Jeff Keppinger is batting cleanup for the Rays

5 Comments

There’s a whole lot of people picking the Rays over the Red Sox in the AL East. I wonder how many of them have taken a gander at Tampa Bay’s Opening Day lineup against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia:

CF Desmond Jennings
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
DH Jeff Keppinger
SS Sean Rodriguez
2B Elliot Johnson
1B Carlos Pena
C Jose Molina
LF Matt Joyce

Obviously, there are a couple of caveats here, the first one being that B.J. Upton is sidelined. With Upton healthy, Zobrist would be playing second base and Johnson would be on the bench. The other is that manager Joe Maddon has really jumbled the lineup with the lefty on the mound for the Yankees. Keppinger actually makes some sense in the cleanup spot versus a southpaw, while Pena and Joyce will obviously move up in the lineup against right-handers. Luke Scott will also be starting against righties.

All that said… this is one hideous lineup after the top three. The cleanup hitter’s career high for homers in seven. The No. 6 hitter is a 27-year-old with a .190/.247/.318 line in 179 major league at-bats. And Pena and Joyce were flat-out terrible against lefties last season. Pena came in at .133/.260/.333 in 120 at-bats for the Cubs, while Joyce hit .217/.287/.370 despite usually sitting against the tougher ones for the Rays (he was benched in all four of Sabathia’s starts against Tampa Bay last season).

The Rays have some of the league’s best pitching, so they’ll almost certainly hang in the race this year. Still, their lineup against left-handers leaves much to be desired. As I wrote a couple of months ago, they hurt their chances by not bringing in additional right-handed help beyond Keppinger over the winter.

Trea Turner undergoes surgery on right index finger

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
1 Comment

Nationals shortstop Trea Turner underwent surgery on his right index finger, MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa reports. Turner suffered a non-displaced fracture when he was hit by a pitch attempting to bunt in early April.

Turner missed six weeks of action and played through the injury for the remainder of the season. He was quite successful, batting .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs, 57 RBI, 96 runs scored, and 35 stolen bases across 569 plate appearances. Turner’s performance, especially late in the regular season, helped the Nationals claim the first NL Wild Card. They, of course, would go on to win the World Series.

Turner, who is expected to be healed up by the start of spring training, will be entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. He will likely get a sizable raise on his $3.725 million 2019 salary.