Coming into 2022, the Rays lost some crucial pieces to their lineup. With all of Nelson Cruz, Joey Wendle, and Austin Meadows now elsewhere, the offense was going to rely on the bats of Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe. This was a solid plan in theory. After all, the two make up one of the MLB's best middle-infield duos.
Unfortunately, disaster struck rather quickly for Tampa Bay. First, it was Lowe who made the trip to the IL with a back injury in the middle of May. Franco would soon follow him with a quad injury. This has left the Rays' lineup a shell of what it was in 2021.
Randy Arozarena's Time Is Now
There is one impact player left from the previous Rays teams however. Think of any Rays playoff games over the last several years and you're likely to think of Randy Arozarena. One of the greatest playoff performers of all time, he is now Tampa Bay's best hope for offensive stability in the absence of Lowe and Franco.
So far in 2022, Arozarena is having a solid season hitting .260 with four home runs and ten steals. However, it is the advanced metrics that really give cause for concern. So far, he has not been walking and strikes out well above league average. Furthermore, his expected batting average is only in the 36th percentile.
While Kevin Kiermaier and Ji-Man Choi are still going to be factors going forward, neither have the high end ability of the former Rookie of the Year. That is why the Rays will need him to step up going forward as, currently, he is their most talented player.
Of course, Franco and Lowe will be back soon enough to restore legitimacy to the lineup. Alas, if Arozarena can get hot in their absence, it could do wonders for the team as they try to catch the Yankees in the A.L. East. Once Lowe and Franco return, the line up looks a lot better. Add an even better Arozarena to that mix and the Rays could have something special.