Tampa Bay Rays Top Position Needs For 2023

Austin Hart
Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
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1st Base

It seems like ages ago that Carlos Pena was mashing homers as the anchor of the Rays at first base. Since then, there have been a lot of short-term rentals and experiments that haven't yielded any consistent production at the position. Tampa Bay recently traded away their primary option in Ji-Man Choi to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor league pitcher Jack Hartman. This will most likely be the most intriguing position to watch this season, with a couple of different scenarios in play. 

As of now, I believe the most likely scenario here could be utilizing Isaac Paredes at first base for a favorable number of games. At just 23 years old, he broke out last season with the Rays, hitting 20 home runs while getting playing time at first, second, and third base. Although his.205 season average was hampered by a poor offensive performance in the second half of the season, I believe he's shown enough at the plate to earn a spot in the starting lineup. This is likely contingent on consistency, though, as he has to improve that aspect of his game offensively to be a solid contributor when the Rays need it most. It's possible Yandy Diaz could see time at 1B on off days for Isaac, given his previous experience filling in at the position over the last few years.

The caveat is that Isaac played the fewest games at first base of the three positions he alternated between. If the production isn't consistent enough offensively, much less defensively, this is where I believe another scenario could come into play. Top 1B prospect Kyle Manzardo has garnered some buzz after hitting.323 for the Rays' Double-A affiliate, the Montgomery Biscuits. He could be an interesting option at some point in the season, but he still needs to progress through Triple-A, and the Rays certainly don't want to rush his debut. Selected in the second round of the 2021 draft out of Washington State, his offensive potential is certainly being noticed, as this article from Marc Topkin discusses his invitation to Spring Training for the Rays.

This was definitely an area I was hoping the Rays could address over the offseason, with options like Trey Mancini, Brandon Belt, José Abreu, and Eric Hosmer as available candidates. Certainly, all four could have provided solid offense and defense as well as a veteran locker room presence. That's not to say Isaac Paredes can't do the same thing as he continues to grow as a player, but it certainly would have been interesting to see a splash free agent signing.

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