Could Leslie Anderson Create An Unexpected Battle At First Base For Tampa Bay Rays?

By Thom Tsang
Robert Benson-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays‘ internal competition for the team’s No. 5 rotation spot and the health of Evan Longoria might have been the team’s two biggest storylines going into Grapefruit League action, but that hasn’t stopped Leslie Anderson from stealing the show so far.

The team has been very patient with Anderson since signing the Cuban defector at 28-years old, and the first baseman was someone that the team wanted put on the fast track to the majors, especially given his advanced age.

Now, after three seasons in AAA, the soon-to-be 31-year old may finally be ready to make an impact in the big leagues.

Anderson has been off to an excellent start for the Rays thus far in three games, notching a hit in each and putting up a .667/.714/1.167 triple slash in six at-bats. Obviously, we’re talking about very small sample sizes here, but the prospect’s hot start has not gone without notice by Rays manager Joe Maddon:

The four hits, one homer, and team-leading five RBIs that Anderson has collected is a far cry from his previous Spring Training experiences, considering that he had just collected just a pair of hits with no counting numbers to speak of over his last two camps combined.

It’s coming at the right time, too, as the 30-year old is perhaps at a crossroads in his pro career in North America – another season of AAA ball on the wrong side of 30 could officially make him a bust.

Where he might fit into the scheme of things with the team, should he successfully get a shot, is a little less clear. Though he can also play in the outfield, the most obvious spot for Anderson would be as a backup to James Loney, whose low-power, low strikeout approach is a strikingly similar image to what the Cuban could offer offensively.

Should the former Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman struggle as he did in 2012, Anderson could quickly find himself being looked at as a potential option.

That is, of course, predicated on the idea that he will continue to sustain his torrid pace after just three games. But, at 30-years old and motivated after missing the his last couple of opportunities, Anderson’s play might just add an unexpected battle at first base as to the Rays’ narrative this spring.

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