The Tampa Bay Rays made a few minor moves this weekend, signing three players to minor league contracts complete with invitations to camp: right-handed pitchers Ryan Weber and Forrest Snow, and catcher Johnny Monell. Additional Spring Training depth aside, the three potentially could be regular season options.
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wrote about Weber, Monell, and Snow on Saturday, saying:
Weber, 27, is a true local product, having played at Clearwater Central Catholic High and St. Petersburg College before being drafted by the Braves in 2009. He made it to the majors in 2015 and worked in 16 games (two starts) in 2016 for the Braves, then went to the Mariners on waivers in 2017 and missed a chunk of the season with a biceps injury.
Monell, 31, made it the majors briefly with the Giants in 2013 and got to play in 27 games for the 2015 Mets. He is a lefty swinger who hit 19 home runs for the Mets’ Triple-A team in 2016, then ended up in Korea last season, playing in only 28 games. For now, he is the Rays only experienced option if Wilson Ramos or Jesus Sucre were to be injured.
Snow, 29, is a 6-foot-6 hard-thrower who has pitched at Triple-A for the Mariners and Brewers, working as both a starter and a reliever and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. He is also known for his musical talent at the keyboard.
Rays seeking to add catching depth
The Rays are expected to add experienced catchers on minor-league deals, writes Topkin. Currently the only potential backup/Triple-A depth to the backstop duo of Wilson Ramos and Jesus Sucre is Monell. The only other invitee is Double-A prospect Nick Ciuffo, who hasn’t appeared in any Triple-A games. Justin O’Conner, who once was thought to be the backstop of the future for the team, signed a minor-league deal with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent, while Curt Casali was dropped from the roster in November.
According Bill Chastain (MLB.com) J.T. Realmuto could be a nice long-term solution behind the plate going forward, as he does not become a free-agent until 2021. However, since the Rays have Ramos and Sucre for this season, Realmuto likely wouldn’t be a good fit.
Six prospects land in another Top-100 list
MLBPipeline.com released its Top-100 prospect list on Saturday, and representing the Rays are right-hander Brent Honeywell (No. 12), shortstop Willy Adames (No. 22), first baseman/left-hander Brendan McKay (No. 25), outfielder Jesus Sanchez (No. 57), outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers (No. 64), and third baseman/shortstop Christian Arroyo (No. 81).
The player’s ratings are based on analysis of skill sets, upsides, proximity to the big leagues, and potential immediate impact to their respective ball clubs. Only players with rookie status entering the 2018 season are eligible for the list. Not applicable to the Rays, yet important nonetheless, players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Cuban professional leagues are not eligible.
Are the Rays more popular in Pinellas County than in Hillsborough?
While investigating the fees accrued from specialty license plate purchases in the state of Florida, Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium Blog, WTSP) came across something rather fascinating. While the Bucs and Lightning are considerably more popular in Hillsborough County than anywhere else in the state, there are more Rays specialty tags in Pinellas County than across the bay, despite a smaller population — approximately 30% smaller.
While it may not be a big, sexy number with which a case could be built upon, it — much like the September 2017 news that taxpayers from Tampa view keeping the Rays in the region came toward the very bottom of their list of priorities (39.4 percent) — represents an important data point since the team hasn’t shown a willingness to release numbers on where its ticket holders are coming from.
This isn’t to imply that one community is somehow better than the other, rather it is one metric that can be used to counter the claim that Hillsborough County baseball fans better support the Rays.
… Or in Pranksy’s words:
Now this may not come as a surprise to many, but the whole “Pinellas hasn’t supported that team” argument really is moot – if Pinellas isn’t “properly” supporting the Rays, neither is Hillsborough.