State of the Bulls, Based on the Rays
We’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.