Tampa Bay Rays: Projecting the Opening Day lineup vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu

Tampa Bay Rays: The season is rapidly approaching and we want to talk baseball. Here’s our projection for the Opening Day batting order.

Tampa Bay Rays: Despite the fact that Austin Meadows has yet to be seen since the first day of camp and a few others have been notably absent, like Jose Martinez. We are going to assume everyone will be there for Opening Day (for the sake of this article).

In the first game of the season, the Rays will face off against the Toronto Blue Jays and their new left-handed ace, Hyun-Jin Ryu.

It’s always a difficult task to guess how the Rays will roll out a lineup, but for the sake of enjoyable conversation about baseball, we’ll give it a go.

Tampa Bay Rays – Projected Opening Day Lineup

  1. Yandy Diaz – 3B, RHB
  2. Austin Meadows – DH, LHB
  3.  Jose Martinez – 1B, RHB
  4. Brandon Lowe – 2B, LHB
  5. Hunter Renfroe – LF, RHB
  6. Kevan Smith – C, RHB
  7. Kevin Kiermaier – CF, LHB
  8. Willy Adames – SS, RHB
  9. Manuel Margot – RF, RHB

Yandy Diaz is a dynamite leadoff hitter and especially deadly against lefties. Last season he slashed .314/.397/.588 against southpaws.

Austin Meadows has proven to be matchup proof and should take over as the primary number two-hitter, previously occupied by Tommy Pham.

At one point this offseason, the Rays were in need of a right-handed bat. Martinez absolutely owns lefties in his career with a career .331/.405/.570 slash against them.

Brandon Lowe has traditionally been pretty bad against lefties. It may seem like an odd choice, but Kevin Cash isn’t one to go all righties just because they are facing a left-handed pitcher. Throughout September, Cash had no qualms about putting Ji-Man Choi in the three, four, and five spots against lefties.  Should the Rays opt to go with the righty in this spot, Mike Brosseau presents a fantastic option. Last season (including minor-league stats) he posted a 1.016 OPS against lefties with 11 homers in just 168 at-bats. Strangely, Ryu has been slightly worse against lefties than righties, although his overall numbers are stellar against everyone.

Renfroe‘s career OPS against lefties is .196 higher than against righties. While his career OBP is below .300 (.294) there is a huge contrast between his splits. When facing righties he has a .271 OBP with a .345 against lefties. His .579 slugging percentage against southpaws makes him a good fit in the cleanup spot.

Kevan Smith is a solid veteran hand and has excelled against left-handed pitching in his career. I have a hunch we’ll see a lot more of him than people think. In his career, he has slashed .304/.345/.439 against southpaws. As bad as Zunino’s offensive stats are, he’s the worst against lefties.

Kevin Kiermaier was actually better against lefties than righties last year, not that it matters. King Midas snuggles with Kevin Kiermaier’s glove at night.

Adames has posted a career .205 batting average against left-handed pitching, but his glove always warrants a spot in the lineup.

Manuel Margot is a rangy outfielder who has some questioning if the Rays should go with a two-man outfield between Margot and Kiermaier. On top of that, Margot is exceptionally better against southpaws in his career. He has slashed .278/.338/.437 when facing LHP. A cherry on top is that the lower down in the lineup he gets, the better his production has been.

Next: AL East Opening Day Starter Projections

This looks like a Rays lineup to me. Share yours in the comments! Let’s talk baseball!

 

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