The hot corner will be a heated competition to watch this spring as the Rays have several players in camp that will be competing for the starting third base job on Opening Day and to kick off the season.
During the 2020 60 game regular season, the Rays had Yandy Diaz play the majority of the time at third base, garnering a grand total of 184 2⁄3 innings at the hot corner, with Joey Wendle trailing close behind at 161 innings. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo registered 89 innings, and then Mike Brosseau followed with 77.
All four of those players are in camp with the Rays and none of them have an established starting position on the roster as it currently is: Diaz is backing up Choi at first base, Wendle is backing up for Brandon Lowe, and Brosseau is backing up for everyone (if he makes the roster). Meanwhile, Tsutsugo’s poor showing in the abbreviated season has led to him losing his starting role on the team and forcing a competition at multiple positions in order to find a place for the Japanese slugger.
Among those four, Wendle and Brosseau both rated positively in Defensive Runs Saved with 2 DRS each, while Diaz registered -1 DRS and Tsutsugo had -2. Meanwhile, the prior season in 2019, Diaz rated negatively again with -4 DRS over 398 1⁄3 innings, with Wendle registering 0 DRS and Brosseau 1 DRS 177 2⁄3 innings and 111 innings played respectively.
Those four are just the tip of iceberg at the position as the Rays have a multitude of their 75 players in camp that will see time at third base during the spring.
One of those players was an MVP candidate early on last season with Brandon Lowe expected to see some time at third base during the month of March. Lowe only has two appearances at third base in his professional career, both of which came during the 2017 season while in High-A.
There is another player on the Rays 40-man roster that will also receive time at third base. Kevin Padlo has had a tumultuous time since being acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays leading into the 2016 season. After an excellent debut season to solidify his status as a top prospect, Padlo unfortunately suffered a broken hamate that would plague him through the 2018 season.
However, in 2019, Padlo restored his status as a prospect with a tremendous offensive showing and he finished the season on the cusp of the Majors, and would be added to the 40-man roster in November.
Then 2020 happened and an unknown illness sidelined Padlo for all of Spring Training until it was abruptly cancelled due to the pandemic.
Once the regular season finally started, Padlo was back to full health and just a call away from the Majors. During a few of the team’s road trips, he was part of the taxi-squad. However, he was left off the Rays postseason player pool; he was one of just two players on the 40-man roster to be left off, the other being RHP Edgar Garcia.
Despite this, Padlo remains a dark horse candidate. Although he may not be in serious contention for the starting job, he could certainly make it a tough decision for the Rays to option him to Durham to begin the season with a solid showing this spring.
That’s six players in camp that will be vying for just one starting spot on the Rays roster and that’s not including those who are in camp on minor league deals or not on the Rays 40-man roster.