Is Ben Zobrist an Option For the Leadoff Spot?

By David Hill

For the Tampa Bay Rays, offense has been a bit of a problem this season, despite the solid home run numbers. Players are not getting on base, and they just are not hitting. Their two best run producers, Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, really have not had a lot to work with thus far this season.

With that being the case, Jason Churchill from suggests that the Rays should shake up their batting order (Insider required) to generate runs. Essentially, his thought is that the Rays should move Longoria to the second spot in the lineup, and then put their best player in terms of getting on base in front of him to lead off. As it turns out, that player would happen to be Ben Zobrist. Essentially, this thought would have the Rays top to run producers occupying the top two spots in their lineup, where they would theoretically get fewer chances to drive in runs.

However, there may actually be logic to this thought. Desmond Jennings has had a difficult start to the season, batting at only a .219/.294/.400 rate, and has been caught in three of his eight stolen base attempts. Meanwhile, even though Zobrist does not have nearly the same type of speed that Jennings does, he is getting on base at a .339 rate this season. Perhaps the idea that having people on base would be enough to kick the offense into gear.

Even though this would lead to quite the unconventional lineup, that may be another point in it’s favor. After all, last season Joe Maddon batted Carlos Pena leadoff in ten games last season. It may not have worked, as Pena only produced a .171/.318/.486 batting line, but it served to show that Maddon would not rule out any possibility if he felt it would get the team going.

This would also lead to a major shakeup to the lineup. Perhaps the best lineup with the concept of Zobrist and Longoria batting first and second respectively would involve Matthew Joyce and Luke Scott batting third and fourth, followed by Loney, Jennings, Roberts/Johnson, Molina and Escobar. It would certainly be different, but would it be enough to help the Rays score more runs?

As far fetched as it may seem, there may be enough logic to the idea of replacing Jennings with Ben Zobrist in the leadoff spot. It would be unconventional and extremely different, but that may be what makes the thought so appealing. The Rays need to find a way to get people on base, and this may just do the trick.