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Potential Tampa Bay Rays Lineups For 2015

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The offseason may not be over yet but it’s never too early to start speculating about potential lineups for the 2015 season. The Tampa Bay Rays finished last in the AL in runs scored as a team in 2014 and it remains be seen how much they have improved since then.

Additions such as Asdrubal Cabrera and John Jaso should help the Rays offense while the trades of Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce will work in the opposite direction. The good news is that a rebound rom Evan Longoria and breakouts from young players could also help the Rays score more runs. With those things in mind, let’s take a look at several potential lineups new manager Kevin Cash could use and how they are projected to perform.

Potential lineup vs. RHP (Projected 2015 wRC+ as projected by Steamer)

  1. David DeJesus LF (100 wRC+)
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B (101 wRC+)
  3. James Loney 1B (106 wRC+)
  4. Evan Longoria 3B (124 wRC+)
  5. John Jaso DH (111 wRC+)
  6. Desmond Jennings CF (104 wRC+)
  7. Nick Franklin 2B/SS (98 wRC+)
  8. Rene Rivera C (87 wRC+)
  9. Kevin Kiermaier RF (96 wRC+)

At first glance, this lineup, which assumes that Steven Souza isn’t on the big league club yet, doesn’t seem that bad. Of course, it also doesn’t set the world on fire. In addition, this lineup is assuming the Rays don’t end up trading David DeJesus, which is still a possibility.

Steamer’s projections seem low on Jaso considering he average a 128 wRC+ over the last three seasons. He seems like the best bet to provide protection for Longoria and it is nice for the Rays to break up DeJesus and Jaso, both of whom are very weak against left-handed pithing.

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Asdrubal Cabrera seems like the most likely bet to have a breakout season and exceed expectations due to his previous track record as a hitter. The Rays might believe they can fix his offensive issues, which are mainly that he has been hitting too many fly ball outs. Our friends at Dock of the Rays went more into depth on this. If Cabrera can truly implement the necessary changes, the top of the Rays’ lineup could be even more formidable.

There should also be a nice offensive boast from the catcher position with Rene Rivera taking most of the at bats there and not having Jose Molina on the roster anymore. The Rays are also optimistic that Kiermaier can improve their right field situation–although that will be more about his glove than his bat.

Potential Lineup vs. LHP

  1. Desmond Jennings CF (104 wRC+)
  2. Brandon Guyer LF (103 wRC+)
  3. Evan Longoria 3B (124 wRC+)
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera SS (101 wRC+)
  5. Logan Forsythe DH (90 wRC+)
  6. James Loney 1B (106 wRC+)
  7. Tim Beckham 2B (72 wRC+)
  8. Rene Rivera C (87 wRC+)
  9. Kevin Kiermaier RF (96 wRC+)

This lineup or any Rays lineup the Rays put out against left-handed pitching certainly doesn’t have the name recognition of its right-handed equivalent. Losing Jaso, Franklin, and DeJesus and getting back Forsythe, Beckham, and Guyer certainly does not seem as scary. The good news is that several of the players in this lineup are especially good against left-handed pitching.

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While Jennings has never reached his potential on the whole, he has against lefties, slamming them to the tune of a 131 wRC+ in his career. Rivera and Guyer were also excellent against them last year, while Forsythe was solid even in an overall down year. Longoria also has better career numbers against lefties, delivering a 146 wRC+ against them. Between all those players, there is hope that this lineup could be just fine.

I put Tim Beckham in this lineup assuming he wins the final roster spot and is serviceable versus left-handed pitching. Nevertheless, it would be nice if the Rays were able to sign another right-handed bat before spring training to give them a little more punch against lefties. If the Rays stick with Beckham and he falters, though, the Rays will have an alternative to this lineup.

We already mentioned that Rivera hits lefties well, and the same can be said to a lesser extent for presumed third catcher Bobby Wilson. With that in mind, the Rays could have Wilson at catcher, Rivera at DH, and Forsythe at second base in an attempt to improve their lineup. It will be interesting to see whether Beckham makes the team, but even if he does, the Rays will not be too dependent on him.

Finally, I chose Kiermaier over Franklin for the ninth spot because he has a better track record of hitting lefties in the minor leagues and enough defense that the Rays will want him in the lineup as much as possible. Franklin will also get some opportunities to prove he can hit left-handed pitching, but Kiermaier looks like the favorite to receive the majority of the time between them.

Potential Lineup 2 vs. RHP

  1. Desmond Jennings CF (104 wRC+)
  2. John Jaso DH (111 wRC+)
  3. Evan Longoria 3B (124 wRC+)
  4. James Loney 1B (106 wRC+)
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B (101 wRC+)
  6. Steven Souza LF (114 wRC+)
  7. Nick Franklin 2B/SS (98 wRC+)
  8. Rene Rivera C (87 wRC+)
  9. Kevin Kiermaier RF (96 wRC+)

This lineup assumes that Steven Souza makes the big league club and that DeJesus gets traded. This lineup is very similar to the first one against RHP with Desmond Jennings being the main benefactor. He’s never quite been the hitter against right handed pitching that the Rays have hoped, but but they are still holding out hope for a breakout. Replacing DeJesus with Souza would also likely add a bit more pop into this lineup as well.

Potential Lineup 2 vs. LHP

  1. Desmond Jennings CF (104 wRC+)
  2. Brandon Guyer DH (103 wRC+)
  3. Evan Longoria 3B (124 wRC+)
  4. Steven Souza LF (114 wRC+)
  5. Asdrubal Cabrera SS (101 wRC+)
  6. Logan Forsythe 2B (90 wRC+)
  7. James Loney 1B (106 wRC+)
  8. Rene Rivera C (87 wRC+)
  9. Kevin Kiermaier RF (96 wRC+)

As you can see, this lineup looks much better versus left handed pitching than the first one does. I’m probably a bit higher on Souza in this lineup than most will be, but there’s a real chance that he could provide protection for Longoria against left-handed pitching.

Of course, lineups change throughout the season and the Tampa Bay Rays will no doubt use different lineups on a day-to-day basis to exploit every matchup. Even so, hopefully it is at least a little clearer now what the Rays’ lineups could look like with all of the pieces in place.

The Tampa Bay Rays’ lineup has the potential to be pretty good in 2015 and will hopefully score just enough runs to back the Rays’ talented rotation. The strength of this team remains pitching and defense, and if they can find a way to score more runs, they have the ability to compete next season.

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