Sam Fuld and The Rays Lead Off Hitter

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 03: Outfielder Sam Fuld #5 of the Tampa Bay Rays attempts a bunt against the Toronto Blue Jays during the game at Tropicana Field on May 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Other than his home run on Monday night, Sam Fuld hasn't exactly been lighting it up since his sudden rise to stardom. He's hitting just .239/.292/.368 on the season and .163/.226/.255 over the past month.Those are the numbers of a bench player, not a lead off hitter.

Ideally, the Rays would rather promote Desmond Jennings and have him play left field; easing him into the lead off role and relegating Fuld to 4th outfielder duty in the process. His OPS is nearing .900 at Triple-A Durham and he's starting to hit for more power. But, since baseball has ridiculous rules regarding service time and future compensation for young players, the Rays are keeping Jennings in Durham until early July when the Super 2 date passes. In the meantime the team needs to tweak the lineup a bit.

It's been proven that lineup construction doesn't have a huge impact on overall performance, but when your lead off hitter is getting on base at a sub .300 clip, something has to change. Here are my proposed changes until Jennings is recalled from Durham:

RHP LHP
Zobrist Zobrist
Damon Damon
Upton Upton
Longoria Longoria
Joyce Rodriguez
Kotchman Johnson/Kotchman
Brignac/Johnson Brignac/Johnson
Jaso Shoppach
Fuld Fuld

 

I'm not thrilled about Damon batting so high given that his OBP going into last night's game was .287. His power is what is keeping from being Sam Fuld at the moment. Maybe when Jennings gets here Damon can slide down further in the lineup. Zobrist and his .372 OBP is simply the best lead off candidate the team has right now. The resurgence of his power numbers has been a welcomed sight, and while that's not something you necessarily covet in a lead off man, he's all the team has. Zobrist leading off means Upton and his .351 wOBA move up in the order to help set the table for the four and five hitters.

The 6-8 spots in the lineup are fairly simple, though if you wanted to switch the shortstop position for the catcher I wouldn't fight you. Obviously the biggest move is batting Fuld 9th. It would relieve some pressure off of him, and if he can get on base at even a ~.310 or so pace would provide the Rays with a decent "second" lead off man; which is something Maddon has used in the past.

We have roughly two months to wait until Jennings can be recalled. Something needs to be done in the interim. What do you all think?

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