While the Tampa Bay Rays regroup after their 4-0 shoutout over the Detroit Tigers, another group of potential Rays kicks off their season this weekend as the Durham Bulls are set to host the Norfolk Tides at 6:05 p.m. EST.
The Bulls are coming off a back-to-back championship season in 2022. They won the International League and Triple-A Championships last year and are looking forward to a potential 3-peat in 2023.
This year’s roster is set to feature some young, up-and-coming talent. But it will also include some notable veterans that baseball fans should recognize. With that being said, here is the preview for Opening Day and the season ahead for the Durham Bulls.
The Taj Mahal of Pitchers
Taj Bradley, the #1 prospect in the Rays organization as well as the Bulls Opening Day starter, comes into the 2023 season as the most highly anticipated pitcher in the Rays system. The Rays have high expectations of a potential call-up in 2023.
Bradley, who spent the majority of 2022 with the Montgomery Biscuits in the Double-A Southern League, was named the pitcher and prospect of the year. He had an ERA of 1.70 with 88 strikeouts and held opposing hitters to a batting average of under .200.
He showed why he is the #1 prospect in the Rays system. And if you include his stellar performance in the MLB Futures Game last season, Bradley has the makings of becoming a highly touted pitcher.
The issue with Bradley, however, is his lack of Triple-A experience and his subpar performance in Durham last season.
Giving Bradley the Opening Day start in Durham and time in Triple-A will be beneficial. Also, being around veterans such as Yonny Chirinos will allow Bradley to get some advice about how to navigate the highest level of the minor leagues.
Keep It in the Field
The Bulls infield is full of big-league potential players with possible call-ups in 2023.
With Vidal Brujan, Jonathan Aranda, Osleivis Basabe, Tristan Gray, and top Rays position prospect Curtis Mead all in the field, the Rays have many call-up options for the big leagues.
Obviously, fans know what Brujan and Aranda can bring to the table having played in St. Petersburg for the Rays. But for players such as Gray and Basabe, who blossomed this spring by showing off their power bats, they may have to prove a bit more than, Aranda and Brujan, who have been around the big leagues a bit longer.
The true key man in all this is Mead.
Mead is someone that will get his due chance. After the numbers he put up last year in Durham, he may not be in a Bulls uniform for long. It shouldn’t be too much longer before he straps it up for the Rays.
The Durham Bulls have a roster that is quite intriguing heading into 2023. They feature a good mix of veterans and young talent.
Having veterans such as Ben Heller, Yonny Chirinos, and Ben Gamel, who have all seen plenty of big-league action, will be beneficial to the progression and development of the Rays younger prospects.
Expect Durham to be competing in the International League this year. And they kick off the year with Norfolk, the Orioles Triple-A affiliate. This should get the guys fired up to be playing a divisional opponent’s farm team to start the season.
Main Photo Credit: Calvin Mattheis-USA TODAY Sports