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Around the Horn: Youth staff middle infield

Adames likely to start at SS after strong end in 2019, versatile Wendle an option at 2B
January 30, 2019

In the final weeks leading up to Spring Training, MLB.com will be going around the horn to examine each area of the Rays' 2019 roster. This installment focuses on the middle of Tampa Bay's infield.Projected starters:Willy Adames (SS), Joey Wendle (2B) After struggling in his first couple of stints at

In the final weeks leading up to Spring Training, MLB.com will be going around the horn to examine each area of the Rays' 2019 roster. This installment focuses on the middle of Tampa Bay's infield.
Projected starters:Willy Adames (SS), Joey Wendle (2B)
After struggling in his first couple of stints at the big league level, Adames showed why he was pegged as the starting shortstop of the future for Tampa Bay. In his first 34 games last season, he had a .200/.256/.296 slash line. The young shortstop was demoted to Triple-A Durham twice during that span due to inconsistent playing time and production. Once the Rays traded Adeiny Hechavarria to the Pirates and handed the keys to Adames at shortstop, the 23-year old Dominican Republic native began to come into his own.

Over the last two months, Adames took over as the everyday shortstop and finished with a .329/.406/.480 slash line. The young shortstop admitted that having consistent playing time helped his confidence, as well as lowering his hands at the plate, which gave him a chance to catch up to the fastballs that he was barely missing earlier in the season. The Rays plan on using their versatility, especially in the infield, but it's safe to assume that more often than not, Adames will be trotting out as the starting shortstop for Tampa Bay in 2019.
While Adames is an easy choice at shortstop, the status of his double-play partner is a bit more fluid.
Wendle was the biggest surprise for the Rays in 2018 as the 28-year old rookie finished with a .300/.354/.435 slash line, en route to finishing fourth in American League Rookie of the Year Award voting. He played in 139 games last season and spent time all over the diamond. Second base served as Wendle's primary position, but he also played third base, shortstop and left field. The second-year man will make his way into the lineup due to his versatility, but a good spring would likely land him as the Opening Day second baseman.

Other options up the middle: Daniel Robertson, Brandon Lowe, Christian Arroyo, Andrew Velazquez
Having a healthy Robertson will give the Rays a boost in 2019. Robertson was one of the most consistent players on the team before a left thumb injury ended his season in August. Like Wendle, Robertson can play all over the field, which will make it easier for manager Kevin Cash to find a spot for him in the lineup. Despite missing the last two months of the season, he finished with the fourth-highest bWAR on the team last season (2.7).
Lowe, who withstood an 0-for-19 drought to begin his career, showed impressive power last season. The University of Maryland product played second base and left field for the Rays last season, and he provides the team with yet another player that can play both the infield and the outfield. With the addition of Avisaíl García, it remains to be seen just what Lowe's role could be in 2019. He connected on 22 home runs in the Minors last season and the power translated well into the Majors, as the 24-year old finished with six home runs in 129 at-bats

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In limited time, Lowe proved that he could handle Major League pitching, but he could benefit from starting the year in Durham in order to get consistent at-bats. If he makes the 25-man roster, he will see most of his time against right-handed pitchers after batting .247 against them, as opposed to his .188 clip against southpaws.
Who else is in the Pipeline?
No. 1 Wander Franco, SS (age 18, highest level: Rookie)
No. 9 Lucius Fox, SS (age 21, highest level: Double-A)
No. 11 Nick Solak, 2B (age 24, highest level: Triple-A)
No. 12 Vidal Brujan, 2B (age 20, highest level: Class A)
No. 27 Tyler Frank, 2B (age 22, highest level: Class A Short-Season)
No. 30 Osmy Gregorio, SS (age 20, highest level: Rookie)

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.