked with a mid-to-upper 90s with a power knuckle curve that is well above average. The development of a third pitch leaves his long-term role up for debate; however, he could help in the short-term one way or another.

Kevin Kiermaier
Outfielder
Split 2013 between Montgomery and Durham
Likely the first outfielder to be called up if needed

Kiermaier has two major-league appearances; both in the later stages of playoff games. Rated as the best defensive outfielder in the system, he should make his regular season debut in 2014. The glove and speed are legit enough to play as a fourth outfielder even if the bat lags behind.

Hak-Ju Lee
Shortstop
Missed most of 2013 recovering from knee surgery
Needs to make up for lost time at Durham

Lee was on his way to becoming one of the better prospects in baseball before a gruesome knee injury ended his season after a handful of games. With speed and defense as his calling cards, his projection remains in limbo until he proves the knee has not slowed him down. A line-drive hitter, he needs to show he can handle advanced stuff and sequencing if he’s going to bat in the top-half of a lineup.

Jeremy Moore
Outfielder
Split 2013 between Double-A and Triple-A for the Dodgers
Destination – Durham

Moore saw his prospect status fade in 2012 when he missed the entire season with hip surgery.  Before the injury, Moore showed decent pop and speed and was ranked as the 16th-best prospect in the Angels system.

Mike Montgomery
Starter
Spent 2013 in Durham
Will return to Durham in 2014

Montgomery was ranked as a top 50 overall prospect three times by Baseball America while in the Kansas City system, but did not show that potential last year. A less than impressive debut in Durham followed by mediocre reports out of the Arizona Fall League on his stuff cloud his future. He turns 24 at the midway point of this season, so he will have time to continue improving with Neil Allen in Durham.

Jayson Nix
Utility Player
Spent 2013 filling in various holes along the Yankees’ infield
Bench player or depth in Durham

The right-handed Nix brother was a stop gap along the Yankees’ leaky infield last season. The light-hitting infielder made 74 starts for New York where his defense was adequate enough to continue playing on the left side of second base. He is strictly a short-side platoon bat where he can hold his own versus southpaws. If he claims a spot on the Rays’ bench he will likely be asked to diversify his defensive portfolio.

C.J. Riefenhauser
Left-handed reliever
Split 2013 between Montgomery and Durham
Could be the de facto third lefty while honing craft in Triple-A

The former starter converted to relief full-time last season and flourished in his new role. Armed with a low-90s fastball, a tilting upper-70s slider, a changeup to combat the platoon split, Riefenhauser was added to the 40-man roster this winter to ward off Rule 5 poachers. His delivery is balanced with decent posture. This gives him solid command and control. It would be an upset if he didn’t pitch for the Rays at some point in 2014.

Enny Romero
Starter
Spent the season in the minors before making a spot-start in September
Should spend most of the year in Durham

Romero is arguably the best prospect in the system thanks to two premium pitches, in his fastball and breaking ball. Like most young pitchers, his command and changeup will dictate how far he goes as a starter. There’s enough depth ahead of Romero to think he might not make his second career big-league start until 2015, but the Rays could call upon him late in the season as a bullpen weapon.

Jerry Sands
Outfielder/First baseman
Spent 2013 in Triple-A (Pirates)
Right-handed depth in Durham

A former prospect in the Dodgers’ system, Sands is now looking for employment on a year-to-year basis. The power he once showed in the Pacific Coast League has evaporated and he doesn’t have the hit tool to provide much value otherwise. His limitations extend into the field where he’s playable at first base and left field. He’ll need to find his lost pop if he wants to shed the Quad-A label.

Roman Ali Solis/Eddy Rodriguez/Curt Casali
Catcher
Should spend time in Durham

Pick a third catcher. They’re all defensive-minded backstops who would stand in if Molina or Hanigan suffer an injury.

Kirby Yates
Reliever
Spent 2013 in the back-end of Durham’s bullpen
Likely to do the same in 2014

The younger brother of Tyler continued to post gaudy strikeout numbers as he advanced to the highest level of the minor leagues. With a delivery that includes descriptors like “ass-before-elbows” he relies on a deceptive motion to make up for a lack of top-shelf stuff. He lives in the low-90s with a good slider, and like Riefenhauser, the makings of an off-speed pitch to help battle the opposite hand. There are a few others ahead of him on the depth chart, but he should see time in Tampa Bay.



2 Comments

  1. buddaley wrote:

    Would you agree that there is some legitimate, if guarded, optimism that Casali could be a decent offensive player?

  2. Tommy Rancel wrote:

    Of all the options, he has the most upside. We’ll see if the on-base stuff continues as he sees advanced sequencing and stuff.

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