As we get closer to September, speculation has started on how the Devil Rays’ front office will handle the September call-ups. In the past, the front office has been reluctant to bring up some of the better minor league prospects. The new front office has shown that they are not afraid to pull the trigger, having already called up B. J. Upton and Ben Zobrist who are both starting everyday on the left side of the infield. The question now is, who else will be called up, especially when rosters expand on September 1st. The most likely candidates are Delmon Young, Chad Orvella, Kevin Witt and Darnell McDonald. Another possibility is Juan Salas who has continued his dominant ways since being promoted to AAA.
There are two new prospects in the system that many fans would like to see playing in The Pit, but they may have to wait until next year for one of them and 2008 for the second. Joel Guzman, who was recently acquired form the Dodgers for Julio Lugo has homered in three straight games and already has some major league experience earlier this season with the Los Angeles. On the surface, he would seem an obvious choice for a September call-up. Guzman was converted to an outfielder by the Dodgers after coming up as a shortstop. With the future of the team’s outfield apparently set with Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford and Delmon Young (and Elijah Dukes still barely in the picture), Guzman’s future appears to be as a corner infielder. Now that B. J. Upton is the team’s third baseman, it looks like the only position available for Guzman is at first base. However, with Wes Bankston recently promoted to Durham and switched back to first base after a failed experiment at third base, Guzman has been playing everyday in left field. It is unlikely that the Devil Rays would want Guzman learning a new position in the major leagues. So when will Guzman begin working at first base? It is possible he is working there already before games, but he needs to get some games under his belt before he can bring his big bat to the bigs. Therefore it is unlikely that we will see Guzman in a Devil Rays uniform this season. He will most likely be given a shot at first base in Spring Training and then the team will have to decide if either he or Wes Bankston will be the Rays’ first baseman of 2007. If one is, the other will be back in Durham. If neither are, then the team will have an even tougher decision…Who goes and who stays?
The other new prospect is Evan Longoria. Longoria is clearly on the fast track to the major leagues, however, that track will not end at The Pit this season. Despite hitting 14 home runs in 43 games with a .343 batting average as a pro since being drafted number 3 overall in June, Gerry Hunsicker, Rays senior vice president of baseball operations, says that a September call-up is a “long shot”. In fact Hunsicker goes on to say that Longoria will probably start the 2007 season at AA Montgomery. However, if he continues to hit at the same pace he is hitting in AA now, he won’t be there long.
Top Pick Longoria Working Way Up. [Tampa Tribune]