Spring training is still a month away, but the Rays have 26 of their top prospects at the Trop this week for a four-day winter development camp. The players will get on the football-lined field for some baseball work, but also will participate in discussions and receive guidance on training, media relations and other issues, and make several community appearances. There also will be a media interview session on Tuesday.
Among the bigger names particiapting are INF Willy Adames, their top position prospect; RHP Brent Honeywell, the quick-rising starter prospect; INF Lucius Fox, who was acquired from the Giants in the Matt Moore deal; INF Daniel Robertson, another top advanced prospect; RHP Kevin Gadea, the Rule 5 draft pick from Seattle; and OFs Josh Lowe and Garrett Whitley, their last two first-round draft picks.
Here is the full list:
Player, position Fernando Baez, RHP Genesis Cabrera, LHP Diego Castillo, RHP Austin Franklin, RHP Kevin Gadea, RHP Ian Gibaut, RHP Brent Honeywell, RHP Chih-Wei Hu RHP Huntet Wood, RHP
Drew Smyly, traded Wednesday to the Mariners for outfielder Mallex Smith and a pair of prospects, texted the Tampa Bay Times today with this reaction to the deal:
“I want to thank the Tampa Bay organization for the opportunity and trust they showed in me since day 1 of becoming a Ray. There's no doubt in my mind I've become a better pitcher since arriving. I will forever be grateful to everyone in the organization that has helped me grow as a player on the field and a man off the field. I loved my time there and was able to receive quality information about myself that I never knew before, and will carry that with me to Seattle. I'm blessed to be a Major League Baseball player and can't wait for the new challenge in Seattle.”
Here's a breakdown on left-handed starter Ryan Yarbrough, acquired from Seattle along with outfielder Mallex Smith and shortstop Carlos Vargas in exchange for pitcher Drew Smyly:
The 25-year-old lefty was the Southern League Pitcher of the Year after going 12-4 with a 2.95 in 25 starts last season at Double A Jackson.
Rays GM Erik Neander said Yarbrough is not far away from reaching the big league level, though he will likely spend 2017 at Triple A Durham. Neander said Yarbrough has a good fastball and changeup and a "very usable breaking ball."
With a fastball in the low-90s, both Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com project Yarbrough as a mid-rotation starter or a strong left-hander out of the bullpen.
A Lakeland native, Yarbrough was drafted in the fourth round in 2014 by the Mariners.
Here's a breakdown on shortstop Carlos Vargas, acquired from Seattle along with outfielder Mallex Smith and left-handed starter Ryan Yarborough in exchange for pitcher Drew Smyly:
The shortstop, who turns 18 in March, joins a growing list of young, talented shortstops in the system.
Vargas made his pro debut last year in the Dominican Summer League. He played 62 games and hit 242 with a .344 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage. He hit seven home runs, drove in 35 runs and scored 41 times.
Neander said the team is very familiar with Vargas.
"Granted, (he's) very far away and a lot of distance away from where he is and the major league level. But Vargas is a player that is very dynamic," Neander said.
From MLB Trade Rumors: "In writing about Vargas last spring, (Baseball America's) Ben Badler noted that (Vargas) has too many moving parts in his swing but has displayed a strong baseball IQ and an impressive ability to make adjustments at the behest of the Mariners' staff. Badler also credited Vargas with above-average raw power, an ability to hit the ball the opposite way, and an above-average arm with a quick release." …
Mallex Smith had a slash line of 238 batting average/.316 on-base percentage/.365 slugging percentage in 72 games last season with the Braves.
The Rays and the Mariners once again hooked up on a trade and, once again, the Rays shipped a pitcher to the Northwest for a package of prospects.
This time it was Drew Smyly, who was traded Wednesday for outfielder Mallex Smith, shortstop Carlos Vargas and left-handed starter Ryan Yarborough.
Here's a breakdown on Smith:
The 23-year-old has something the Rays roster could use— speed. Capable of playing all three outfield spots, Smith is best in center field. Rays GM Erik Neander called him a "dynamic player" and an "impact athlete."
Smith can change a game with his legs as his 230 steals in 399 minor league games suggests. He led the minor leagues with 88 steals in 2014. Add that to what Kevin Kiermaier can do on the bases (21 stolen bases last year in 24 attempts) and the Rays will have a base running duo that has the potential to remind fans of the days of Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton.
That should help an often stagnant offense produce more runs. …
The Rays have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus, right, pending the outcome of a physical.
The Rays have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus pending the outcome of a physical.
The team would not comment on the news first reported by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
Rasmus, 30, a center fielder for most of his eight-year career, figures to play left field and DH for the Rays while serving as a major league-caliber backup for center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. He also has experience playing right field.
The left-handed hitter has career splits of .241 batting average, .311 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging percentage. He has hit at least 22 home runs in a season four times with a high of 25 in 2015 with the Astros.
A first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2005, Rasmus played three-plus years with the Blue Jays before going to the Astros in 2015 as a free agent.
His addition adds another left-handed bat to the outfield with Kiermaier and Corey Dickerson.
Dickerson could find himself serving more as a DH next season.
Rasmus made $15.8 million last season after accepting the Astros' qualifying offer following a season in which he batted .238 with a .475 slugging percentage with 25 home runs and 61 RBI in 137 games. …
Rays spring training tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., Jan. 13 exclusively at raysbaseball.com/spring. They will be available at 10 a.m., Jan. 14 at the Charlotte Sports Park box office, Rays Tampa Store at 400 N. Tampa St., at the Tropicana Field box office or by calling (888) 652-7223.
Rays Insider subscribers can participate in a special online presale on Jan. 12. Deadline for registration is noon, Jan. 11.
Ticket prices range from $10 to $32. Season tickets for the 18-game home schedule begin at $325.
The Rays open the home slate at Charlotte Sports Park at 1:05 p.m., Feb. 25 against the Pirates.
Pitchers and catchers will work out for the first time on Feb. 14. The first full squad workout is Feb. 19.
First baseman Casey Gillaspie, the Rays minor league player of the year in 2016 and who has a chance to play in the big leagues in 2017, is one of 10 minor leaguers invited to Rays spring training camp.
The Rays also announced today they signed eight players to minor league deals with invites to major league spring training.
The free agents are: LHPs Dana Eveland and Justin Marks, RHPs Diego Moreno and Neil Wagner, C Michael McKenry, INF/OF Ryan Brett and OF Shane Peterson.
The minor leaguers are: Gillaspie, RHPs Jeff Ames and Andrew Kittredge, C Nick Ciuffo, C Jonah Heim, 1B/OF Jake Bauers, INF Jake HagerINF/OF Patrick Leonard, OF Johnny Field, OF Dayron Varona and 1B/RF Dalton Kelly.
Gillaspie, 23, hit 284 with a .388 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage in 2016 while splitting time between Double A Montgomery and Triple A Durham. He combined for 18 home runs and 64 RBI between the two spots.
The switch-hitter, taken 20th overall in the 2014 draft, could join the Rays in mid-season and find himself part of a first base platoon with Brad Miller if Miller remains at first base.
Here is a breakdown on the other free agent as provided by the Rays:
Todd Kalas, the popular do-everything member of the Rays on-air TV crew, is leaving the team to fulfill his dream of serving as the play-by-play announcer for a major league team.
Kalas will join the Houston Astros broadcast for the 2017 season, reuniting with Astros analyst and former Devil Ray Geoff Blum and calling games for the team that gave his father, hall of fame baseball broadcaster Harry Kalas, his first big league job.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” Kalas told the Tampa Bay Times.
Kalas replaces Bill Brown, who called Astros games for 30 years until his retirement at the end of last season.
“He did a great job,” Kalas said. “I’ll have some big shoes to fill.”
Kalas has been part of the Rays TV team since the inaugural 1998 season. He served mostly as the in-game reporter, conducting clubhouse interviews with the manager and players before and after the games. He endeared himself to Tampa Bay fans by his ability to wade into the stands for mid-game interviews, especially with those fans who popped up in stadiums around the major leagues.
Kalas also filled in for Dewayne Staats and analyst Brian Anderson throughout the season.
Steve Henderson, who had two stints as the Rays hitting coach, returns to the organization as the minor league hitting coordinator.
Henderson was one of the new faces joining the minor league staff, the team officially announced Tuesday.
The others are Patrick Trainor (minor league strength and conditioning coordinator), Gary Redus (coach, Double-A Montgomery), Aaron Scott (athletic trainer, Class-A Charlotte), Sean Smedley (coach, Rookie-level Princeton) and Jim Paduch (pitching coach, GCL Rays).
Henderson, 64, was the Devil Rays hitting coach during the inaugural 1998 season and again from 2006 to 2009. He spent the last seven seasons with the Phillies, serving as outfield/baserunning coordinator (2010), hitting coordinator (2011-12) and major league hitting coach (2013-16).
Here are bios on the rest of the additions as provided by the Rays …
The Rays added to their catching depth and early-season options in signing veteran Michael McKenry to a minor-league deal.
McKenry, 32 in March, has played parts of seven seaons in the majors, mostly with the Rockies and Pirates, and a short stint year with the Cardinals.
He had his most extensive playing time in 2012 with Pittsburgh, playing 88 games (64 starts) and hitting 12 homers with 39 RBIs and a .233 average.
He has a career .238 average in the majors and .277 at Triple-A. He spent time in 2016 in four organizations, playing at Triple-A for the Cardinals, Braves, Rangers and Brewers.
McKenry will have the chance to compete with Curt Casali and Luke Maile for roster spots and playing time at the start of the season, with newly signed veteran Wilson Ramos not likely to be ready catch until closer to mid-season.
The new look of the calendar, featuring Kevin Kiermaier (left), Evan Longoria and 12 other Rays.
CF Kevin Kiermaier, 3B Evan Longoria and 11 other Rays are featured with dogs, and SS Matt Duffy with his somewhat famous feline, Skeeter, in the fifth Players and Pooches calendar.
The 14-month full-color calender costs $15 and goes on sale at 1 p.m. Tuesday at team stores at the Trop and in downtown Tampa; the St. Petersburg Pet Pal Animal Shelter (405 22nd St. S), Veterinary Clinic (1900 34th St. S) and Thrift Store (1500 34th St. N) locations, and online via m.mlb.com/rays/tickets/info/calendar.
Other Rays, shown with their dogs or one from the shelter, are Logan Forsythe, Nick Franklin, Brad Boxberger, Drew Smyly, Steven Souza Jr., Jake Odorizzi, Brad Miller, Alex Cobb, Luke Maile, Ryan Garton and 1B coach Rocco Baldelli.
The calender is produced by the Rays and the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, with all proceeds benefitting Pet Pal Animal Shelter, a no-kill, nonprofit organization that "is dedicated to rescuing dogs and cats from animal shelters that may otherwise be euthanized due to time limitations, illness, injuries or lack of socialization and training. It is also committed to educating the public about the pet overpopulation crisis, the importance of spaying/neutering and responsible pet ownership.'' …
The Rays today unveiled a new free program for kids 14 and under that includes tickets to six games.
The Rays Rookies club, presented by Outback Steakhouse, includes the following:
Six free ticket vouchers for any 2017 home game (1 per month, with purchase of a full price adult ticket in the lower corners, outfield, or upper level); one free food voucher; a foldable water bottle; autograph cards from mascots Raymond & DJ Kitty; plus Outback coupons, prize drawings and access to special events.
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