Analyzing the Tampa Bay Rays’ Opening Day Lineup

Analyzing the Tampa Bay Rays’ Opening Day Lineup

Joe Maddon Tampa Bay Rays
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If the Tampa Bay Rays are going to win the AL East, it's going to be because of their pitching. The offense isn't going to out-slug the opposition very often to steal wins, as last year the Rays finished ninth in the AL in runs scored and home runs. The offense, though, should be a touch better in 2014.

Here's a look at the projected lineup, which will rely on other offensive factors to produce runs this season.

1. David DeJesus - LF

David DeJesus Tampa Bay Rays
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1. David DeJesus - LF

David DeJesus Tampa Bay Rays
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The Rays are looking for Dejesus to set the table for their power hitters, by posting an OBP around .353, his career mark. He doesn't possess the speed of an ideal leadoff man, but they won't care if he can match his output from 2012 with the Chicago Cubs when he had a .350 OBP, 28 doubles and 76 runs scored. Dejesus gives Tampa a hitter who understands his role, gives you quality at-bats and will give others RBI opportunities.

2. Ben Zobrist - 2B

Ben Zobrist Tampa Bay Rays
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2. Ben Zobrist - 2B

Ben Zobrist Tampa Bay Rays
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One of the Rays' two All-Stars last season, Zobrist brings a calm, consistent wave of production to Tampa. He has occasional power with three seasons of 20-plus home runs, but his biggest asset is getting on base and driving balls into the gap. In the last three years, Zobrist has a terrific .361 OBP and averages 40 doubles, 79 RBIs and 88 runs. He is a great fit in the second-spot in this lineup.

3. Evan Longoria - 3B

Evan Longoria Tampa Bay Rays
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3. Evan Longoria - 3B

Evan Longoria Tampa Bay Rays
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Longoria doesn't need an introduction as the key piece to the Rays' offensive success. Coming off his first season playing more than 135 games since 2010, he is going to be a consistent power source again in 2014. Longoria cranked out 32 home runs and an .842 OPS last year, as well as 39 doubles. If he stays healthy, the Rays' third baseman could reach 100 RBIs and 100 runs, especially as he hits the prime age of 28.

4. Wil Myers - RF

Wil Myers Tampa Bay Rays
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4. Wil Myers - RF

Wil Myers Tampa Bay Rays
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The 23-year-old Rookie of the Year was everything the Rays hoped for, playing in 88 games in 2013. The club will look to Myers to take on a greater role in 2014, projected to hit cleanup and be a run producer behind Longoria. Myers has legit power and a strong makeup, though, he's prone to a lot of strikeouts (more than one per game in 2013). The Rays would love the same production this year of a .354 OBP and .478 slugging, but in 150-plus games.

5. Matt Joyce - DH

Matt Joyce Tampa Bay Rays
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5. Matt Joyce - DH

Matt Joyce Tampa Bay Rays
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His production has gone down in each of the last four seasons, so he may not see as much time at DH as he would like. When he's going right, Joyce will pop near 20 home runs and a touch over 20 doubles. If he matches up mostly against righties, there's potential to bounce back and get his OPS closer to .780, becoming a valuable piece in the middle of the order.

6. James Loney - 1B

James Loney Tampa Bay Rays
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6. James Loney - 1B

James Loney Tampa Bay Rays
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Loney had his best season since 2007, hitting .299 with a .778 OPS. If he's producing more than 30 doubles and 70 RBIs, he brings tremendous value to the lineup. Loney is strong defensively, so the solid offensive numbers he added last season were a huge boost to the Rays. If he stays true to himself -- a contact hitter with some pop in his bat -- he will thrive once again. When he tries to go deep, he struggles. The Rays won't let that happen.

7. Desmond Jennings - CF

Desmond Jennings Tampa Bay Rays
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7. Desmond Jennings - CF

Desmond Jennings Tampa Bay Rays
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The Rays believe Jennings can break out this season and watch his stats catch up to his physical tools. At some point they want him at the top of the order, but for now they'd like to see him perform without much pressure in the bottom third of the lineup. Stealing 30 bases and keeping his OBP over .330 would add tremendous value to this part of the order, especially if he can develop a bit more power.

8. Yunel Escobar - SS

8. Yunel Escobar Tampa Bay Rays
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8. Yunel Escobar - SS

Yunel Escobar Tampa Bay Rays
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There's still a ton of potential in Escobar's bat and he flashed some of that skill late in the year in 2013. His defense will continue to be a huge asset for the Rays, and if he can return to his 2011 stats offensively (.369 OBP, .782 OPS), the lineup gets longer and deeper. He probably won't get to those levels, but continued improvement in that area could force a move up in the order.

9. Ryan Hanigan - C

Ryan Hanigan Tampa Bay Rays
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

9. Ryan Hanigan - C

Ryan Hanigan Tampa Bay Rays
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Hanigan struggled mightily last season in Cincinnati while battling an oblique strain most of the year. The Rays expect him to return to form in 2014, which would mean another hitter with an OBP better than .350 -- great for the nine spot in the order. He should see the majority of starts this season, getting spelled defensively by Jose Molina and given the occasional day off to limit wear and tear. Another shrewd move by the Rays.