All-DBAP Team: Shortstop Finalists

AllDBAP-ShortStop-Article

After Evan Longoria took home All-DBAP Team honors at the Hot Corner last week, we’re down to our final infield position this week at shortstop. Of the three finalists, two spent considerable time in a Rays uniform, while the other is attempting to join the Big League club this spring.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Tim Beckham

Tim Beckham was the everyday shortstop for the 2013 Governors Cup champions

Tim Beckham, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, has spent time with the Bulls in each of the past four seasons, despite entering this season at age 25. Since his promotion to Durham towards the end of the 2011 campaign, he’s appeared in 233 games for the Bulls, including 122 back in 2013 when he set a career-high with a .276 batting average. That season, he was the everyday shortstop for the Governors’ Cup champion team, while also swiping 17 bases. As a September call up that season, he appeared in five games for Tampa Bay, the only five games of his Major League career. His 2014 season was shortened considerably, after tearing his ACL prior to the start of the season.

Career Numbers with Durham: .266-15-96, 131 R in 233 games (2011-2014)

MLB Career: .429-0-1, 1 R in 5 games (2013)

B.J. Upton

BJ Upton was one of the IL's best players in 2005, hitting .303-18-74 with 44 steals

BJ Upton was one of the IL’s best players in 2005, hitting .303-18-74 with 44 steals

BJ Upton (who in case you missed it now goes by Melvin) spent parts of three seasons in the Bull City from 2004-2006. Over that span he was a dangerous combination of power and speed, cracking 38 homers and swiping 107 bases. In 2005 he totaled the third-most hits in a single season in Durham’s Triple-A history (165), the fourth-most runs (98) and the third-most stolen bases (44). He spent the first eight seasons of his big league career with Tampa Bay, before signing with Atlanta as a free agent prior to the 2013 season.

Career Numbers with Durham: .294-38-152, 236 R in 316 games (2004-2006, rehab in 2007)

MLB Career: .243-139-508, 636 R in 1,233 games (2004, 2006-2014)

Ben Zobrist

A quiet, consistent player, Ben Zobrist tallied 109 hits in 99 games in his Durham career

A quiet, consistent player, Ben Zobrist tallied 109 hits in 99 games in his Durham career

After he was traded by the Astros to the Rays for Aubrey Huff during the 2006 season, Ben Zobrist was the Ben Zobrist Rays fans came to love, as he was a productive, consistent, underrated player over parts of three seasons in Durham. Though he totaled fewer than 100 games with the Bulls he accumulated 109 hits, with 34 going for extra bases. Before he was traded to the A’s this offseason, “Zorilla” was a two-time All-Star with the Rays, while playing 150 games or more five times in in six full seasons at the major league level.

Career Numbers with Durham: .301-11-41, 69 R in 99 games (2006-2008)

MLB Career: .264-114-511, 565 R in 1,064 games (2006-2014)

Cast your vote here.

Next Week: Outfield

All-DBAP Team: Third Base Finalists

AllDBAP-ThirdBase-Article-Revised

With three positions in the books, we make our way to the Hot Corner, where an IL Rookie of the Year, perennial MLB All-Star and one of the best power hitters in Bulls history square off for a spot on the All-DBAP Team.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment on Facebook with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Aubrey Huff

Huff2

Aubrey Huff was named the 2000 International League Rookie of the Year

Aubrey Huff spent parts of three seasons in Durham in the early 2000s, appearing in 157 games from 2000 to 2002. However, 108 of those appearances came in 2000, when he was named International League Rookie of the Year after hitting .316-20-76 while also ranking fourth on the circuit with 36 doubles. In the big leagues, Huff enjoyed a successful career, hitting 20 homers or more seven times, and winning World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and 2012.

Career Numbers with Durham: .315-26-106, 105 R in 157 games (2000-2002)

Major League Career: .278-242-904, 806 R in 1,681 games (2000-2012)

Evan Longoria

Longoria 6

Evan Longoria has been a staple at third base for the Rays after his time in Durham

Admittedly, Evan Longoria’s time in Durham was short-lived. In 2007 he made a brief stop in the Bull City, appearing in 31 games, batting .269-5-19. The next season he opened the year with the Bulls, but was promoted after just seven games, and has played just 10 games for the Bulls since, all on rehab. It’s what Longoria’s done at the next level that earns him a spot on this list, as in his seven-year MLB career, he’s finished in the Top 10 of the MVP race three times, been named an All-Star three times, won the 2008 Rookie of the Year and won a pair of Gold Gloves.

Career Numbers with Durham: .245-5-23, 21 R in 48 games (2007-2008, 2012)

Major League Career: .271-184-635, 554 R in 959 games (2008-2014)

Scott McClain

Scott McClain

Scott McClain, pictured here in Spring Training in 1998, hit 62 homers in a Durham uniform

Scott McClain was a regular in the Bulls’ lineup in their first two seasons at the Triple-A level (1998, 1999), providing some of the best power numbers in back-to-back seasons in Bulls history. In 1998 he ranked second in the league in both HR (34) and RBIs (109), while in 1999 he ranked third (28) and fifth (105), respectively. Despite batting .275 and hitting 252 homers over 11 years at the Triple-A level, he appeared in just 44 games over four different seasons in the majors.

Career Numbers with Durham: .274-62-213, 197 R in 263 games (1998-1999)

Major League Career: .192-2-8, 11 R in 44 games (1998, 2005, 2007-2008)

Cast your vote here.

Next Week: Shortstop

All-DBAP Team: Second Base Finalists

AllDBAP-SecondBAse-Article

With two positions down (Catcher & First Base), we continue to move our way around the infield with three finalists at second base. This trio features a second baseman from the early 2000’s,  the most current Bull to appear as a finalist to this point and a Durham mainstay in the late 2000’s.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Brooks Badeaux

Badeaux 13 Fleming

Brooks Badeaux was part of Durham’s back-to-back championship teams in 2002 and 2003

From 2000-2005 Brooks Badeaux spent significant time in the Bull City, playing for Durham in 2000 and then again from 2002-2005. A consistent player, his best season came in 2004 when he hit .326 and posted a .377 on-base percentage. Additionally, he was a member of both the 2002 and 2003 Governors’ Cup champion squads, the first two Triple-A titles in Durham history.

Career Numbers with Durham: .262-7-83, 137 R in 326 games (2000, 2002-2005)

Cole Figueroa

Figgy

Cole Figueroa was one of the Bulls’ most consistent players from 2012-2014, playing 288 games

When you play for Charlie Montoyo, players tend to get used in super-utility roles. In his time with the Bulls from 2012-2014, Figueroa played second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. So, we’ll place him at his natural position of second base. Over those three seasons “Figgy” was a solid as they come, hitting at least .282 each season, while posting an on-base percentage of at least .344 each year. Perhaps most impressively, in 1,192 plate appearances with Durham he struck out just 81 times (compared to 119 walks), or once every 14.7 plate appearances. In 2014 he made his Major League debut, appearing in 23 games with the Rays.

Career Numbers with Durham: .285-8-137, 130 R in 288 games (2012-2014)

Major League Career: .233-0-6, 6 R in 23 games (2014)

Elliot Johnson

Johnson 14

Elliot Johnson spent parts of five years in a Durham uniforms, tallying 396 hits

Appearing in 410 games in a Bulls uniform, Elliot Johnson was an anchor in Charlie Montoyo’s lineup for parts of five seasons, including the team’s National Championship campaign in 2009. On three occasions he hit double-digit home runs and stole at least 15 bases, while also eclipsing 100 hits twice. His best year came in 2010 when he hit .319-11-56 with 30 stolen bases en route to being named an International League Postseason All-Star. He spent the first 11 seasons of his career in the Rays system, appearing in 200 games with Tampa Bay before he was traded as part of the James Shields/Wil Myers deal in December of 2012.

Career Numbers with Durham: .261-42-186, 209 R in 410 games (2007-2011)

Major League Career: .215-12-69, 80 R in 318 games (2008, 2011-2014)

Cast your vote here.

Next Week: Third Base

All-DBAP Team: First Base Finalists

AllDBAP-FirstBase-Article

Our second set of finalists comes at first base, which has proven to be a prolific position among Bulls over the past 20 seasons. Of these four finalists, three took home International League MVP honors, while the fourth enjoyed a 450-game career in a Durham uniform.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Steve Cox

Cox

Steve Cox was named the league MVP in 1999 at the age of 24

Just 23 years old when he made his debut for the Bulls in 1998, Steve Cox was a force in the International League for the better part of two seasons. That ’98 season he hit 13 homers and drove in 67, but in 1999 he was far and away the league’s best player, winning MVP honors after hitting .341-25-127 in 134 games. That year, he led the league in hits (182), runs (107), doubles (49) and RBI (127), all of which are also Durham Triple-A single-season records. He spent parts of four seasons with the Rays in the big leagues, before returning to Durham in 2005 and appearing in 25 games before retiring.

Career Numbers with Durham: .296-41-203, 178 R in 272 games (1998-1999, 2005)

Major League Career: .262-39-158, 146 R in 378 games (1999-2002)

Dan Johnson

DJ

Dan Johnson spent parts of three years in Durham, winning the 2010 MVP award

Dan Johnson, who split 2014 between Triple-A Buffalo and Toronto, appeared in 304 games for the Bulls between 2008, 2010 and 2011. 2010 proved to be his finest season, winning the league MVP award after hitting .303-30-95 in 98 games. That year he led the league in homers (30), on-base percentage (.430), slugging percentage (.624) and walks (75), and ranked second in RBIs (95). His most notable moment in the Rays system though came in the final regular season game in 2011, when his 2-out, 9th-inning home run kept the Rays’ season alive en route to the postseason.

Career Numbers with Durham: .295-68-230, 203 R in 304 games (2008, 2010-2011)

Major League Career: .236-57-201, 178 R in 431 games (2005-2008, 2010-2014)

Chris Richard

Richard

Chris Richard spent four seasons in Durham, playing 450 games and clubbing 84 home runs

Chris Richard spent the final four seasons of his career in the Tampa Bay system, playing for the Bulls each year from 2007-2010. He appeared in at least 100 games each season, while tallying at least 20 homers on three difference occasions. Richard is the franchise’s all-time Triple-A leader in home runs (84), RBIs (299) and doubles (117). His last Major League service came in 2009, when he appeared in 13 games for the Rays.

Career Numbers with Durham: .286-84-299, 269 runs in 450 games (2007-2010)

Major League Career: .255-34-122, 132 runs in 280 games (2000-2003, 2009)

Kevin Witt

Witt

Kevin Witt was named the 2006 I.L. MVP after leading Minor League Baseball with 36 home runs

Kevin Witt spent just one season in Durham, but made it memorable by winning the 2006 IL MVP award. That year he batted .291-36-99, leading the circuit in homers (36), RBIs (99), slugging percentage (.577) and extra-base hits (66), while ranking second in runs scored (82). Additionally, his 36 dingers led all of Minor League Baseball, and following the season he was named a Triple-A All-Star by Baseball America.

Career Numbers with Durham: .291-36-99, 82 runs in 128 games (2006)

Major League Career: .233-15-41, 38 runs in 146 games (1998-1999, 2001, 2003, 2005)

Next Week: Second Base

Winter Updates, Spring Training Invites

Yesterday the Rays announced the signing of three players to minor league contracts, as well as a list of internal candidates the team will be inviting to Major League Spring Training. Tampa Bay officially announced the signing of RHP Ronald Belisario, INF Alexi Casilla and LHP Robert Zarate, and all three also received an invite to MLB Spring. Additionally, the club offered MLB Spring Training invitations to minor leaguers RHP Andrew Bellatti, INF Vince Belnome, RHP Dylan Floro, RHP Brandon Gomes, C Luke Maile, INF/OF Taylor Motter, OF Boog Powell and INF Daniel Robertson.

Belisario, 32, has logged 335 relief appearances since his rookie year of 2009, going 24-20 with a 3.75 ERA for his career. He went 4-8 with a 5.56 ERA a season ago for the White Sox over 62 games.

Casilla, 30, has spent parts of nine seasons at the Major League level, playing for the Minnesota Twins from 2006-2012 and the Baltimore Orioles from 2013-2014. Bulls fans might recognize the name, as he’s also appeared in 212 International League contests since 2007 between Rochester (MIN) and Norfolk (BAL).

Zarate, 28, makes his return to the States after pitching the 2012 and 2013 seasons in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers. He pitched for three seasons (2006-2008) in the Toronto Blue Jays’ system, but has not pitched in the U.S. since he was a member of the 2008 Gulf Coast League Blue Jays as a 21-year-old.

Bellatti, 23, spent the entire 2014 regular season with Double-A Montgomery, posting a 3.68 ERA over 46 relief outings. He joined Durham for the Governors’ Cup playoffs but did not appear in a game.

Belnome. 26, has been a Durham mainstay for the past two seasons, appearing in 245 games. In 2013 he was an IL Midseason and Postseason All-Star, and last year made his ML debut by appearing in four games for the Rays over three separate stints.

Floro, 24, went 11-13 with a 3.48 ERA in 28 starts for Double-A Montgomery in 2014. He ranked among Southern League leaders in starts (T-1st), innings pitched (1st, 178.2) and ERA (10th). Following the season, Baseball America ranked him as having the best control in the Southern League.

Gomes, 30, split 2014 between Durham and Tampa Bay. Over three stints with the Rays he appeared in 29 games, while making 27 appearances for the Bulls. All 110 of his Major League outings have come with the Rays in relief over the past four seasons.

Maile, 23, spent the entire 2014 regular season with Double-A Montgomery before joining Durham in the postseason. With the Biscuits he earned Southern League Midseason All-Star honors, batting .268-5-37 in 97 games, while going 3-for-17 for the Bulls in the playoffs.

Motter, 25, was a Southern League Midseason and Postseason All-Star with Double-A Montgomery, batting .274-16-61 in 119 games. Defensively, he tallied 24 outfield assists, one shy of the league record set in 1967.

Powell, 22, acquired in the trade that sent Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the Athletics, split the 2014 season between Single-A Beloit and Advanced-A Stockton, batting a combined .343 and posting a .451 on-base percentage, both tops among Oakland farmhands.

Robertson, 20, was acquired from Oakland in the same deal as Powell, and hit .310-15-60 in 132 games for Advanced-A Stockton in 2014. Ranked by MLB.com as the No. 9 prospect among all shortstops, he was promoted to Double-A Midland for their Texas League postseason run.

All-DBAP Team: Catcher Finalists

AllDBAP-Catchers-Article This week kicks off the fan voting for the All-DBAP Team, and we open it up with the catcher position. This threesome features a player who enjoyed a 17-year major league career (but none with Tampa Bay), an International League MVP and a guy who’s (back) with the Rays.

After taking a glance at our finalists below, remember to vote for who you think is most-deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP Team by voting on the Bulls’ Facebook page. Simply leave a comment with the name of your selection on the official finalist announcement post and you’re done!

Pat Borders

Borders Blog

Pat Borders spent parts of two seasons in Durham, playing in 183 games between 2000 and 2001

A 17-year major league veteran when he hung up his spikes, Pat Borders was already 37-years-old when he first came to Durham in 2000. That didn’t stop the Florida native from putting up a big season though, hitting .273-12-55 while playing 96 games. The next season, at the age of 38, his offense production slowed down some, hitting to a tune of .236-2-28. However, over his two years in the Bull City he was one of the premier defensive catchers in the league, throwing out 53-of-114 runners attempting to steal (46%).

Career Numbers with Durham: .260-14-83, 40 R in 183 games (2000-2001)

Major League Career: .253-69-346, 289 R in 1,099 games (1988-2005)

Toby Hall

Hall Blog

Toby Hall was named the 2001 International League MVP

Toby Hall, who was teammates with Pat Borders in Durham in 2000 and 2001, made his last stop in Durham in 2002, though only appearing in 22 games that season. Over his three seasons in a Bulls uniform Hall was dominant, hitting .304 in 2000, .335 in 2001 and .348 over his short stint in 2002. The California product’s best season came in 2001 though, when he was named International League MVP after hitting .335-19-72 in 94 games split between catcher and DH. Defensively he was solid as well, throwing out 28-of-82 runners attempting to steal over his three seasons (34%). At the major league level, he appeared in parts of seven seasons for Tampa Bay, before splitting the last two and a half years of his career between the Dodgers and the White Sox.

Career Numbers with Durham: .328-28-127, 93 runs in 163 games (2000-2002)

Major League Career: .262-46-269, 211 runs in 686 games (2000-2008)

John Jaso

Jaso Blog

John Jaso anchored the pitching staff of the 2009 Triple-A National Champions

John Jaso, the most recent Bulls player out of our three catcher finalists, made his Durham debut at the end of the 2008 season, before spending the entire 2009 campaign in the Bull City. That season, at just 25-years-old, the backstop hit .266-5-30 while catching 98 games for a pitching staff that boasted the fourth-best ERA in the International League (3.75) and captured the franchise’s lone Triple-A National Championship. In “The Show,” Jaso has been one of the more consistent catchers of the past five seasons, and returned to Tampa Bay this offseason via a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

Career Numbers with Durham: .271-10-60, 59 runs in 171 games (2008-2009, rehab in 2010 and 2011)

Major League Career: .259-32-182, 199 runs in 480 games (2008-2014)

Honorable Mention: Craig Albernaz, Kevin Cash

NEXT WEEK: FIRST BASE

All-DBAP Team Voting 101

AllDBAP-Team-Article

Wednesday, the Bulls unveiled plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Durham Bulls Athletic Park this season. An interactive feature for fans for the preseason is the All-DBAP team, which will be decided by fan voting. Below is all you need to know about the voting process.

  • Starting February 2nd and running through March 30th, each Monday the Bulls will post a group of finalists at a certain position on the team’s Facebook page. A full schedule of when each position will be posted can be found at the bottom of this page.
  • Accompanying each Facebook announcement on Monday will be a “Hit Bull Win Blog” post, making a case for each of the finalists.
  • Once posted to Facebook, fans can vote in the “Comments” section for who they feel is most deserving of a spot on the All-DBAP team at that position.
  • On Friday of each week, the Bulls will announce who the fans have selected via Facebook.
  • There will be just one Starting Pitcher and one Relief Pitcher selected.
  • Voting for the Outfield will take place during one week, as the Bulls will announce a larger group of finalists that week (with three winners) as to not show bias between left fielders, center fielders or right fielders.

All-DBAP Team Announcement Schedule

Week of February 2nd: Catcher

Week of February 9th: First Base

Week of February 16th: Second Base

Week of February 23: Third Base

Week of March 2nd: Shortstop

Week of March 9th: Outfield

Week of March 16th: Starting Pitcher

Week of March 23rd: Relief Pitcher

Week of March 30: Manager

Jared Sandberg Fast Facts

The wait is over. Today, the Bulls announced Jared Sandberg as their new manager, taking over for Charlie Montoyo who was promoted to the Rays as third base coach in December. Here you’ll find a snapshot of the new Bulls skipper, who suited up for Durham over parts of five seasons. Sandberg Fast Facts Blog

Additional Additions

Last week, the Rays announced the signing of five players to minor league contracts, with each receiving an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Also last week we brought you an in-depth look at who could open the 2015 season in Durham, and each of these five players could see time in the Bull City as well.

C Mayo Acosta: Acosta, 27, has spent each of his eight seasons in the Rays system, and was re-signed by the ball club this offseason. He spent 2014 with Durham, appearing in 30 games. For his career he’s a .232 hitter, and has thrown out 39.9% of runners attempting to steal.

INF Joey Butler: Butler, 28, split the 2014 season between three teams, appearing in games for the St. Louis Cardinals, Triple-A Memphis and the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. He’s appeared in 14 MLB games over the past two seasons, making his ML debut in 2013 with Texas (8 games) and St. Louis (6 games). While a member of the Texas system, he was an MiLB.com Organization All-Star in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

INF Juan Francisco: Francisco, 27, has appeared in the major leagues each of the past six seasons between Cincinnati (2009-11), Atlanta (2012-13), Milwaukee (2013) and Toronto (2014). A career .236 hitter in the Bigs, the Dominican native has posted a career line of .287-114-430 in 615 minor league games.

RHP Jhan Mariñez: Mariñez, 26, appeared in four games for the Florida Marlins in 2010, and then notched two appearances for the Chicago White Sox in 2012. The Dominican has spent the majority of his career in the minors, splitting 2014 between the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate (Chattanooga) and Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate (Toledo).

LHP Everett Teaford: Teaford, 30, appeared in 45 games over three seasons with Kansas City (2011-13), including 26 in 2011 when he posted a 3.27 ERA. The reliever spent the 2014 season with the LG Twins of the Korean Baseball Organization, but has significant Triple-A time, appearing in 55 games with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League from 2010-2013.

State of the Bulls, Based on the Rays

State-of-BullsWe’re less than a week out from the 2015 State of the Union address, so we thought we’d undercut the President by presenting the more-important State of the Bulls blog post* on behalf of the Bull Moose Party (yuk yuk yuk).  It might only be January 14, but that means pitchers and catchers report to Port Charlotte for Spring Training in just about a month. Over the next 10 weeks the Rays’ (and therefore the Bulls’) rosters will become much clearer, but for now let’s take an early look at who might be opening the 2015 season in a Durham uniform. *Note: Full transcript can be obtained by simply reading the entire post.

Starting Pitchers: Per usual Tampa Bay is stacked with a talented rotation, comprised of Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly. Additionally, southpaw Matt Moore is scheduled to return from Tommy John surgery around June, completing a strong, young staff. So how does this affect the Bulls? Hypothetically, all five starters from Durham’s 2015 squad will be competing for that 5th spot in the rotation until Moore returns. RHP Nathan Karns, RHP Alex Colome, RHP Matt Andriese, LHP Enny Romero and LHP Mike Montgomery are all on the Rays 40-man roster. However, Colome is out of options, meaning if he doesn’t make the Rays out of camp the franchise runs the risk of losing him to another team. There’s been speculation Romero and/or Colome could become bullpen guys at the big league level as well. At this point it’s certainly too early to tell, but don’t be surprised if on Opening Day the Bulls return 80% of their starting staff from a year ago, or just 20%. Should Durham’s 2014 hurlers be called up to The Show, RHP Dylan Floro and LHP Grayson Garvin could fill a spot in Durham’s rotation after spending 2014 with Double-A Montgomery. RHP Burch Smith, acquired in the three-team Wil Myers trade, could see time with the Bulls as well.

Relief Pitchers: A talented relief corps could open the year in the Bull City, starting with potential returnees RHP Steve Geltz, RHP Brandon Gomes and LHP C.J. Riefenhauser. Newcomer RHP Jose Dominguez, acquired from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Joel Peralta and Adam Liberatore west, is a 24-year-old who sits in the high 90’s, but has logged just 14 games of MLB action the past two seasons. RHP Andrew Bellatti and RHP Matt Lollis, who each spent all of 2014 with Montgomery, figure to see time in Durham, too.

Catchers: The Rays are deep at catcher, especially after the recent re-acquisition of John Jaso from the A’s. Jaso projects to be more of a DH though, leaving newcomer Rene Rivera, Curt Casali and Justin O’Conner as catchers on the 40-man. In addition to those three, veteran Bobby Wilson received an invite to Major League camp, and 23-year-old Luke Maile caught for Durham in the Governors’ Cup playoffs a season ago. O’Conner, just 22, most likely will begin the year with Montgomery. Expect the Rays to carry Jaso and then some combination of Rivera, Casali and Wilson, while the odd man out will begin in Durham.

Infielders: The Rays cleared out their middle infielders a bit this past weekend, dealing Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to the A’s. With the free agent signing of Asdrubal Cabrera, it appears he, Logan Forsythe and Nick Franklin have the inside track to the Rays opening day roster, after Franklin was the September call up in 2014. Still trying to make the team though will be Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee, each of whom have seen a season cut drastically short over the past two years. Ryan Brett, Montgomery’s Team MVP in 2014, looks to make his first jump to Triple-A after earning Southern League Midseason and Postseason All-Star honors with the Biscuits. On the corners expect to see Vince Belnome and newcomer Allan Dykstra. The latter, a Wake Forest product and the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby champion, was signed as a minor league free agent in the fall after spending the last four seasons in the Mets organization. Also in the infield for the Bulls figures to be 12-year veteran Eugenio Velez, signed to a minor league deal in December.

Outfielders: Tampa Bay also made room in their outfield, trading Wil Myers and Matt Joyce in mid-December. This leaves six outfielders on the Rays’ 40-man in David DeJesus, Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier, Mikie Mahtook and Steven Souza. DeJesus, Guyer and Jennings expect to stay at the big league level, while Kiermaier is coming off a strong rookie campaign in 2014. Mahtook, the Bulls’ Team MVP last season and IL All-Star, figures to open the season in Durham once more. Souza, acquired in the Myers trade, was named the IL’s MVP a season ago when he hit .350-18-75 in 96 games with Syracuse. Corey Brown, who’s hit at least 14 homers in each of the last four seasons at the Triple-A level, was signed as a minor league free agent in December, while Taylor Motter hit .274-16-61 in Montgomery in 2014.

And that, Washington D.C., is how you issue a State of the Union. Take notes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 41 other followers