Breakout Performances from Tampa Bay Rays' First Two Weeks of Spring Training
The Tampa Bay Rays have a lot to be happy about after the first two weeks of spring training. The team is 5-2-2 in their first nine games of exhibition play, which could be a positive indicator of things to come in the regular season.
Although the spring games do not count and do not include major leaguers facing major leaguers, they correlate to regular-season success for the Rays. They have won at least 15 spring training games in each of the team’s four seasons that ended with a postseason appearance. The only time they failed to reach the postseason after 15 spring training wins was 1999.
Aside from the team performance, there have been some individual efforts that have went above and beyond expectations with breakthrough performances.
The criteria for consideration for the breakthrough performances has been limited to hitters that have played in at least six games and pitchers that have started two or appeared in at least three of the Rays' spring training games.
Simply put, it is hard to consider a player to have a breakthrough performance with two at-bats or two innings pitched.
Here are five players that have turned some heads already in two weeks of Grapefruit League play.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Honorable Mention: Cameron Seitzer
Cameron Seitzer has only had two hits in four at-bats over two games for the Tampa Bay Rays so far this spring.
Both hits were home runs.
Although he has not yet had the playing time to be considered for the breakthrough players list, he is certainly worth mentioning with the way he has capitalized on his opportunities.
His second home run of the spring was a very special moment for Seitzer. It came in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays with his dad watching front row—from the Blue Jays dugout.
Seitzer’s father Kevin is the new hitting coach for the Blue Jays and shared his excitement for his son’s accomplishment with Bill Chastain from MLB.com.
'It was good,' the elder Seitzer said. 'Spring Training's different than regular season. He does it against us during the regular season I'm not going to be happy, but it's just fun getting to watch your son play.'
Seitzer spent the 2013 season with Double-A Montgomery, batting .268/.380/.360 with 25 doubles, six home runs and 61 RBI.
5. Jeremy Moore
Jeremy Moore has appeared in seven of the Rays' nine spring training games so far. The non-roster invitee has put together a nice performance in the playing time he has received.
In his 16 at-bats he has a .313/.313/.688 line. Four of his five hits have been extra-hits, including one home run and his team-leading three doubles.
Moore spent 2013 in the minors, finishing the year with a .211/.288/.359 line with 12 doubles and seven home runs in 80 games.
He has played in eight career games in the majors in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
4. Jerry Sands
Jerry Sands has appeared in all nine of the Rays' Grapefruit League games.
He has been a consistent performer, hitting .375/.444/.875 including two doubles and two home runs.
His five RBI lead the team so far in spring training.
Sands has played six games at first base for the Rays this spring, a position they have a need for additional depth at.
With few spots open on the 25-man roster, he should start the year in Triple-A Durham, though he could get called up to fill a gap should a player get hurt.
Sands spent 2013 in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league organization. He bat .212/.315/.347 in 110 games.
3. Josh Lueke
Josh Lueke has the most innings pitched by a Rays pitcher that has not started a game (3.2 innings).
Over the course of the three games he has pitched, he has yet to allow a walk, hit or run. Lueke has held opposing hitters to a .231 average and 0.82 WHIP.
He is competing for the final two roster spots in the bullpen. If he can keep up this level of production, he could find himself on the Opening Day roster.
Lueke spent most of 2013 with Triple-A Durham. He finished the season with a 0.63 ERA in 40 appearances while holding opposing batters to a .196 average. He also recorded 17 saves in 18 opportunities.
In 19 games with the Rays last season, he finished with a 5.06 ERA and opponents had a .277 average against him.
2. Kevin Kiermaier
Kevin Kiermaier is pushing hard to earn one of the final bench spots on the Tampa Bay Rays roster. If his spring keeps going how it has started, he will make it a tough decision to leave him off.
In 14 at-bats over seven games he has a .286/.333/.500 line, maintaining a consistent offensive presence at the plate. He has not had much opportunity to display his speed, with only one stolen base for the spring.
Kiermaier told Reggie Hayes from the News-Sentinel that he feels like he belongs in the majors.
I feel like I belong and I like playing against the best of the best. That makes baseball fun. It's a tough and difficult sport. If you can have success against these guys who've been playing 10-plus years in the big leagues, then that gives you much more confidence in yourself that you can do this.
Kiermaier played 136 games in the minors in 2013 with Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. He finished his minor league season with a combined .295/.362/.431 line with 21 doubles, 15 triples and six home runs.
His 2013 season ended with his major league debut in Game 163 for the Rays.
1. Chris Archer
Chris Archer has started off the spring in very impressive fashion. So far, he leads Rays pitchers with 5.1 innings pitched and has only given up three hits and no runs.
Aside from allowing no runners to score, he has also yet to walk a batter in Grapefruit League play.
Archer has held opposing batters to a .167 average over his two starts. He also has the lowest WHIP (0.56) among Rays starters.
This will be Archer's first full season in the majors and a lot will be expected of him. His potential fastball command has drawn comparisons from Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon to their ace David Price this spring.
Archer is in position to start the season as the Rays' fourth starter while Jeremy Hellickson recovers from injury. If he can perform at this level once the games start counting, it would be difficult to slide him down the rotation.