Inbox: What's in store for Lowe?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers questions from fans

January 31st, 2019

Do you think that Brandon Lowe will start the season in the big leagues or Triple-A?
-- @coachthompson14 via Twitter

Lowe's situation will be one of the most interesting storylines during Spring Training. After a rough start to his career, where he went 0-for-19, Lowe showed that he can handle big league pitching. He connected on six home runs and proved that his power in the Minors (22 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A) can translate to the Majors, despite having a smaller frame. Lowe can play second base and the outfield, which are two of the spots where the Rays have a plethora of options. If Lowe can play first base at a decent level, there's a chance that he breaks into the Opening Day roster. If not, the Rays could opt to start him off in Triple-A Durham in order for him to get consistent at-bats. The Rays are high on what Lowe can add to their lineup, so he'll make contributions at the big league level in 2019, regardless of where he starts the season.
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In your opinion, what spring roster battle should fans watch for the most?
-- @DeejaeD2 via Twitter

There are a couple to keep an eye on: the catcher battle, the battle across the bullpen and just how many position players do the Rays carry on the roster.
The Rays have , , and Lowe as potential options in the infield, but it's hard to imagine that there's at-bats for all of them -- or even a spot on the roster for all -- if you add in the fact that the Rays will likely carry five outfielders and designated hitter . Like I mentioned in the previous question, Lowe is the most likely option to start the season in Triple-A, but a good spring would force the Rays to make a tough decision.
Aside from that, deciding between Michael Perez and as the backup catcher to seems like an interesting battle, with Perez the clear favorite as of right now. Ciuffo could benefit from the consistent at-bats, while Perez is a bit more advanced defensively at this point.

As for the bullpen, manager Kevin Cash will need to figure out how he's going to go about the back end of the bullpen, as well as which of the long relievers he will carry on the roster. It'll be interesting to see who of , , , and will make the Opening Day roster. If they all do, the Rays could opt to go with an extra position player.
Do you expect Choi to start every day at DH?
-- @KevSigg on Twitter

No. The Rays acquired Choi from the Brewers after designating for assignment, and he turned out to be a great find for the club. Choi hit eight home runs in 49 games and was an impact bat in the middle of the Rays' lineup. But despite his overall success, Choi has struggled against left-handed pitching throughout his career. Last season with the Brewers and Rays, Choi hit nine of his 10 home runs against right-handed pitchers and finished with an impressive .280/.372/.536 slash line. Against left-handers, however, his batting average dipped to .136 and he struck out eight times in just 25 plate appearances. Because of his struggles, Choi will see most of his action against right-handed pitching, with getting the bulk of the work against left-handed pitching.

Why haven't the Rays traded from their middle infield depth? They have players in Triple-A like and Kean Wong who should arguably be Major Leaguers. They could get some depth at a different position for them or package them for a Major League player.
-- @ha_gaaabe via Twitter

The Rays can certainly elect to make a move during or after Spring Training, but having as much depth as possible has been a priority for Tampa Bay. While the team won 90 games last season, there's still not much history around the team to guarantee that the Rays will match, or surpass, last season's win total. There's a lot of quality options within the infield, and the Rays feel good about all of their options, but none of them have had consistent success at the Major League level. Robertson, Duffy, Lowe, Wendle, and all found success in 2018, but now it remains to be seen if they can do it consistently. Until that question is answered, the Rays feel that maintaining their depth throughout the organization is important.
Why hasn't Colin Poche figured more prominently in the team's immediate plans? He doesn't seem to know what a 2 ERA would feel like.
-- @DavidBCadima via Twitter

Of all the arms the Rays have coming up, Poche's arm out of the bullpen could be the most impressive. Poche finished with a 1.08 ERA in 50 innings of work at Triple-A Durham last year, and dominated on his way to that number. If you combine his numbers from Double-A and Triple-A last season, Poche finished with 110 strikeouts in just 66 innings pitched. Because of that, Poche could be a weapon for the Rays out of the bullpen in 2019.
As of right now, it seems like the Rays will hold off on adding another reliever through the free-agent market, which would open the door for a player like Poche to either crack the Opening Day roster or make his appearance sometime throughout the season. It remains to be seen what ultimately happens for Poche, but it's safe to assume that, barring injury, he will be pitching in the Majors in 2019.
If you had to pick one guy, who do you think gets the most saves for the Rays in 2019?
-- @sdwalker73 via Twitter

Unless the Rays make a splash and add a veteran reliever, all signs point to having a big season for the Rays out of the bullpen. No, the Rays won't name a closer and they'll use their bullpen different than most teams, but Alvarado has the best arm on the current roster and has some experience in the ninth inning, finishing with eight saves last season.

Do you expect to make the Opening Day roster or will he start in Triple-A?
--@facksy11 via Twitter

Bonifacio was added as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, but his chances of making the Opening Day roster are very slim. The Rays have a packed roster and there's simply no room for Bonifacio. By adding him, however, the Rays add a veteran leader that can help some of the younger players, especially some from the Dominican Republic, who probably grew up watching Bonifacio. If Bonifacio decides that he wants to play in Triple-A this season, the Rays could find value having him in the organization as another depth piece.