Examining The Competition For The Lefty Hitting OutfielderFollow @Steve_Kinsella1
Tampa, FL – The Tampa Bay Rays officially open their spring training on February 15th in Orlando. That is the date when pitchers and catchers are due to report. Five days later on February 20th full rosters are due in camp. The Rays camp roster is certain to have a few more names shuffled in and possibly out before now and mid-February.
As it stands now, there is an intriguing mix of players in competition for the role of left handed hitting outfielder Even if a couple of the players are only in camp for a few weeks, it’s an opportunity for them to leave an impression on the coaching staff.
The Rays appear to have every upper level lefty hitting outfielder in camp to compete for the role of the left handed hitting outfielder. Currently, the outfield mix includes right handed bats Randy Arozarena, Jose Siri, Manuel Margot, and Harold Ramirez. It should be noted that Ramirez only appeared in 29 games in the outfield for Tampa Bay in 2022 and of those only 17 were starts.
As of now the competition for the role of the lefty in the mix includes Luke Raley, Josh Lowe, Kameron Misner, Tristan Peters, Jordan Qsar, and Vidal Brujan. As it stands now that group has only 532 major league plate appearances among them. Jordan Qsar has only 92 PA at the Triple-A level. Kameron Misner has a year plus of Double-A under his belt (524 PAs). Tristan Peters has ascended to Double-A in his first full minor league season but only amassed 149 plate appearances at that level.
Josh Lowe (left-handed, 1 minor league option, on 40-man roster)
The Rays seemingly paved the way for the once heralded prospect by trading Austin Meadows to the Detroit Tigers in April 2022. At the time, Lowe had been optioned to minor league camp but was quickly recalled and was the Rays designated hitter on Opening Day.
As is often the case with rookies, Lowe struggled mightly through the seasons first month. By May 1st he had hit just .188 (12-for-64) with just one homer. He was optionied to the Triple-A Durham Bulls until he was recalled on June 1st. He struggled again upon his recall finishing the month of June batting just .147 (5-for-34). He seemed to get his feet under him in July batting .277/.348/.410 but was optioned back to Triple-A after Tampa Bay acquired lefty veteran David Peralta.
Lowe returned to Durham with the adjustments he made in July with the Rays. He finished the season strong with Durham posting an OPS of .935 in August and 1.028 in September. His final slash line in Durham was .280/.363/.474 with 16 homers. He added 28 stolen bases while only beingn caught two times. Lowe is a very capable defender able to play all three outfield positions and has a power and speed mix. The negatives, he struggled with Tampa Bay in 2022 against LHP batting just .095 (4-for-42) as well as carrying a 33.3% strikout rate.
Vidal Brujan (switch hitter – 0 minor league options – on 40-man roster)
Brujan has appeared in 62 games over the past two seasons. The bulk of those games came last season (52 games). He has struggled with the bat at the big league level.
In 188 big league PAs he has struggled batting .150/.207/.231 (28 OPS+). He is not a plus defender, but has the added flexibility of playing both infield and outfield. With the Rays he has appeared in 35 games at 2b, 21 in RF, 5 at SS, 2 games in both CF and LF, and 1 at 3b.
At Triple-A Durham he’s had more success with the bat in 166 games batting .274/.355/.440 (731 PAs). He has also showed a good knowledge of the strike zone striking out just 116 times while drawing 76 walks. Speed has been his calling card throughtout the minors. At Durham he has stolen 70 bases while getting caught 21 times. As with his bat, speed hasn’t translated to success in the big leagues as he has only 6 stolen bases and has been caught 5 times.
Luke Raley (left-handed – 0 minor league options – on 40-man roster)
Raley, 28, was aquired by Tampa Bay from the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league reliever Tanner Dodson on March 18, 2022. He appeared in 22 games for Tampa Bay in 2022 batting just .188 (12-for-61). In parts of two seasons with the Dodgers and Rays he’s hit .189/.278/.283 (144 PAs).
Primarily an outfielder in his brief big league stint he has spent a good amount of time at 1b in the minors. Last season with the Durham Bulls Raley appeared in 63 games including LF (17G), RF (6G), CF (4G), and 1B (27G). He performed well with the bat hitting .300/.401/.529 with 14 homers spanning 268 PAs.
Kameron Misner (left-handed – not on 40 man)
Misner was selected by the Miami Marlins in the first round (35th overall) in the 2019 draft. Tampa Bay acquired him on November 30, 2021 in exchange for infielder Joey Wendle.
He spent the 2022 season with the Rays Double-A affiliate Durham Bulls batting .251/.384/.431 with 16 homers. He added 32 stolen bases while only being caught sevent times. He strikes out too often 30.4% but also maintains an impressive 16.9% walk rate.
He can play all three outfield positions but is most comfortable in CF. With the Biscuits he appeared in 99 games in CF, 11 in RF, and 2 in LF.
Jordan Qsar (left-handed – not on 40-man roster)
Qsar was selected by Tampa Bay in the 25th round in 2018. He has battled injury since being drafted but did appear in 105 games last season. He appeared in 78 games with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits where he hit .234/.345/.465 with 13 homers. He spent 24 games with the Durham Bulls hitting just .205/.239/.409. He combined to hit .227/.321/.452 with 17 homers. He spent time at all three OF spots with 18 in CF, 50 in LF, and 28 in RF.
Tristan Peters (left-handed – not on 40-man roster)
Peters was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 7th round of the 2021 draft. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline in 2022 for reliever Trevor Rosenthal. San Francisco sent him to Tampa Bay on November 15, 2022 in exchange for second baseman Brett Wisely.
With Milwaukee Peters played for the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers where he hit an impressive .306/.386/.485 with seven homers in 385 plate appearances. After the trade to the Giants he moved to Double-A Richmond Squirrels. He struggled in his time there batting just .212/.302/.303 spanning 140 plate appearances.
Between his two spots in 2022 he played both corner outfield positions including 90 games in left field and 15 in right field.
Forecasting The Competition
This one is rather straight forward as camp opens. Josh Lowe should be given the opportunity to get a fair amount of playing time with Tampa Bay. He may never live up to the prospect billing (ranked #44 by Baseball America prior to 2022). However, this does not mean that Lowe coud not be extremely useful primarily against right handed pitching. His speed on the bases may be a big asset given the rule changes (pitch clock, throw over rule, larger bases).
Luke Raley and Vidal Brujan are both out of options. Even with Lowe penciled into the outfield mix both Raley and Brujan have opportunites to make the roster. Raley with his ability to play 1b and Brujan able to play multiple infield positions could land either on the roster.
Brujan is also in competition for the utility infielder spot and has a very good chance of landing that role. He would be able to mix into the outfield as well.
Raley has an opportuntiy to be the left handed compliment at 1b, designated hitter, and mix into the outfield. In my opinion, it would take an injury in camp for the Rays to carry Raley beyond camp, regardless of his out of options situation.
Misner and Qsar should be in the outfield mix in Triple-A while Peters should open with the Montgomery Biscuits. The camp exposure should serve both well as the coaching staff gets to lay eyes on them on a daily basis for a few weeks. It’s an opportunity to leave an impression.
One last note, if healthy Tampa Bay could also utilize Brandon Lowe in the outfield mix as they have in seasons past. He’s appeared in 50 games in the outfield in his big league career. While there has been talk of Lowe playing first base to open second to Brujan/Paredes etc. Tampa Bay can utilize the same strategy having Lowe spend some time in the outfield. However, the players preference must be considered and Lowe prides himself on his defensive play at second base.