Finding A Spot For The Out Of Options Font
He enters camp fully recovered from a lat injury that ended his season at the end of June. Finding a spot fr him on the roster won’t be easy, a task made more difficult by the fact that he is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minors without being exposed to waivers. It will be interesting to see what role he takes on in spring training and where he slots in on the Rays staff.
His showing with the Rays marked quite a turn around for the right hander after a disastrous opening of the season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He appeared in 6 games with the Dodgers spanning 10.1-innings posting an 0-2 mark with a 11.32 ERA. The Dodgers designated him for assignment and he was subsequently traded to the Oakland Athletics.
The nightmarish season continued in Oakland where he appeared in four games logging 6.1 innings in which he allowed 11 earned runs. Between his time with the Dodgers and Athletics the numbers were about as ugly as could be. In 17 innings of work he allowed 24 earned runs (12.71 ERA) while allowing 10 home runs. In that span the opposition hit .388/.424/.800 against him. He was designated for assignment by the A’s on May 23rd and sent to Tampa Bay in exchange for minor league hurler Peter Bayer on May 25th.
Envisioning The Pitching Staff:
If the Rays go with a traditional pitching staff, barring injuries it would look something like this:
Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow comprise the three traditional starters while Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos fill the role of the headliner (pitcher to follow opener and provide anywhere from 3 to 7 innings of relief).
The competition to break into the group of 12 is fierce. In addition to Font trying to break into the group, there is also competition from another group including Jake Faria, Jalen Beeks, Oliver Drake, and Austin Pruitt. Not to mention rookies Colin Poche and Ian Gibaut.
The Rays could decide to break camp with a 13 man staff and go with only 12 position players.
The Position Players:
The most likely group of position players includes catchers Mike Zunino and either Michael Perez or Nick Ciuffo. Infielders Yandy Diaz, Joey Wendle, Willy Adames, Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson, and Brandon Lowe. Outfielders Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier, Austin Meadows, Guillermo Heredia, and Avisail Garcia. Rounding out the group is designated hitter Ji-Man Choi.
That’s 14 players competing for just 12 spots. Outfielder Guillermo Heredia would be a likely candidate to begin the year logging everyday plate appearances in Durham. The second player removed would more than likely be Brandon Lowe.
Lowe came up in 2018 and hit .233/.324/.450 including six homers in 148 plate appearances. He also logged time at second base (28 games), left field (11 games), and right field (5 games). This spring he will be working out at first base as a possible platoon mate for the right handed hitting Yandy Diaz.
#Rays Brandon Lowe already has a 1B glove, has talked to #BlueJays Smoak and other 1B who are with his agency, is looking forward to getting on field and taking ground balls. Welcomes any opportunity to get in lineup.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 15, 2019
The Rays could send Lowe to Triple-A to begin the season allowing him more time at first base but that’s where Nate Lowe (pronounced low and no relation to Brandon Lowe pronounced like cow) will be getting most of his reps with an eye on assuming the position full time with the Rays at some point in 2019.
Most Likely Outcome?
Injuries creep up each and every spring. No camp is immune to it. It is more than likely that Font will find his way onto the roster via an injury. If the Rays were to get through camp unscathed, it would be more than likely that either Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, Hunter Wood, or Emilio Pagan would start in Triple-A.
As for Font, he was named to the rotation last year before his injury. His most likely role would be that of the headliner. The guy following the opener. That puts him in direct competition with Yarbrough, Chirinos, Beeks, and Faria for one of two spots.