Should the Rays Be Concerned About Their Offense Heading Into 2013?

By David Hill

To say that the Rays struggled on offense last season would be a bit of an understatement. They finished 27th in batting average, 20th in OPS, and 18th in runs scored, partially undermining an excellent season from the pitching staff. Their issues with the bat were further exacerbated when Evan Longoria was injured, as they scored under 4 runs a game without his bat in the lineup.

Even though the Rays lost B.J. Upton, they may still have a better offense than they did last year. Longoria is healthy, and may see some time at DH to give him some rest during the season. Yunel Escobar could provide the Rays with their best offensive production since Jason Bartlett in 2009. Desmond Jennings may take the next step in his development and could outperform what Upton did last year. Luke Scott and Matthew Joyce both struggled last year, and a bounceback season would certainly help their cause. Despite the possible weak points of Jose Molina and James Loney in the lineup, the Rays offense should be able to do better than they had in 2012.

Yet, with one game to go in Spring Training, the Rays offense has struggled. The Rays have the lowest batting average in Spring Training, and the third lowest OPS. They are 26th in runs, and tied for 25th in homers. The Rays are also 25th in OBP. Following a season where the offense was their Achilles’ Hell last year, it would make sense for the Rays to be concerned about how they have produced thus far.

However, when looking into the players that are on the Rays 25 man Opening Day roster, there are positives. Longoria, Jennings, and Luke Scott all hit over .300, while Escobar produced a .291 batting average. In fact, aside from Molina and Loney, most of what would be considered to be the projected regular lineup actually had decent production. There is also the possibility of reinforcement to the lineup later in the year in the form of Wil Myers once his arbitration clock has been pushed back.

There are certainly question marks surrounding the Rays lineup. Can Longoria stay healthy? Can the younger players take the next step in their development? Will Myers hit once he reaches the majors? Yet, there is no reason to be pushing the panic button as of this point. While the Rays likely are not going to be confused with the 1927 Yankees, they may end up better than expected offensively.