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What Rays player are you most curious about seeing this spring, and why?

As Rays followers prepare for Saturday’s Fan Fest, we ask the Roundtable team who’s getting its attention.
A new group of Rays will arrive at Spring Training this month, bringing unfulfilled potential and loads of questions. [TIMES FILES]
Published Feb. 8
Updated Feb. 8

As the promise of 2018 gives way to the hopes of 2019, our Roundtable writers comb through the roster to pick out some key players they will eye this spring.

The Yandy man

Marc Topkin, Rays beat writer @TBTimes_Rays: There’s several players I’m intrigued by, as I’m writing for Sunday’s Times, and Yandy Diaz. There are several reasons: How much the Rays gave up for him in prospect Jake Bauers plus $5 million, how bullish they are that he can become a huge offensive weapon, and, to be honest, to see him first hand based on that Twitter photo that surfaced in December where he was bulked up.

RELATED STORY: More questions and Answers about the Rays

Meadows of opportunity

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: Meadows came to the Rays as part of last year’s Chris Archer trade and this season he will have the opportunity to show that deal was a good move. The former ninth overall pick has always been highly touted and now — after the team traded fan favorite Mallex Smith in the offseason — a starting spot in the Rays outfield his to win. He raked in Durham at the end of last season (a 1.167 OPS in 27 games), and has all the signs of an emerging star, especially if he can improve his plate discipline. Now his success at the big league level will determine how to evaluate the deals to trade away Archer and Smith.

The masked man

Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: I’m most curious about Mike Zunino, the catcher the Rays got from the Mariners for outfielder Mallex Smith. Smith was fun to watch, but with Tommy Pham in left field, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Austin Meadows in right, he wasn’t going to be an everyday player here. In return, Tampa Bay got a catcher whose 20 home runs last season were second most among American League backstops. He’s strong defensively, too; he’s above average at framing pitches and throwing out would-be base stealers. If he can boost his dismal 6 percent walk rate by a couple of percentage points, the Rays won’t miss Wilson Ramos.

RELATED STORY: Let’s play ‘would you rather’ with the revamped lineup


Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: Tommy Pham won his arbitration case against the Rays, so what has he got. This guy infused this team with energy and unblinking take-no-prisoners fire after coming over from the Cardinals. It’s going to be interesting to see if his unbending will rubs off on teammates or his individuality rubs people the wrong way. He also powders the baseball and didn’t hesitate to take on support from Rays fans after he saw that they weren’t Cardinals Nation. Tough line to draw in the dust, but this man comes to play. Will the Rays roll that way is a big question. THis team could use a leader.

The Choi of baseball

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: I’m intrigued with Ji-Man Choi. I’m guessing he will spend a good deal of spring training at first base, working on his fielding. He could be an even bigger piece of the Rays infield puzzle if he improves that aspect of his game and continues the impressive plate performance that helped him hit .263 with an OPS of .863. Choi could prove to be a huge steal.

I want to see what the Rays got for Jake Bauers

Frank Pastor, digital sports editor, @frankpastor66: Yandy Diaz. While I have come to trust the Rays’ front office almost universally when it comes to personnel decisions, this one continues to perplex me. Clearly, the Rays see something in Diaz that allowed them to part with a future franchise cornerstone in Jake Bauers. They like that Diaz is right-handed, that he’s versatile in the field, and that the ball explodes off his bat. But can he elevate the ball? Will that translate into power? And where will they use him in the field? I’m anxious to see.

Time to see Austin’s power

Mike Sherman, sports editor, @mikesherman: This is Austin Meadow’s big chance. The perennial prospect will be given the chance to play every day with the Rays. He batted .287 with 10 homers and 40 RBI in a 59 games last season in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Project those numbers over a full season and they look pretty good. A couple of springs ago, I went to a Pirates game in Bradenton and Meadows looked like the best player on the field — and Manny Machado was playing third base for the visitors.


  1. The Rays' Yonny Chirinos, shown here pitching on July 23, 2019, at the Trop. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The right-hander, out since early August with right middle finger inflammation, works one inning of relief Saturday.
  2. Rays starter Tyler Glasnow pitches against the Red Sox during the first inning Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, at Tropicana Field. CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Tyler Glasnow sets the tone; Joey Wendle’s bad out; Willy Adames’ power shot.
  3. According to unofficial statistics, the Rays have wasted more power drinks than any team in baseball. Tampa Bay's seven walkoff victories since the beginning of August are the most in the majors. This time, it's Nate Lowe getting the cold refreshment treatment after his two-run homer in the bottom of the 11th beat the Red Sox 5-4.  CHRIS O'MEARA | AP Photo CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    The team that could not win one-run games in the first half of the season won its third consecutive game in the 11th inning against the Red Sox on Saturday.
  4. A shirtless Nate Lowe celebrates with his Rays teammates after his walkoff, two-run homer off Red Sox reliever Josh Smith during the 11th inning on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, at the Trop. CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Nate Lowe is the star on Saturday with a two-run homer after Diego Castillo gave up the lead.
  5. Most Valuable Ray? It could be All-Star Charlie Morton or All-Star Austin Meadows. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Also up for discussion in Rays Tales: Most pleasant among many surprises and biggest of several disappointments.
  6. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws to the Los Angeles Angels during a baseball game Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ  |  AP
    Rays have will Tyler Glasnow on the mound making his third start, the Red Sox are planning a bullpen day.
  7. Pete Alonso, left, celebrates his majors-leading 50th home run with Mets teammate Jeff McNeil, a two-run shot against the Reds on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    The rookie out of Plant High and Florida moves within two of the all-time rookie record.
  8. The results say Rays manager Kevin Cash was one batter too late when he removed Charlie Morton from the game on Friday night against the Red Sox. But that doesn't mean the decision was wrong. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Manager Kevin Cash rolled the dice by keeping Morton on the mound in the seventh inning against the Red Sox on Friday. The decision says a lot about a manager’s faith.
  9. The Rays' Nate Lowe grounds into a fielder's choice in the seventh, but his hustle down the line avoids the double play and opens the door for the Rays to take the lead later in the inning against the Red Sox on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Nate Lowe’s hustle pays off big; one batter too long for Morton; Cash’s sense of urgency continues.
  10. Willy Adames, center without cap, is swarmed by his Rays teammates moments after his walkoff single in the 11th inning beats the Red Sox 5-4 on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, at Tropicana Field. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays 5, Red Sox 4 (11): Willy Adames wins it with a walkoff single after the Rays blow a 4-2 lead in the ninth.