August 4, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) hits a triple against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

What Should the Tampa Bay Rays' Lineup Look Like in September?

It’s difficult to say what September will bring for the Tampa Bay Rays, but it probably won’t be the playoffs. Given that sad truth, how do they treat September? Do they continue with the lineup that held so much promise at the beginning of the year or do they go for a younger line up that might hold promise for the long-term. Let’s take a look at two different lineups and discuss the pros and cons of each.

The lineup that would win the Rays the most games right now:
1. Desmond Jennings, CF
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B/LF
3. Matt Joyce (vs. RHP)/Brandon Guyer (vs. LHP), LF/DH
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. James Loney, 1B
6. Wil Myers, RF
7. David DeJesus, LF/DH (vs. RHP)/Logan Forsythe, 2B/DH (vs. LHP)
8. Ryan Hanigan/Jose Molina, C
9. Yunel Escobar, SS

This lineup makes sense only if Joe Maddon can convince them all to relax and play like it is April 1st, not September 1st. Remember this is the offensive side of a team that Sports Illustrated picked to win the America League East and many people, including your writer, thought was the best group of hitters that the Rays had ever assembled. Were we all wrong or, between injuries and down years, did the baseball gods just curse the Rays? At any rate, these twelve players are all under Rays control next year and they are going to have to decide whether to have faith that this year was a fluke or whether to break up the band.

Future-oriented lineup and batting order:
1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
2. Ben Zobrist, LF
3. James Loney, 1B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Wil Myers, RF
6. Nick Franklin, 2B
7. Brandon Guyer, DH
8. Ryan Hanigan/Curt Casali, C
9. Yunel Escobar, SS

This lineup makes sense if the Rays really want to shake up the team in the offseason. It puts Joyce, Jennings, Rodriguez, DeJesus, and Molina on the bubble and the Rays could save quite a bit of money if they replaced them with players like Kiermaier, Guyer, and Franklin. It also gives the Rays a chance to answer a few questions such as:

  1. Is Kiermaier the answer to the leadoff spot in the order?
  2. Can Kiermaier hit left-handed pitching and Guyer right-handed pitching?
  3. Is Franklin the second baseman of the future?
  4. Can Casali hit enough to be a big league catcher?

Even with this “lineup of the future” there are still questions to be answered in the offseason. Will Zobrist’s power and Longoria’s overall game return? Is Wil Myers the next breakout star or just a good ball player with occasional power? Is Kevin Kiermaier a starter or the second coming of Sam Fuld? Most importantly, the Rays are certainly not going to get rid of all five of the players above, so a complete lineup overhaul like this is not realistic. This batting order is an extreme case, but it will be interesting to see to what extent the Tampa Bay Rays do play their younger players over their veterans and see what they have for next season. One thing is for certain: Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon are in for a long off season.

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Tags: Kevin Kiermaier Nick Franklin Tampa Bay Rays

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