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Tampa Bay Rays: Replacing Austin Meadows on Opening Day

By Seth Carter
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 20: Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks up to the crowd during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 20, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 20: Austin Meadows #17 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks up to the crowd during a game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 20, 2019 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Rays have had some big names test positive for the coronavirus recently. The latest is returning all-star and one of the few “everyday” players for the team.

Tampa Bay Rays‘ star outfielder Austin Meadows has tested positive for COVID-19 and is likely to miss the season opener. It is unclear how long Meadows will be out at the moment. He has to test negative twice in a 24-hour period before he can be cleared to play.

His symptoms have reportedly been mild, and like Tyler Glasnow, that could mean a fairly quick return to form for the 25-year-old slugger.

Meadows is coming off of a breakout season in which he blasted 33 homers, 12 stolen bases, and slashed .291/.364/.558. He established himself as a matchup-proof, everyday player for a team that platoons without emotion.

Replacing his bat will be a difficult task to begin the season, but here are some options for the Rays in the event that Meadows misses any amount of games. Remember, every game is even more important this season.

Below is our previously projected lineup for Opening Day. It included Austin Meadows prior to the positive test result.

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

If you’d like to read the logic behind these decisions, click here to read the full article.

This is built to face LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu. Austin Meadows was set to be a fixture at the top of the lineup with his ability to hit both righties and lefties effectively. I like the outfield setup with defensive wizards all the way across the grass.

Kiermaier hit lefties better than righties last season. Ditto for Margot, who also hits better down in the lineup. Hunter Renfroe smashed 33 homers on offense last season but also posted an incredible 22 defensive runs saved for the Padres.

Having Meadows in the DH slot makes this an easier swap. Naturally, the DH spot in our hypothetical lineup won’t be hitting from the number two position anymore.

Tampa Bay Rays – Other Options

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo – Everyone is anxious to see the Japanese star in action against major-league pitching. I have a feeling the Rays may hold off until he gets to face a right-handed pitcher to take some pressure off of him. They recently had to reassure him that the filthy stuff he was seeing against LHP Jose Alvarado in practice was not normal for the rest of the league.

Brian O’Grady – O’Grady is another one of those lefties who hits LHP pitching better than he hits RHP. The difference between Kiermaier and O’Grady is that Brian has a long track record of success. He recently told me in an interview that he just sees the ball better from a lefty for some reason. O’Grady set the AAA-Louisville Bats single-season home run record last season.

Randy Arozarena – Arozarena seems like a nice option here but unfortunately, he has also been absent from camp.

Ji-Man Choi – Assuming Jose Martinez is also ready for Opening Day. It’s never a bad idea to get Choi in the lineup. The one we have compiled is righty-heavy so throwing in a lefty is not a bad idea.

Nate Lowe – Between Triple-A and the majors last season, Lowe posted a .888 OPS against lefties, eight points better than his OPS against righties. He provides the lineup with three looks from the left side while not sacrificing production against LHP.

Mike Brosseau Last season (including minor-league stats) he posted a 1.016 OPS against lefties with 11 homers in just 168 at-bats.

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Hopefully, Meadows won’t be out for long. He’s an MVP-caliber player who is just getting started. Luckily for the Rays, they have very solid depth this season.

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