ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have a loaded farm system, and they'll look to display it when camp opens on Feb. 13.Tampa Bay announced 16 more non-roster invites to big league camp on Thursday. The list is headlined by first baseman and the Rays' 2018 Minor League Player of the
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have a loaded farm system, and they'll look to display it when camp opens on Feb. 13.
Tampa Bay announced 16 more non-roster invites to big league camp on Thursday. The list is headlined by first baseman and the Rays' 2018 Minor League Player of the Year Award winner Nathaniel Lowe, the club's 2018 Reliever of the Year Award winner Colin Poche and its No. 9 prospect Lucius Fox.
Other top prospects that will be on display during Spring Training include: Jesus Sanchez (No. 4), Brandon Lowe (No. 10), Nick Solak (No. 11), Joe McCarthy (No. 17), Nick Ciuffo (No. 25) and Ian Gibaut (No. 29).
Nathaniel Lowe, 23, isn't expected to make the Opening Day roster, but there's a good chance he makes his Major League debut at some point during the 2019 season. In three stops in the Minors, Nathaniel Lowe hit 27 home runs and finished the year with a combined OPS of .985. However, he only played in 28 games in Triple-A, so the Rays are looking for him to get more at-bats under his belt before feeling comfortable enough to name him as the team's starting first baseman.
As for Poche, 25, there's an opportunity for him to break into the big league club out of Spring Training. The Rays have a formidable bullpen, but unless the team signs another veteran arm, there's a chance that the team has a spot for Poche. The left-handed reliever struck out 110 hitters last season in just 66 innings of work.
With the 16 additions, the Rays are up to 24 non-roster invites and, as of now, have 64 players attending big league camp.
Here's a full of list non-roster invites, with a quick breakdown at each position:
Pitchers: Oliver Drake, Mike Franco, Ian Gardeck, Andrew Kittredge, Ryan Merritt, Hoby Milner, Dalton Moats, Colin Poche, Ricardo Pinto, Casey Sadler, Luis Santos, Cole Sulser, Curtis Taylor
The Rays will continue to monitor the status of their bullpen, and there's plenty of Major League experience on this list. Kittredge and Milner both pitched for the Rays last season, but neither showed enough to stay on the active roster. Milner, however, found success in Triple-A, finishing with a 2.88 ERA in 40 appearances in 2018. As for Drake, his circuitous '18 -- in which he became the first player in Major League history to pitch for five different teams in one season -- ended by clearing waivers and being added to the Rays' Triple-A roster. Tampa Bay may look to add one more reliever, and it could come from this list.
Catchers: Anthony Bemboom, Mac James, David Rodriguez
Unless the team pulls off a trade, the catcher situation seems to be set for the Rays. Mike Zunino should be the starter, with Michael Perez and Ciuffo battling for the backup job. But it doesn't hurt to have depth in the organization.
Infielders:Emilio Bonifácio, Michael Brosseau, Jake Cronenworth, Lucius Fox, Nathaniel Lowe, Nick Solak, Kean Wong
Of the non-roster invites, the infielder group is the one with the most talent. Bonifacio serves as the veteran of the group, and while he won't break the big league roster, he could find himself playing somewhere in the organization with a solid spring. Fox, Lowe, Solak and Wong are some of the top prospects in the Rays system, so it'll be interesting what they can show. Wong, 23, was named the MVP Award winner for Durham last season, but he has yet to get a chance at the Major League level. He finished the year with a .282/.345/.406 slash line and connected on a career-high nine home runs in 116 games.
Outfielders: Jake Smolinski
Smolinski is the lone non-roster outfielder on the list as the team has elected to carry eight outfielders to big league camp. The soon-to-be 30-year-old struggled in limited time with the A's last season. It's unlikely that Smolinski makes the Opening Day roster, as the Rays have a plethora of options currently on the 40-man roster. For the number junkies, he'll be wearing No. 9, which was worn by Jake Bauers last season.
** Juan Toribio ** covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.