The Tampa Bay Rays have 67 players in camp competing for a place on the 26-man roster. We take a look at a few players who are battling for a spot.
The Tampa Bay Rays are in their second week of spring training and barreling toward the season. There are still a few roster spots they need to get lined out this spring. Today we take a look at a position that could be up for grabs this spring.
Final Bench Spots
To me, it appears that the Rays have 12 spots very likely to be locked up for their Opening Day roster:
- Austin Meadows
- Willy Adames
- Brandon Lowe
- Kevin Kiermaier
- Ji-Man Choi
- Yandy Diaz
- Jose Martinez
- Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
- Hunter Renfroe
- Mike Zunino
- Manuel Margot
- Winner of the backup catcher spot.
"Tampa Bay Rays Spring Skirmish: Battle at Backup Catcher"
With the new 26-man rosters in effect, teams can carry a maximum of 13 pitchers. That means there’s one more spot for a bat if the Rays maximize the pitching staff.
Let’s take a look at one of the players duking it out for that final spot.
Nate Lowe was a 245 pound, slugging first baseman last season. In just 169 plate appearances he slashed a very solid .263/.325/.454. Lowe had seven homers and eight doubles as a major leaguer.
The buzz around Lowe began in Triple-A two seasons ago when he rocked through three levels of the minor leagues, all the way to AAA-Durham. Lowe totaled 27 homers, 32 doubles, and 102 RBI that season while slashing .330/.416/.568 in 130 games. The Hype train had left the station.
Standing in the way is the primary option at first base, Ji-Man Choi. We expect to see a platoon between Choi and if he proves to have a capable glove, Jose Martinez. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has also been mentioned as an option at first base, in addition to third and corner outfield. Don’t forget, Yandy Diaz made 22 appearances at first base last season. Lowe is a big lefty, but so are Yoshi Tsutsugo, Brian O’Grady, and Ji-Man Choi. O’Grady also brings the versatility of playing all three outfield positions last season for the Reds.
Lowe played the majority of his major league time at first base last year, but did log four appearances at third. Lowe was not instructed to lose weight this offseason but reported to camp 20 pounds lighter. This was a Nate Lowe decision and it was a smart one. He knows this is a crowded and talented roster, his best chance at making an impact with the Rays is to be able to play both first and third base. He’s making himself an option should injury or inefficiency strike either position.
Nate Lowe’s role will likely have a lot to do with how well Yoshi Tsutsugo adjusts to major-league pitching. If he can prove to manager, Kevin Cash that he is a capable defender at third, his bat might be enough to push someone like Mike Brosseau or Daniel Robertson off of the roster.
It’s not certain if there will be a spot for Lowe on the Opening Day Roster, but what is certain is the Rays are loaded with talent from the top to the bottom of this roster.