Baseball has returned, and spring training has officially started for the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte as players report to camp.
The Rays have a handful of exciting prospects and non-roster invitees who have plenty to prove this spring, and it should be interesting to see which surprise players will grab everyone’s attention.
Here are seven names to watch for in the next six weeks.
Ever since being drafted first overall by the Rays in 2008, Tim Beckham has been nothing less than a disappointment. The 23-year-old middle infielder was obviously drafted with sky high expectations, but has yet to break out in the minors during his four seasons in the organization.
Beckham will most likely be starting the season with Triple-A Durham, but is out on a mission this spring to prove that this is the year he’ll finally break into the big leagues.
Many thought that year would be 2012, but a 50-game suspension and injuries were huge setbacks in Beckham’s progress. Hopefully, spring training will serve as a clean sheet for Beckham to start over and turn things around in what has been an unfortunate young career.
The Rays acquired 23-year-old southpaw Mike Montgomery from the Royals in December’s blockbuster James Shields trade. Montgomery spent four seasons in Kansas City’s organization considered to be one of the teams top prospects, but has struggled the past two years at the Triple-A level posting a lopsided 8-17 record with a 5.46 ERA.
He probably won’t make an impact on the Rays in the near future, but he’s out to prove he’s not too far away from major league ready.
Although he has very good stuff and the tools to be an MLB starter, a career as a reliever seems more likely at the moment. If he pitches well enough in 2013, we could maybe even see him contribute to Tampa Bay’s bullpen this season.
Alex Colome is one sleeper prospect with very high upside who should be kept an eye on this season. The 24-year-old right-hander has gradually moved up the ranks over the past years in the Rays’ farm system and pitched his way into Triple-A last season.
Colome has impressive raw stuff that can blow away big league hitters, which should make him a sight to watch in Port Charlotte.
This could be the year he makes his MLB debut as he continues to develop as a pitcher. That being said, spring training will be a great opportunity for him to show off his potential to the Rays.
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi was one of four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade this offseason, adding yet another talented young starting pitcher to the Rays’ organization.
Odorizzi had somewhat of a breakout year in the minors in 2012, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA through 25 starts in both Double-A and Triple-A. He also got his first taste of the big leagues with the Royals, making two brief starts.
He’ll be battling for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring against teammates Jeff Niemann, Roberto Hernandez and possibly even Chris Archer. His odds of making the Opening Day rotation are not good at all, but if he shines bright enough he could maybe just sneak in there.
Even if we don’t see Odorizzi with the Rays early in the season, we can expect to see him contribute to the team sometime later in the year.
Wil Myers is the prospect to watch in Major League Baseball this spring. The 22-year-old phenom slugger was the prize acquisition in the James Shields trade, and is considered arguably the top hitting prospect in all of baseball.
Even if Myers plays well during spring training, his chances of making the Opening Day roster are very slim. There is one backup outfielder on the 25-man roster, and although Myers may be good enough for the spot, the Rays are not going to want their top prospect to start the year on the bench.
Whether he makes the roster or not, his powerful bat will be a ton of fun to watch in the coming weeks.
After missing almost the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury, outfielder Brandon Guyer is returning to baseball this spring hoping for a fresh start.
Guyer has already had two very brief stints in the majors in the past two seasons, but has spent most of his time with Triple-A Durham where he has produced pretty well.
After missing such a significant amount of time, Guyer is no longer considered a top prospect in the organization like he was once. Spring training will be a great opportunity for him to prove that he’s an MLB-caliber player.
He’ll also be competing for the backup outfield spot on the Opening Day roster, but it’s probably going to take a standout performance this spring to accomplish that.
One of the Rays’ better position player prospects and shortstop prospects in all of baseball, Hak-Ju Lee is definitely a must-watch this spring in Port Charlotte.
His blazing speed and tremendous defensive upside will surely attract plenty of attention in the next few weeks.
Lee has played with both Class A+ Charlotte and Class AA Montgomery for the past two seasons after being acquired in the Matt Garza blockbuster trade. He still hasn’t had the breakout year in the minors that Rays fans have been anticipating, but nonetheless has made slow progress up the organizational ranks.
Lee will be eyeing a spot on Triple-A Durham’s Opening Day lineup, and a good spring training performance would obviously help his case.