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Tampa Bay Rays: Replacing Austin Meadows at leadoff vs. RHP

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Willy Adames #1 and Yoshi Tsutsugo #25 of the Tampa Bay Rays joke around before a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at Charlotte Sports Park on February 26, 2020 in Port Charlotte, Florida. The Twins defeated the Rays 10-8. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Willy Adames #1 and Yoshi Tsutsugo #25 of the Tampa Bay Rays joke around before a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at Charlotte Sports Park on February 26, 2020 in Port Charlotte, Florida. The Twins defeated the Rays 10-8. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Tampa Bay Rays: With Austin Meadows on the IL with COVID-19, we look at potential leadoff hitters against RHP in his absence.

Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Meadows is matchup proof, top of the lineup hitter. He has a stellar .861 OPS against lefties and an even better .901 against righties. The Rays want to give him as many at-bats as possible.

Manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times Marc Topkin that Ji-Man Choi and Yoshi Tsutsugo could both be candidates to hit leadoff against RHP if Meadows misses time.

The Rays have long separated themselves from the notion that the leadoff hitter needs to be a speedy, powerless, slap-hitter. They know that the more the leadoff hitter gets on base, the more he scores. In fact, patience and power lead to runs.

If a leadoff hitter starts the inning with a double, that run scores about 60% of the time. If the leadoff hitter can walk or single, it’s around 38%. If they hit a home run…they score.

So, ideally, you want a high OPS at the top of the lineup. You don’t want a guy with a .290 OBP slap hitting his way into outs because he’s fast.

Of course, as Rays fans, we all know this by now.

So Meadows is a perfect leadoff hitter, especially against righties. The leadoff hitter in modern times is the guy we want to guarantee gets the most plate appearances.  He led off 59 times last season.

With Meadows missing an uncertain amount of time, here are the Rays’ best options to lead off against RHP.

Kevin Cash pegged Ji-Man Choi and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo as potential replacements at leadoff against RHP in 2020.

Ji-Man Choi is a different player when facing right-handed pitching. Last season, his OPS against lefties was .629 while he posted a .869 OPS against righties. He posted a .377 OBP against RHP with 17 of his 19 homers against them.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has hit well against both righties and lefties in his NPB career, but his numbers have favored the right-handed matchup. We’ll see if Kevin Cash and the staff are confident from what they’ve seen so far in two training camps to run Tsutsugo out at leadoff early in the season. In his Japanese career, he has slashed .263/.374/.552 against RHP.

Replacing Meadows on Opening Day. dark. Next

Do you think Choi and Tsutsugo are the easy choices to replace Meadows at leadoff or do you have someone else in mind? Let us know in the comments below.

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