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Despite uncertainty, lineup flashes potential

Longoria gone, but players such as Kiermaier, Miller, Duffy could be key
MLB.com @wwchastain

ST. PETERSBURG -- A lot of juggling could take place on the Rays' roster between now and the beginning of the 2018 season. However, one thing is known: Evan Longoria will not be in the lineup.

The longest-tenured Ray was traded to the Giants in December, leaving the hot corner open for the first time since the 2007 season.

ST. PETERSBURG -- A lot of juggling could take place on the Rays' roster between now and the beginning of the 2018 season. However, one thing is known: Evan Longoria will not be in the lineup.

The longest-tenured Ray was traded to the Giants in December, leaving the hot corner open for the first time since the 2007 season.

While one constant will be missing, others remain, along with a host of uncertainty about whether certain players will be traded by Tampa Bay in the hopes of building for the future.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineups of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Uncertainty makes it tough to forecast the Rays' Opening Day lineup, but here's an educated guess.

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Kevin Kiermaier, CF
Denard Span, LF
Matt Duffy, 3B
Corey Dickerson, DH
Steven Souza Jr., RF
Brad Miller, 1B
Daniel Robertson, 2B
Wilson Ramos, C
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

Video: TB@BAL: Dickerson rips an RBI double down the line

STRENGTH

The top of the order is action waiting to happen with Kiermaier and Span. Both are disruptive forces to opposing defenses. Their ability to get on base could ignite this lineup.

With Duffy, Dickerson, and Souza hitting in the Nos. 3-5 spots, there's a good chance any runners on base will score. Duffy's addition to the lineup brings a different bat than what the Rays have had in recent years. He makes consistent contact and has some power.

Having Hechavarria betting ninth is like having a second leadoff man, giving the lineup a circular feel feeding back into the top of the order.

QUESTION MARK

The weakness of this lineup could be in the power department. Last season, the Rays struggled to score runs, and they could do so again considering they will be without Longoria, and Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison are free agents.

However, if Miller returns to his 2016 form (30 home runs), Robertson hits like he did in the Minor Leagues and Souza and Kiermaier continue to show improvement, scoring runs might not be a problem. Tampa Bay also needs Duffy to remain healthy after missing all of 2017.

Video: BAL@TB: Miller crushes a three-run homer to right

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

Span came to the Rays from the Giants in the Longoria trade, but his salary makes him a player the Rays could potentially trade. In addition, if Duffy is healthy, Tampa Bay could opt to trade Hechavarria and move Duffy to short, paving the way to move Robertson to third and Miller to second.

If Hechavarria were to get traded, the Rays might consider leaving Duffy at third and giving the shortstop job to highly-regarded prospect Willy Adames.

Adames, Tampa Bay's No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is not the only youngster who could factor into the equation. Jake Bauers, the club's No. 6 prospect, could force the Rays' hand with his power bat and disciplined eye, paving the way for him to take over at first base.

Tampa Bay has made a series of acquisitions this offseason to improve its depth, bringing aboard the likes of infielders Christian Arroyo, Micah Johnson, Ryan Schimpf and Joey Wendle -- any one of whom could find a spot in the lineup given the right circumstances.

The development of the Rays' roster should be fun to watch between now and Opening Day.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays