PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Grapefruit League action begins for the Rays on Friday, and amid the roster fluctuation of the past week, several camp dark horses will be angling for an Opening Day spot. Watching that group compete for jobs will be one of this spring's pleasures.The Rays open with
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Grapefruit League action begins for the Rays on Friday, and amid the roster fluctuation of the past week, several camp dark horses will be angling for an Opening Day spot. Watching that group compete for jobs will be one of this spring's pleasures.
The Rays open with split-squad action, hosting the Pirates at Charlotte Sports Park Complex while another collection of players will travel to Sarasota, Fla., to play the Orioles. Both games will begin at 1:05 p.m. ET.
-- Rays Spring Training info
This year's dark horses are among the top prospects in the Rays' organization are Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell and Jake Bauers.
While they are indeed the future of the organization, the business of baseball casts this group as dark horses, rather than favorites to win jobs.
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The Rays usually wait a couple of months into the season to bring up prospects due to business and baseball reasons, specifically the issue of service time and starting arbitration-eligibility clocks. However, even if a prospect is close or ready, the Rays like the idea of starting them in the Minor Leagues at the beginning of the season. That way they can have a little success behind them before they are promoted to The Show to take on Major League competition.
What would have to change for this trio to make the team? Let's take a look.
Adames is the shortstop of the future, and the Rays have stated that he would drive the train concerning his ETA in the Major Leagues. For Adames to make the team out of Spring Training, starting shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria would have to either get injured or traded. Even then, the Rays might shift Matt Duffy from third to shortstop, or use Daniel Robertson at the position. The other part of the equation is that Adames needs to show improvement on making the routine plays, or to establish a higher level of consistency in the field.
Farm director Mitch Lukevics calls Honeywell -- who strained his right forearm Thursday in a batting practice session -- the most competitive player in the organization. While that might be true, any competitor has to be given a chance to compete and given the depth of starting pitchers -- even after the trade of Odorizzi -- it's going to be difficult for a slot to open up that would force the Rays to consider passing up the business side of the equation. In addition, the Rays will use a four-man rotation until May. That rotation will include Chris Archer, Jake Faria, Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi.
Matt Andriese has been shifted from the rotation to the bullpen, so there's always the chance that once the Rays do move back to a five-man rotation, enough time will have passed that Honeywell will be called up.
Finally, there's Bauers. Flashback to last spring when he caught everybody's attention with his bat. Not only with power, but with his plate discipline as well. However, any speculation about Bauers becoming the Rays' first baseman got silenced when C.J. Cron came to the Rays from the Angels. Then again, Cron does hit right-handed. The Rays will begin the season with the left-handed-hitting Brad Miller seeing time at first, second and DH. If Miller were to get injured or traded, Bauers would be the guy.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.