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4-man third base? Rays' '20 plan for hot corner

@juanctoribio
February 20, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- For nearly a decade, the Rays didn’t have to worry about third base with Evan Longoria manning the hot corner. Since then, the Rays have continued to search for more production from the position.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- For nearly a decade, the Rays didn’t have to worry about third base with Evan Longoria manning the hot corner. Since then, the Rays have continued to search for more production from the position.

That search might be coming to an end in 2020. While Matt Duffy played well when healthy during his two and a half year stint with the club, the Rays now enter the ‘20 season with a plethora of options at third base. The Rays had 152 different lineups in ‘19, and with the versatility on the roster, it would be a safe bet to predict that manager Kevin Cash could draw up even more lineup combinations this season.

Because of the options and versatility, the Rays won’t have a set starter at the position. What they will have, however, is a lot of different looks against opposing pitchers. Let’s take a look at the options at third base and the situations where they will likely be called upon.

Yandy Díaz
Of all the options, Díaz has the most Major League experience at the position, and is expected to get the bulk of the playing time at third, especially against left-handed pitching. When healthy, Díaz was a pivotal part of the Tampa Bay offense and the team will try and keep his bat in the lineup more often than not. Díaz will also play first base and will occasionally serve as the team’s designated hitter, but expect him to play more third base this upcoming season.

“He looks really good; his footwork, his hands,” Cash said. “He has certainly put the work in.”

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
The plan for Tsutsugo will be one of the things to watch as Grapefruit League games begin on Saturday, but he’s expected to get plenty of looks at third base during Spring Training. Tsutsugo played just 108 games at third during his ten-year career in Japan, and only 16 games since 2013. The Japanese slugger, however, has been taking grounders at third and is expected to get playing time at the position during Spring Training. Tsutsugo will also play left field and DH, but will also get time at third base against right-handed pitchers.

Joey Wendle
Wendle has mostly played second base, but the infielder said he went through a new throwing program over the offseason in order to be able to play more shortstop and third base this season. Wendle has played 41 games at third and has flashed his leather and could serve as a late-inning defensive replacement.

Daniel Robertson
After a disappointing season at the plate in 2019, Robertson is looking to have a bounce back ‘20 season, but it’s his defense that could earn him a spot on the Opening Day roster. Robertson is an excellent defender and his ability to play multiple positions makes him one of the leading candidates to secure a spot on the 26-man roster. If Robertson makes the roster, he will likely serve as a late-inning defensive replacement and a capable bat against lefties. If he doesn’t, he will be a key depth piece in case of injury.

Nate Lowe/Mike Brosseau
Lowe and Brosseau both have Major League experience, but could be victims of a loaded depth chart in 2020. Lowe will likely start the season in Triple-A Durham as the everyday first baseman, but after shedding 20 pounds over the offseason, he is looking to prove that he can also play third base. So far, so good for Lowe.

As for Brosseau, the infielder can also play second base and the outfield, which helps his case. After playing 50 games in the Majors last season, Brosseau will likely start the season in Triple-A Durham.

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