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Cash Considerations: The 2020 Rays roster platoon, Part 1

Taking a look at how Kevin Cash has set the lineups so far this season.

Tampa Bay Rays v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

[Lineup charts through Tuesday’s game]

The Rays have one of the deepest and most flexible rosters in all of Major League Baseball. This is a great trait to have, but it certainly puts a lot of pressure on Kevin Cash and the Front Office to craft the best lineup night-in and night-out if this team is going to live up to its potential.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be diving into those decisions, looking at which players Cash is playing most often against lefties and righties, where in the lineup certain batters are hitting, and if the pitch mix of the opposing starter plays any role in those decisions.

Note: How much actual value you want to assign to these decisions is a separate discussion in and of itself. Our own JT Morgan has staked his corner on where batters are located in the lineup meaning a lot less than most people make of it, while our Managing Editor Danny Russell clearly believes there’s importance to be found, for whatever that’s worth.

Today will will introduce three tables that we will continue to track and update as the season goes along. Let’s start of with the most basic of our series of charts: Overall starts by position, and overall starts by position against left- and right-handed starting pitchers.

Rays starts by position (overall)

Position First Option Second Option Third Option Fourth Option
Position First Option Second Option Third Option Fourth Option
Catcher Zunino (8) Perez (3)
First Base Choi (6) Diaz (2) Brosseau (2) Martinez
Second Base Lowe (7) Wendle (3) Brosseau
Third Base Diaz (6) Tsutsugo (2) Wendle (2) Brosseau
Shortstop Adames (9) Wendle (2)
Left Field Margot (4) Tsutsugo (4) Lowe (2) Meadows
Center Field Kiermaier (9) Margot (2)
Right Field Renfroe (9) Margot (2)
DH Martinez (6) Tsutsugo (2) Diaz (2) Renfroe

Right off the bat, it’s noticeable that there are four different positions where at least four different players have started — not just appeared.

Remember, we’re only 11 games into the season; that’s insane. The platoons started early, with the Opening Day and Game 2 lineups only sharing Willy Adames and Kevin Kiermaier in the same position — and neither of them hit in the same spot in the lineup. You get the feeling that Cash and the FO are like kids with new toys on Christmas given the Rays’ flexibility.

Otherwise, there aren’t too many surprises here overall, except maybe that Renfroe has been such a staple in RF, and that Brosseau already has two starts at 1B, but this is mostly here to set our baseline to compare further observations against.

Let’s get the charts for the Rays against left- and right-handed pitchers:

Rays starts by position (vs. right-handed starter)

Position First Option Second Option Third Option Fourth Option
Position First Option Second Option Third Option Fourth Option
Catcher Zunino (4) Perez (3)
First Base Choi (6) Diaz
Second Base Lowe (6) Wendle
Third Base Diaz (4) Wendle (2) Tsutsugo
Shortstop Adames (5) Wendle (2)
Left Field Tsutsugo (3) Margot (2) Meadows Lowe
Center Field Kiermaier (7)
Right Field Renfroe (5) Margot (2)
DH Martinez (3) Tsutsugo (2) Renfroe Diaz

Rays starts by position (vs. left-handed starter)

Position First Option Second Option Third Option
Position First Option Second Option Third Option
Catcher Zunino (4)
First Base Brosseau (2) Martinez Diaz
Second Base Wendle (2) Lowe Brosseau
Third Base Diaz (2) Brosseau Tsutsugo
Shortstop Adames (4)
Left Field Margot (2) Lowe Tsutsugo
Center Field Kiermaier (2) Margot (2)
Right Field Renfroe (4)
DH Martinez (3) Diaz

It’s interesting how much less chaotic the tables look when separated by starting pitcher handedness. There are still a couple funky outliers (Tsutsugo at third; B. Lowe in left), but seven of the nine lineups spots against righties and all nine against lefties share consistency across games at least half the time.

Now some of this is due to the tiny four-game sample of games in which the Rays have faced a left-handed starter (in which they are 0-4, by the way; but that’s a separate article), but there are definite patterns emerging already for us to follow.

One interesting note is that these charts are coming out just one day after Austin Meadows returned to the lineup and with Manuel Margot set to miss between 3-7 days on the bereavement list. Updating these charts in even a week will look a lot different.

With that being said, here are a other more takeaways:

  • Zunino, Adames, Martinez, Margot, Brosseau, Diaz. and Renfroe have all started all four games against lefties at this point, but in a variety of positions. That group appears to be the core of what the Rays will attempt to do versus lefties
  • That makes sense given that all seven are right-handed, but it’s interesting in the sense that Zunino and Adames have both actually hit righties better than lefties in their careers so far. I guess the Rays aren’t buying that.
  • Kiermaier is basically a lock against righties, collecting starts in all seven such games so far, but he has been rested twice against lefties. If the Rays are looking to spell KK or implement a platoon as part of the vs RHP lineup, I wouldn’t mind hearing Randy Arozarena’s music at some point one the team feels his return to baseball activities post COVID is complete.
  • Wendle SZN is back, as he has gotten seven starts already, two of them against lefties, and all across the infield. Honestly, he’s swinging one of the better bats for the Rays right now, so this isn’t shocking—although it is somewhat depressing.
  • Brandon Lowe has started two of the four games against southpaws. I think we’ll dive deeper into Lowe when we get to that opposing pitcher pitch mix article...
  • It’ll be interesting to see which of Tsutsugo, Martinez, or Margot ends up taking the biggest cut to playing time against righties now that Meadows is back in the fold. Margot is the answer for the rest of this week, sadly, but once he returns, that’s something to keep an eye on.