2014 Roster Speculation
We’re now just over two weeks out from Opening Day here in Durham, as the Bulls will take on the Gwinnett Braves at the DBAP at 6:05 p.m. on April 3rd. Now that we’ve gotten our obligatory “Hello” post out of the way, let’s start to get into the meat of the Durham Bulls (Pun!). Everyone knows Charlie Montoyo, the reigning International League Manager of the Year, will be back for his eighth year in the Bull City, but the question now is who will he be managing? Let’s take a look at the players who could be donning the new Bulls uniforms come Opening Day.
Let’s start with the guys who have already been sent down from Major League camp. Nathan Karns, Mike Montgomery, Merrill Kelly, Matt Andriese, Enny Romero, Alex Colome and Victor Mateo have all seen their MLB Spring Trainings come to an end. Of these seven players, five of them will likely wind up in the Bulls’ starting rotation, unless Jake Odorizzi begins the season in Durham and not as the Rays’ 5th starter. If the right-hander opens the season with the Bulls, he’ll likely be at the front of the rotation and be joined by four of the above-mentioned names.
As of now, we’re 99.99% certain Jeff Beliveau, Kirby Yates and C.J. Riefenhauser will begin the year with the Bulls after they were all optioned from Major League camp last week. Also in the mix for the Durham BULL-pen (Pun #2!) is Braulio Lara, Santiago Garrido, Sam Runion, Juan Sandoval, Steve Geltz and Adam Liberatore. However, Mark Lowe, Brad Boxberger and Josh Lueke would all start the season in Durham if they don’t make the Big League squad, which would force some fringe guys out of a Triple-A roster spot.
It seems as if Ali Solis and Eddy Rodriguez will be the two catchers on the Bulls roster when the season opens, especially with the offseason acquisition of Ryan Hanigan. After splitting last season between Charlotte (A+) and Montgomery (AA), expect Curt Casali to begin the year with the Biscuits, but if he hits at the pace he did with Montgomery last season (.383 in 35 games), he could force his way into a promotion to the DBAP.
Around the horn the Bulls will have familiar faces, as Vince Belnome and Hak-Ju Lee have each been optioned to Minor League camp. Although Cole Figueroa remains with the Rays, the offseason acquisition of Logan Forsythe will make it hard for the former Florida Gator to crack the roster, and will most likely begin in Durham. One face Bulls fans won’t see to begin the season is Tim Beckham, who tore his right ACL in December. Filling the void will be a combination of veterans Wilson Betemit, Ray Olmedo and Jayson Nix after they all joined the organization this past offseason.
The outfield should have a veteran feel to it at the season’s outset, with veteran free agents Justin Christian, James Darnell, Jeremy Moore and Jerry Sands all figuring to be in the mix, with a chance Sands could also see time at first base. This season figures to be a homecoming of sorts for Sands, who went to Smithfield-Selma H.S., located less than an hour from the DBAP. Should Sands open the season in Durham, it will be the second time in two seasons the Bulls will have a local product on the Opening Day roster, as Chris Archer, from Clayton, spent the first two months of last year with the Bulls before his promotion to the Rays (coincidentally, the two were Co-Conference Players of the Year in 2005 as high schoolers). On the youthful side, Kevin Kiermaier could be an everyday player, while Mikie Mahtook hopes to crack the Bulls roster after spending all of 2013 with Montgomery in just his second season of professional baseball.
After leading the IL in team ERA a season ago, the Bulls’ pitching staff should be one of the league’s toughest yet again, while big seasons are expected of Kiermaier, Belnome and Lee at the dish. Durham’s success might very well hinge on the play of the new veterans though, something Bulls teams have not been accustomed to in the past with the plethora of prospects that have come through the Rays’ system.