If you have been hanging around these parts for a while, you know that the model for this site is to tell you what the Rays have done, what they are doing and try to project what they will do based on what we have learned. Think of RI as “Tampa Bay Rays 101.”
However, for the next 12 days we will step away from the standard, and we present to you 12 “presents” the Tampa Bay Rays should give to their fans. Looking back at last year’s 12 Days of Raysmas, we see that many of our wishes came true (including that sweet no-hitter), and the result was another division title.
Without further ado…
On the fifth day of Raysmas, the Tampa Bay Rays gave to us, FIVE position players with 110 games started…
For all of Joe Maddon’s tinkering and platooning and shifting and wine drinking madness, the Rays still had six players that made at least 110 starts last season (Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Ben Zobrist). So coming up with five players in 2011 should be cake, right?
Not so fast.
Three of those players are gone (Crawford, Pena, Bartlett), and none of them have a clear everyday replacements at this point.
Here is our starting lineup projection from last week…
Assuming they stay healthy, Longoria, Upton and Zobrist should be locks for 110 starts. But where are the Rays going to find any lineup consistency beyond that?
Reid Brignac is in a threesome platoon at shortstop and second base, and could come close. And if the Rays sign a player like Johnny Damon or Jim Thome, that would be another likely candidate, although either one would almost certainly be part of a semi-platoon situation in the field and at DH.
In other words, the Rays are facing a lot of uncertainty in the lineup heading into 2011. And as much as JoeMa’s actions seem to suggest otherwise, he has said in the past that he prefers an everyday lineup.
It is hard to imagine the Rays lineup could be more volatile than the 2010 version. But at this point that appears to be where they are headed.