In the off season, Matt Silverman went out and got the Rays some shiny new toys for their lineup. So far, with the exception of Corey Dickerson, they haven’t performed very well. Through the first six games, the newcomers are hitting .160 with 3 home runs, all by Dickerson and 4 rbi’s. However, the whole team hasn’t hit. Prior to the Baltimore series, the entire Rays lineup was only 6 for 29 with runners in scoring position and had left 25 men on base. Even with this slow start, I have confidence in this lineup and I’ll show you why.
1. Logan Forsythe. Forsythe was their best overall hitter last year for power and average. I think he’s a smart enough hitter to maintain a .281 batting average and .359 on base percentage. The added fifty or more at bats that comes with batting leadoff should also help him maintain his power numbers. Forsythe hasn’t much speed but he won’t clog up the bases.
2. Logan Morrison/Steve Pearce. Despite a combine 4 for 29 start this new duo will deliver power. It will probably come in bunches but combined they could deliver 25 home runs and 80 rbi’s. The only problem is neither will hit for average and, in my opinion, are a bad choice for the number two spot in the order. They are better suited for the five or six spot.
3. Evan Longoria. I think Longoria will channel his inner James Loney and turn into a solid line drive hitter. As all good hitters know, a bunch of doubles leads to a bunch of home runs and so, he will still produce 20 home runs and 80 rbi’s. Of most importance, a smooth swing will cut down on his strikeouts and increase his on base percentage.
4. Corey Dickerson. I had my reservations about Dickerson and how much Coors Field inflated his power numbers but after watching him hit, I think he is the real deal. He should hit 35 home runs and if this new lineup can get people on base, he could drive in 100 runs. That’s why it is important to get a guy with a solid on base percentage in the number two spot.
5. Desmond Jennings. I don’t get this spot in the lineup but then I have never been a fan of Desmond Jennings. The five spot is an rbi position in the order and Jennings has never driven in more than 54 runs in a full season. As he is closing in on free agency, this may be a better overall year for him but he will never become an rbi machine.
6. Brad Miller/Tim Beckham. I honestly don’t know how much offense this pair will deliver. Both have power potential and could really break out. However. Asdrubal Carbrera type numbers, 15 home runs and 60 rbi’s, would be just fine. I would bat them lower in the order.
7. Steven Souza Jr. Souza is off to a great start and let’s hope he has matured as a hitter and can keep it up all season. He will still strike out a lot but the key is better pitch recognition and staying away from that loopy swing. If it doesn’t put too much pressure on him, I would love to see him in the number five spot.
8. Kevin Kiermaier. If Kiermaier stays within himself, this should be a breakout year offensively. He needs to drive the ball, learn how to bunt, and get on base. He’s the best base runner on the team and needs to improve his base stealing technique. If he does all that, he will be the perfect number two hitter.
9. Curt Casali/Hank Conger. This one is another puzzle. Neither player has a history of producing much offense but both have power potential. Casali had 10 home runs in 101 at bats last year. My guess is that if the Rays get an occasional home run, a combined .240 batting average and solid defense and pitch framing, everyone will go home happy.
The key to any team performing well is having its players live up to their potential. The Rays have plenty of potential but as we have seen in the first six games that does not always translate to runs crossing the plate. The flaws in the current batting order don’t help. If Forsythe, Kiermaier, Longoria, Dickerson and Souza can play up to their potential, it could mean another fifteen wins and a trip to the post season.