Last week I covered the pitchers not on the Rays 40-man roster who the team has decided to invite to spring training. In the past, the Rays have stumbled on some players who have provided the team with some quality seasons. Probably the most noteworthy is Carlos Pena, who didn't break camp with the club, but was able to be up a few days later and enshrine himself in Rays lore.
Will any of this year's invitees have the good same fortune? Most likely not, but there's always the possibility of the Rays catching lightning in a bottle. So, let's take a look at who will be joining the club in Port Charlotte.
Signed in January to a minor league deal, Decker was once one of the Padres' top prospects. However, in limited appearances, his minor league numbers so far have not translated to success in the majors. Of all these invites, he is the most likely to reach the majors at some point this year, but as it stands he'll likely start the year in the outfield for the Bulls.
He spent the 2015 season splitting the catching duties in Double-A with Justin O'Conner. He appears to be a defense-first player as he has struggled at the plate throughout his six years in professional baseball, slashing .217/.291/.276 with just seven homers over 272 games. He's in camp to serve as depth, and will likely start the year in Montgomery as O'Conner and Maile will be in Durham.
One of the throw-ins in the James Shields trade, Leonard hasn't quite shown the power that was expected of him since his acquisition, but he has put up a couple of solid seasons the past two years (120 wRC+) between Charlotte and Montgomery. In 2016, Leonard will likely see time at both third and first with Durham but may need to further establish himself, as the pipeline is rapidly producing prospects at his position.
He split the 2015 season between three levels and even made the jump to Durham, even if he did just play four games for the Bulls. An excellent contact hitter, he has struggled at times making an immediate jump to the upper levels. He struggled in Montgomery and will likely spend another year there, barring a major improvement.
The former Oakland top prospect got off to a slow start last year, but turned it around splendidly before he suffered an injury that cost him most of the season. Now, with 2016 upon on us and a crowded middle infield situation in the majors and Triple-A, Robertson may start the year back with Montgomery. However, I don't expect him to stay there long.
Bradley already covered Roller in more detail in his write-up in early January. Roller could fill an Allan Dykstra type role if the situation calls for it. However, the Rays have since added Steve Pearce as well as Corey Dickerson, making that situation even more unlikely. He'll likely serve as Durham's DH, but may not last long, as prospects will need to find playing time.
Perhaps the best current baseball name in the organization since we lost Henry Wrigley, he has been solid each year he's spent in the system. He didn't quite put up the on-base numbers he had in years past during the 2015 season, but that however may be attributed to a change in his mechanics as he belted 14 home runs, compared to the 14 home runs total he put up from 2013 to 2014. He may start the year with Montgomery, depending on how the outfield logjam is dealt with in the majors, but he is ready for promotion to Durham.
Signed in last May, John has already covered Varona in more extensive detail. Certainly a glove first player, Varona's likely landing spot, like Fields, will be determined by major league depth, but if he is able to put up decent numbers he could see the majors in September as a defensive replacement player. However, as it stands, it's likely he'll start the year in Montgomery.