Triple-A Trickledown: Durham

In part two of our series where we look at the rosters of Chiefs opponents and analyze why each player is here, we meet the Durham Bulls for the first time.  The Bulls come in at 11-20 – but after a 13-game losing streak, they’ve actually won five of their past seven games.  Let’s have a look at the nuts and bolts of Durham’s roster…

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Catcher: Craig Albernaz, Stephen Vogt, Nevin Ashley (DL)

This isn’t a tremendous position of strength for the Rays – at least offensively – with Chris Gimenez at .229, Jose Molina at .204 and DL-ed catcher Jose Lobaton 2 for 10.  Lobaton’s on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder and Robinson Chirinos is on the DL with a concussion, so the Rays’ depth has been thinned out considerably at the position.  And Ashley – probably the best hitting catcher Durham had – just broke a bone in his right hand.  Neither Albernaz or Vogt is hitting north of .167, and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of immediate help in Double-A Montgomery, so upward movement doesn’t seem too likely for the Bulls at catcher.

First Base: Juan Miranda, Leslie Anderson

Up in the majors, Tampa Bay’s starter is set, with Carlos Pena’s .845 OPS fitting just fine into the Rays’ lineup, and Ben Zobrist or Matt Joyce could likely fill in if need be in times of injury.  However, immediate backup Brandon Allen, who’s 1 for 18 in the majors this year, could be in jeopardy of losing his spot.  If Anderson, who’s hitting .347/.420/.429, keeps up his performance, the Rays might have something to think about.  Anderson, a free agent from Cuba, is in his third year with the organization, and he’s played almost as much outfield as first base.  Miranda, a former Yankee and Diamondback, is hitting just .192 and likely just provides organizational depth at this point.

Leslie Anderson

Second Base: Shawn O’Malley

Tampa Bay’s doing just fine at second base with a combination of super-utility-guy Ben Zobrist (.191, but a .342 OBP) and Jeff Keppinger (.311, despite a .328 OBP).  O’Malley, the only current Bull with more than three starts at the position, is hitting just .205 with a single extra-base hit.  The Rays could also slide over Sean Rodriguez in a time of need.  That’s good for Tampa Bay, because the only other infielder on the 40-man roster is…

Shortstop: Reid Brignac

Brignac actually doesn’t have the most starts at shortstop for Durham this year – that honor belongs to Tim Beckham.  However, Beckham, the top pick in the 2008 MLB draft, was recently suspended 50 games for a second violation of the Minor League drug policy.  So it’s up to Brignac, just 6 for 45 (.133) in Durham, to shoulder the Bulls’ load.  The Rays’ top hitting prospect, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, is one level below in Double-A, but he’s only hitting .237 with limited power.  With Rodriguez at .210 with just four extra-base hits in the majors, the Rays may juts have to hope that good defense and the occasional offensive burst will be enough at shortstop this season.

Third Base: Cole Figueroa, Matt Mangini

Evan Longoria’s now out four to eight weeks after a partially torn harmstring, leaving a gaping hole for the Rays at third base.  Will Rhymes was called up to fill the void, leaving Mangini and the recently promoted Figueroa to fill the void for Durham.  Mangini – who has a bit of a major league time – is hitting .257 with one home run, while Figueroa was just called up and had never previously played above Double-A.  Longoria’s replacement will likely come from within the major league club or via a trade.

Outfield: Jesus Feliciano, Brandon Guyer, Kyle Hudson, Jeff Salazar

Guyer’s the unquestioned offensive star of Durham, a 40-man roster member who made his major league debut last season with the Rays.  If there’s an outfield injury, he’ll likely return to the majors after three separate stints with the big club last season.  Salazar’s played in 168 major leagues – but none since 2009.  Hudson was 4 for 28 in his first 14 major league games with the Orioles last season, while Feliciano’s 54 games in 2010 with the Mets were his first and only.  So the rest of the major league experience here is limited at best, with Guyer the only 40-man member.  Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton and Zobrist have the outfield covered for now in the major leagues, and the Double-A outfield is a largely veteran group as well.

Brandon Guyer

Starting Pitchers: Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jim Paduch, Lance Pendelton, Matt Torra

Cobb might be the next in line if Tampa Bay needs a starting pitcher.  A 2006 fourth-round pick, he’s pitched to a 3.38 ERA in six starts.  Archer, another 40-man member, is only 23 years old.  But at 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA and 23 walks in 30 innings, his time has likely yet to come.  The other three starters are likely just organizational depth for Tampa Bay – which, by the way, has as good of a rotation as just about anyone in baseball.  Matt Moore – thanks to two bad starts out of six – has been the only subpar Rays starter to date.  As the organization’s top prospect, he’ll likely get plenty of chances before he’d get sent back down to Triple-A.

Relief Pitchers: Dane De La Rosa, John Gaub, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke, Jhonny Nunez, Ryan Reid, Romulo Sanchez, Alex Torres

A jam-packed relief staff features five 40-man players – De La Rosa, Gaub, Gomes, Lueke and Torres.  Of the five, only Gomes has a sub 4-ERA, with five scoreless outings to date.  Lueke and Torres are both north of 9:00 in ERA.  The Rays, with a 3.81 team ERA, aren’t likely to make too many changes, if any, due to performance.  As for Double-A, the Biscuits have a team ERA north of 5.00, without many individual standouts, so Durham’s relief corps could stay the same for quite some time.

Brandon Gomes

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Hope to see you tonight – weather permitting – for the premiere of the new scoreboard.  We’d love to hear from you as well – send any story ideas or feedback to kevinbrown@syracusechiefs.com or jasonbenetti@syracusechiefs.com.

KB

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