As we continue our series breaking down each position ahead of the 2019 season, our attention turns to first base. The Tampa Bay Rays will enter the season without an everyday first baseman, but that shouldn’t be a reason for concern.
After designating slugger C.J. Cron for assignment and trading away Jake Bauers earlier this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves without an everyday first baseman. Rays fans turned their attention to the promising Nate Lowe who tore through the minor league ranks in 2018. While his time will come in Tampa Bay, the Rays will enter the season with a trio of candidates vying for time at first.
JI-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, and Brandon Lowe will all see time at first base this season. They each possess the power you would like to see out a first baseman, but it will come down to matchups and defensive ability.
Ji-Man Choi came over to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Brad Miller and he immediately made an impact. Choi became a fan favorite and one thing was evident from the start, he could punish baseballs. While he only appeared in 1 game at first for the Rays in 2018, Kevin Cash is confident in Choi’s defensive capabilities. His work ethic hasn’t gone unnoticed this spring as he has put in countless hours perfecting his craft at first.
2018 numbers with the Rays:
49 G // 1.0 bWAR
8 HR // 27 RBI
Acquired in exchange for a promising rookie in Jake Bauers, the Tampa Bay Rays are hoping they can tap into Yandy Diaz’s power potential. Yandy is an absolute unit and looks as though he should hit balls further than Giancarlo Stanton, but he has had issues getting balls elevated. The Rays are hoping that with some minor adjustments, Yandy can unleash some baseballs into the stands.
He will see time at third but I believe we could see Diaz get a majority of his playing time at first. With the Indians over the course of 39 games, he appeared at first 9 times.
2018 numbers with Indians:
39 G // 0.2 bWAR
1 HR // 15 RBI
After receiving an unexpected call to the big leagues in 2018 and fantastic start to his 2019 camp, Brandon Lowe, a natural second baseman, has forced himself into the discussion for time at first base.
The rookie got off to a slow start following his call to the show, but finished the year with 6 bombs in 43 games. His power potential was on full display and he has made his presence known in Port Charlotte this spring. He wasn’t a lock for the opening day roster due to a crowded infield but now Lowe has seemingly forced the hand of Kevin Cash.
As a result, Brandon Lowe has received time at first base this spring in an attempt to familiarize the rookie with the new position ahead of the 2019 season.
2018 numbers with the Rays:
43 G // 0.7 bWAR
6 HR // 25 RBI
It isn’t a matter of if but rather when regarding Nate Lowe’s arrival in Tampa Bay. When he does arrive, presumably after the Super Two deadline, the fight for time at first will only become more intense.
I also wouldn’t rule out Daniel Robertson as a possibility to see some time at first. One thing is for sure, Kevin Cash has his hands full this season at first. The talent is aplenty, it is just a matter of who will be manning first come opening day and each day after that.
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Previous roster breakdowns: