Welcome to the next installment of Tampa Bay Rays vs. the AL East. Today we focus on third base.
The Tampa Bay Rays have several high-quality players competing for time at the hot-corner in 2020. The Al East has some very quality depth at third base. While the Rays look to platoon several talented players in and out at third, the Red Sox and Blue Jays have two of the biggest young stars in all of baseball manning the position. Today we dive into what the boys from Tampa Bay have to offer in 2020. On Deck: Tampa Bay Rays
AL East 2B Team Previews:
AL East 3B Team Previews
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay Rays Fangraphs 2020 Projected 3B WAR: 2.7
The Rays may not have the star power of the Red Sox or the Blue Jays when it comes to the hot corner, but they have arguably more depth than any team in the division. They acquired a groundball machine who was consistently among the league leaders in average exit velocity and turned his career OPS+ of 94 into a 116 last season.
This offseason they brought in one of the top sluggers in all of Japan, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. Yoshi is not known for his defense and has played primarily in the outfield. The Rays have a stacked outfield and were giving him some work at third base before the spring was cut short. Tsutsugo could see time in the outfield, DH, and third base this season.
Here are a couple of notes from Tsutsugo’s Rays Colored Glasses profile page.
- Tustsugo was the first pick of the NPB 2009 Draft.
- He has slugged .528 over ten years in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
- Tsutsugo made five All-Star games between 2015-2019.
- He is the youngest player in BayStars’ history to reach 200 home runs.
- Over the past four seasons, he has averaged 35 home runs.
- Tsutsugo reportedly had an average exit velocity of 92 mph last season, among Major
- League players with at least 50 batted balls, that would have been good for 19th best in the league.
- 0.3 mph faster than Yandy Diaz‘s vaunted average velocity.
- Tsutsugo was the cleanup hitter for Team Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He won the Pool B MVP by hitting .364 with two homers in three games.
Nate Lowe is a real wild card here. If Tsutsugo’s defense is not up to snuff (which it never was in the NPB) then a slimmed-down Nate Lowe might be a serious contender to take over some of the duties when the Rays are in need of a left-handed bat. Lowe came to camp about 20 pounds lighter this spring and had been getting significant work at third. The defensive flexibility makes the thunder in his bat a lot more appealing.
Lowe hit 27 homers in the minor leagues just two years ago. Last season Yandy Diaz posted a 95 OPS+ against right-handed pitchers and an even lower 82 OPS+ when facing a right-handed starter. There’s an opportunity for someone like Tsutsugo or Lowe to take at-bats. The Rays also have solid candidates like Mike Brosseau, Joey Wendle, and Daniel Robertson, all capable of manning third base. Tampa Bay definitely wins the battle of depth and I’m excited to see what these players will be able to combine to do together in 2020.