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A brief history of Tampa Bay Rays Opening Day roster turnover

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays are in a constant state of flux and you want any proof of that, look no further than their Opening Day lineups.

In the 21 opening days since the franchise’s inception in 1998, they have started a total of 104 players.

That is a nearly 50% turnover rate in the starting lineup in a per year average.

Evan Longoria has started the most Opening Days for the Rays, with 9 games started. Carl Crawford is next on the list with 8 games, and then Ben Zobrist is third with 6 games.

Moving to pitchers, we see that James Shields and Chris Archer share the franchise lead with four Opening Day starts. David Price started three, while Scott Kazmir and Wilson Alvarez started two apiece (Alvarez started the inaugural game). The other hurlers to start Opening Day for the Rays were Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, Albie Lopez, Dewon Brazelton, Joe Kennedy, and Tanyon Sturtze. They will be joined by Blake Snell, as he has been tabbed the Rays Opening Day starter for the 2019 season.

As for the position player side of things, the Designated Hitter has seen the most turnover in Rays history. The Rays have had 18 different DH’s over their 21 years, start on Opening Day, for an 86% turnover rate. The last time they had the same player start as their DH in consecutive years was Corey Dickerson, from 2016 to 2017.

Meanwhile, the position with the least amount of turnover in franchise history, is the one that is often seen as the team’s weakest. The Rays have only used 9 different catchers to start their Opening Day, with Toby Hall leading the backstops with 5 games. Dioner Navarro and John Flaherty are tied with 4 games each; Jose Molina started 3 games.

Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria may have started a lot of Opening Day’s for the Rays, but their positions have seen a lot of turnover in the in between time. Prior to Evan Longoria’s emergence and first start in 2009, the Rays only had a player start consecutive seasons at third base once, and that was Wade Boggs from 1998 to 1999 (Aubrey Huff started at third base in 2003 and 2006).

In left field, only three other players have started multiple Opening Day’s (Greg Vaughn, Desmond Jennings, and Matt Joyce).

The Rays turnover rate is only going to increase as the 2019 season fast approaches as 7 of the 10 players who started for them last season are no longer with the team.

Turnover percentage by position in Rays history:

  • C - 42.9% (9/21)
  • 1B - 47.6% (10/21)
  • 2B - 61.9% (13/21)
  • 3B - 52.4% (11/21)
  • SS - 66.7% (14/21)
  • LF - 52.4% (11/21)
  • CF - 52.4% (11/21)
  • RF - 66.7% (14/21)
  • SP - 52.4% (11/21)
  • DH - 85.7% (18/21)

Most Opening Day starts by position in Rays history:

  • C - Toby Hall (5 games)
  • 1B - Carlos Pena (4 games)
  • 2B - Miguel Cairo/Ben Zobrist (3 games)
  • 3B - Evan Longoria (9 games)
  • SS - Julio Lugo/Jason Bartlett/Kevin Stocker (3 games)
  • LF - Carl Crawford (8 games)
  • CF - Kevin Kiermaier (4 games)
  • RF - Steven Souza/Dave Martinez/Ben Grieve (3 games)
  • DH - Jose Canseco/Corey Dickerson/Pat Burrell (2 games)

Finally, here are some random players that started for the Rays on Opening Day:

  • Rob Refsnyder (DH, 2018)
  • Herbert Perry (3B, 2000)
  • Hank Conger (C, 2016)
  • Steve Cox (1B, 2002 - DH, 2001)
  • Damian Rolls (3B, 2004)
  • Mike Kelly (LF, 1998)
  • Jason Tyner (LF, 2002)
  • Chris Singleton (CF, 2005)
  • Rey Ordonez (SS, 2003)
  • Jeff Keppinger (DH, 2012)
  • Josh Phelps (DH, 2005)
  • Damon Hollins (RF, 2006)
  • Al Martin (DH, 2003)

*Data courtesy of Baseball Reference