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Who's Hot, Who's Not; March 18th edition

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Well, a week late, it is time to kick off the Who's Hot, Who's Not feature by looking at the players on the bubble for roster jobs this spring. When I began typing up last week's edition, the Rays had 63 players on the roster, making the job of typing it up hard and long. This week, with 23 less players, it should be easier. Here is how it will be set up. I will first list the absolute locks to make the final roster, followed by the players on the bubble, and those with no chance. Next to the players' will be an arrow, indicating whether their performance has increased or decreased their chances of making the final cut, or, in the lock's case, just how well they've been doing, same with the no chances. And I only concluded players who we know actually have a shot. So that means that minor league farmhands that might still be in the running, like Jim Magrane, Ruddy Lugo, and A-ball pitchers like Andy Sonnanstine are not included, though they still may be with the major leaguers. I will test reader reaction to this piece, as I am the Interactive Question, and decide whether to re-format the feature and keep it for the regular season. The substance of the article follows the jump.

The Locks

LHP Casey Fossum-Locked in as a starter, the only question is, where in the rotation he will be and whether or not he will miss more time with hot tub tile injuries.

LHP Mark Hendrickson-Hendrickson is not yet a guarantee to make the rotation, considering his awful '05 and the fact that he just made his first start of the spring on Thursday, but it will either be the pen or the rotation, he is lock in for the 25 man roster.

LHP Scott Kazmir-Despite two very rough outings in his last two times out, Kazmir is still assured of a rotation spot, though his once firm stranglehold on the Opening Day start is no longer.

RHP Seth McClung-Of all of the players still in camp, McClung's stock may be rising the fastest, as he has pitched nine innings thus far without yielding a single run. Too many walks for my liking, but good signs elsewhere. He's ion the rotation for sure.

RHP Chad Orvella-Orvella has not been lights out this spring, but you could find worse performers. Dan Miceli's first two impressive outings have put him in direct competition with Orvella it seems for that closer's role.

RHP Doug Waechter-Granted, one outing can put you out in neverland, as you saw with Jackson, but Waechter has been pitching really well this spring, pitching to a 1.13 ERA in taking a firm lead in the fifth starter's race, however he has walked more than he has struck out, which leads me to believe he's been riding a healthy wave of luck.

C Toby Hall-Who else do we have at backstop?

2B Jorge Cantu-Cantu is, of course, a lock to retain his starting job at second, barring injury, but has still not had an at bat with the Rays this spring due to his time spent in the WBC, where he batted .333/.346/.583, a .929 OPS, hitting two homers and driving in eight in 24 ABs. See any performance problems?

IF Nick Green-With Luis Rivas out for a month due to finger issues (and believe me, many fans had finger issues with him watching him play in Minnesota), Green's only direct competition for the utility infielder job has been liquidated, giving him a clear path to opening day no matter how piss poor he does, and he can challenge the true definition of that phrase with some of his days.

1B Travis Lee-Even if, by some other-worldly chance, Aubrey Huff moves to first base squeezing Lee out, the Rays won't be spending seven figures on a Triple A veteran. We aren't the Yankees.

SS Julio Lugo-I will be honest. I like Lugo, but his value has already hit its peak. It can't go any higher, it can only go lower. He would need a triple shot of 'roids to develop any power. Nonetheless, his performance has earned him the starting shortstop job going into '06, unless he is traded.

CF/DH Rocco Baldelli-The only way Baldelli does not make the roster is if the brass decides he needs to work his way back in at Durham, which is highly unlikely. He will start on opening day, if not in center, then certainly at DH.

LF Carl Crawford-Crawford has struggled, hitting for a batting average below the Mendoza line, but can you imagine a non-injury scenario in which Crawford isn't in left field on opening day?

RF/DH Jonny Gomes-Gomes intends to put a few dents in the Tropicana Field back wall next season, and he has certainly put some in Grapefruit League pitching, hitting .394/.444/.727 with two home runs. The only question is whether he will be hitting from the DH role, or from right field.

RF/DH/1B/3B/Anything else? Aubrey Huff-For once, Huff is getting off to a decent start, hitting .458/.517/.833. Let's hope that tails into the regular season so we can unload him at a high price, wherever he ends up playing.

On the Bubble

RHP Shawn Camp-Already on the bubble going in because of the number of players competing for bullpen spots, Camp has done nothing to help his situation by putting up an 8.31 ERA, and must pitch really well to even make a middle relief spot this season.

RHP Jesus Colome-Colome, who would have been a lock coming in, is in the same position as Camp after giving up 10 runs as well as 18 hits, triple his innings pitched total. He has an ERA of 15.00, and is staring at a bus trip to Durham if he does not improve.

RHP Travis Harper-If spring training is any indication of our season to come, we are in serious trouble. Harper has been bad this spring, but he is still the best of this lot, having pitched to a microscopic ERA of seven. That is pathetic, but it is still the best so far. He has given up seven runs and 12 hits in nine innings, so at least he managed to give up less runs than innings pitched. But this is still pretty depressing so far.

RHP Chad Harville-The Devil Rays' first major league acquisition of the offseason, Harville has been awful as well this spring, running our streak to four. He has given up eight runs and 11 hits in 5.2 innings, yet the former Athletic still cannot be ruled out, depressingly.

RHP Edwin Jackson-Finally, a pitcher who hasn't let out a foul odor. Jackson's ERA (6.48) may be in the league of the others, but that is composed of one bad appearance and two great, shutdown ones, so that number isn't entirely sound. He is falling behind in the fifth starter's race, but if the Rays decide he should be a reliever, he has got no competition to win a bullpen spot.

RHP Dan Miceli-Ah, at last, we are getting somewhere. We've moved up from 'terrible' to 'not completely crap', and finally, to 'good'. Granted, he has not had a lot of appearances due to just getting back from competing in the WBC, but he has been good in those two appearances, going two shutout innings with an even K:BB. He also pitched a scoreless, hitless inning with no walks and two strikeouts with Italy in the WBC. He is now the only one in direct competition with Chad Orvella for the closer's role, and even if he doesn't get that job, he is steaming along to becoming a lock for a bullpen job.

RHP Shinji Mori-This down arrow is not indicative of performance, rather, it is because of the lack thereof. He has not pitched at all thus far because of shoulder tenderness, throwing only bullpen sessions. However, he may appear in a game as soon as next weekend, giving him a week to prove himself, which is more than enough when competing against this bunch.

LHP Wayne Franklin-Coming in, I thought Wayne Franklin had no shot at the bullpen. But after seeing just how bad some of the pitchers have been, and how good Franklin has been, I have concluded 'hey, he's got a shot'. In just 5.1 innings, Franklin has given up only one run, while striking out three as compared to no walks. He has been pretty good thus far, and if the ex-Brewer can keep it up, he may just get in to the 'pen.

C Josh Paul-The backup catcher's job is currently slanted to go toward Paul. It was going in, and nothing from his performance has changed that way of thinking. In fact, he has actually been good, though so has Kevin Cash, keeping the race on. Thus far, Paul is hitting .381/.458/.667, leading one to conclude that the Rays may actually have a decent backup catcher this year. But the cynic that I am, I'll wait for the regular season to determine that.

C Kevin Cash-Cash was brought in to make sure that Josh Paul doesn't lay down, content with himself this spring, but the 2005 disappointment has done very well this spring, making this a real race. He is hitting .444/.500.667, though has only nine at bats to Paul's 21, meaning that he must really work to steal the job from Paul.

3B Sean Burroughs-I was conflicted about what arrow to use for Burroughs. Should I really use the down symbol? After all, doesn't the down arrow indicate that he actually had expectations that he is down from? Because it wasn't like he is massively underperforming. He is right where he should be. But then I look at where he should be compared to the average third baseman and I put the down arrow up. Burroughs has been completely what I expected, hitting .208 with no walks, as well as a SLG only .51 points higher for a grand total OPS of .477. Brilliant. Perhaps one of our other candidates can beat out the "favorite".

1B/3B Ty Wigginton-Now, Wigginton really has been a disappointment thus far in my mind. I was hoping he'd at least be average, so as to save us from the horror that is Burroughs. But he has done nothing but hit .259.333/.333, making no substantial case for himself to uproot Burroughs. This reminds me of 2002, when the third base job was again open, and the battle was essentially Russ Johnson v. Bobby Smith, two awful players that have never been regular starters since being cut by the Rays. At least these two have started regularly for other teams, though they were the Mets, Pirates, and Padres.

3B Russell Branyan-The only  position player non-roster invitee to qualify as a bubble, Branyan may take the third base job away from both Wigginton and Burroughs, as he is hitting .280/.357/.520 thus far this spring in 25 ABs. Branyan, who was supposed to be a strikeout or home run type of hitter, has instead been well-rounded, hitting only one home run, yet walked three times while driving in four runs. In fact, he has hit three singles and doubles each, on top of the home run, hitting in all facets. If he keeps this up, both Burroughs and Wigginton could find themselves on the bench, in Durham, or out of a job.

CF Joey Gathright-The only reasons Gathright isn't a lock for a roster spot is because...

  1. He is the most likely player on the 40 man to be traded
  2. Damon Hollins, a player with an outside shot of making it, has played really well
Gathright hasn't exactly played like he is inspired, hitting .270/.357/.324, but he is still the most over the fence of the bubble candidates.

OF Damon Hollins-Why, speak of the devil, here is Hollins. As I mentioned, last season's decent journeyman find has carried over his solid production from last year into this spring, making the final decision between himself and Gathright a tough one, if Gathright is not traded. Hollins has hit .367/.429/.467 with seven stolen bases while walking more than he has struck out. He has also scored five runs while driving in eight. For those who thought Hollins would be a one year wonder (myself included) perhaps our philosophy needs adjusting.

Those with No Chance

RHP Jason Hammel-The only still-active member of the 40 man roster to make this list, Hammel may have been a bubble had he not had one bad appearance vs. the Phillies. Because of this, Hammel's stats look considerably worse than how he has actually pitched, but you can't say he hasn't had a fair amount of opportunity, as he is tied for the most innings pitched of any Rays pitcher. In those nine innings, he has given up six runs and seven hits, including two home runs and four walks. Though, to his credit, he has also struck out seven. Still, for someone who struggled last year at Durham, he just isn't major league ready. He needs more time to cook.

C Mike Rose-Though Rose still technically qualifies to be on this list because he has major league service time and is still with the major leaguers (somehow), he has been awful thus far. He is hitting .100/.250/.100, as well as just being generally crappy as a backstop, easily being the worst position player to take the field for the Rays this spring.

1B/PH Greg Norton-I had honestly never heard of Norton coming in to this spring, but this article in the St. Pete Times today made me aware of the fact that Norton has actually been a decent pinch hitter in the last five years. And he has done nothing to hurt that reputation this spring, hitting .364/.481/.682. Yet he has no chance to make the final roster because the Rays just can't keep that many first base types on the roster. They already have Travis Lee, Aubrey Huff, and Ty Wigginton, and possibly Sean Burroughs, who can all play first. All can also play other positions except for Lee, and he is the starter. Norton just has nowhere to go, and that is unfortunate, because he is such a good hitter. Perhaps Norton can catch on at Durham this year, or with some other team. But it isn't his performance that will cause his departure.

IF Luis Ordaz-A veteran Rays minor league farmhand, Ordaz is the only thing standing in between Nick Green and an opening day roster spot, and despite playing decent since the start of the spring, he is only hitting .333/.333/.407, with no walks, and is 4 for 21 since a 5 for 6 start. Expect him to return, like last year, to Durham, or, if he gets fed up with not making the team though all these years, the free agency listing.

IF Luis Rivas-Rivas would have provided a bigger challenge to Green for the backup infielder job. But he was injured in an intra-squad scrimmage on the 28th, and will miss spring training in its entirety due to a knuckle fracture on his left index finger. Rivas has nowhere to go, and will likely start the season out at Durham, trying to work his way back. to the majors. But for now, Green has got the opening day job locked up by default.

Summary

Well, this was rather lengthy, longer than I expected it would be, but not in vain, as I think I have summed up a month in a comparatively short article. Granted, I am just guessing here, and if you look at this article on April 3rd, you might think of me as a total idiot. But this article has affirmed that both the bullpen and the hot corner are a mess. It has, on the other hand, told us that both candidates for the backup catcher job are hitting well, and that Doug Waehcter and Seth McClung have pitched well. Here is the overall count of up arrows, down arrows, and two-way arrows, to sum up all of the players in competition.

Up-15

Down-12

Two-way-8

Final Roster Prediction

Lastly, let me put all of this together in my weekly final roster guess, with roles included, just please don't hold me to this on April 3rd:

Rotation

  1. LH Scott Kazmir
  2. RH Seth McClung
  3. LH Casey Fossum
  4. RH Doug Waechter
  5. RH Edwin Jackson
Bullpen
CL-RH Chad Orvella
SU-RH Shinji Mori
SU-RH Dan Miceli
RP-LH Mark Hendrickson
RP-RH Travis Harper
RP-RH Shawn Camp
RP-RH Jesus Colome

Lineup

  1. Julio Lugo, SS
  2. Carl Crawford, LF
  3. Jorge Cantu, 2B
  4. Jonny Gomes, RF
  5. Aubrey Huff, 3B
  6. Rocco Baldelli, DH
  7. Travis Lee, 1B
  8. Toby Hall, C
  9. Joey Gathright, CF
Bench
C-Josh Paul
OF-Damon Hollins
IF-Nick Green
IF-Ty Wigginton

-A little explaining before I wrap up. The reason I have Hendrickson relieving is because I just can't imagine Maddon going with an all-righty bullpen, he's got to have at least one lefty option, and it ain't going to be Kazmir or Fossum, the Rays' two best pitchers, statistically, from last year. Thus I slotted Waechter in Lurch's place, and Jackson in Waechter's place. I think the difference between Miceli, and Mori when he eventually pitches, will be so different from that of Camp, Colome, et all, that they will be given setup jobs by default, while Orvella proves to be the only one that can at least half-close games. Camp, Colome, and Harper win out bullpen jobs by performance.

On the hitting side of things, I think Maddon will get fed up with the third baseman he has, so he will slot Huff there, bench Wigginton, but keep him on because he can play first also, and cut loose Burroughs and Branyan, allowing Gomes to go to right field, Baldelli to ease in at DH, while Gathright (who remains with the team) goes to center field. The bench consists of the best backup catcher and best backup outfielder, and the two most versatile infielders in Green and Wigginton. Just my guess.....