I have been a Rays fan since Day 1. Do you think any of the prospects make Opening Day? If so, then whom? Also, how long do you think it'll be until we see a competitive team again?
--Brandon Y., Duncannon, Pa.
Good question, Brandon. Since we don't know the composition of this year's team yet, here's my best guess. Of all the young players in camp, I believe Brent Honeywell, Jake Bauers, Willy Adames, Christian Arroyo, and Jaime Schultz are the top contenders to earn spots on the team out of Spring Training. While I believe all will be in the Major Leagues with the Rays this season, I believe Schultz will definitely be with the team when they break camp, and he will be a weapon out of the bullpen. I also believe Arroyo will be there. Of course, he made his debut with the Giants last season. Honeywell would be the next most likely candidate, but given the depth of starters at this juncture, the Rays could stagger the start of his big league career by having him begin the season at Triple-A Durham. As for Bauers, the Rays' first-base plans are unknown at this point, though Brad Miller appears to be the most likely candidate. And Adeiny Hechavarria would be the starting shortstop at this point, which would block Adames, unless they switch him to second.
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Who is your favorite upcoming player that you think will make the most difference in the Rays' club in 2018 and/or 2019?
--Zach M., Virginia Beach
My favorite to watch is Bauers. I loved watching him hit last spring, and I like the way he plays the game. He's understated and respectful, he is a disciplined hitter, and when he connects, the baseball turns little in a hurry.
With the free-agent market still moving slowly, what are the chances the Rays could re-sign Logan Morrison? Surely the longer he's available, the better shot they have. Thank you!
--Jeff C., Atlanta
From everything I observed, Morrison and the Rays parted on good terms. As you've noted, the free-agent market is moving slowly, so I think that paves the way for more bargains as players try to find jobs. Having the 30-year-old Morrison back would certainly help this year's team on and off the field.
I think Denard Span is a quality player, and he could definitely give the Rays' outfield, and their offense, a boost. I'm just scratching my head as to why the Rays traded for him. From everything I've read, the Rays are set on reducing their payroll, yet Span will make $11 million this season. What gives?
--Jeff P., Tampa
I'm still scratching my head, too, Jeff. I've seen Span play a lot of quality baseball -- he's a good player! But the $11 million salary for 2018 just doesn't jive with the direction in which the Rays seemingly want to travel. My best guess is that they planned on grabbing him and sending him elsewhere, but the clogged up free-agent market put the brakes on that scenario. On the bright side, if Span ends up on the team, the Rays will have added a positive force to their offense.
Of all the youngsters you saw last season, which one do you believe will do better this season?
--Paul R., Tampa
I like Ryne Stanek. The hard-throwing right-hander, who is 26 years old, had his welcome to the Major Leagues last season, and he showed some pluses and some minuses. If Stanek can find the strike zone a little more often and his off-speed pitch comes along, he could be a big-time force in the bullpen. Based on how Stanek handled being sent down last year, and how positive he remained, I believe he has the right mentality to make the necessary improvements to find excellence.