What To Expect The Red Sox Lineup To Look Like
The Red Sox have recently made the move to sign Mike Napoli official along with adding veteran left-handed hitter Lyle Overbay as protection for Napoli and David Ortiz. Those two moves should fill out the Red Sox’ roster of position players, at least heading into spring training. Here is a primer of how the Red Sox lineup may fill out for the most part this season.
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
- Shane Victorino, RF
- Dustin Pedroia, 2B
- David Ortiz, DH
- Mike Napoli, 1B
- Will Middlebrooks, 3B
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
- Johnny Gomes, LF
- Stephen Drew, SS
Bench – Ryan Sweeney, Daniel Nava, David Ross, Lyle Overbay, Pedro Ciriaco
Obviously this is a very early estimate of how the opening day Sox might look but I’d be shocked if I was all that far off. Let’s break the lineup into 3 sections and analyze from there.
The top third – Ellsbury is obviously the lead-off hitter going into the season. If he returns to 2011 form I could see him switching spots with Victorino but first he’ll have to prove that his 2011 production wasn’t a fluke. If Ellsbury does play like he did in ’11 he really is a protypical #2 guy but he is going to have to prove he can stay healthy. Victorino’s production is a good match at #2 and he’ll get plenty of lineup protection between Ellsbury and Pedroia. It’s tough to move Pedroia from the #2 hole where he has been so successful but he is by far the best match for the #3 spot in the Sox lineup. If you asked him he’d also tell you that it doesn’t matter where he hits in the lineup, he’ll put on a laser show anywhere. I’m not too worried about Pedroia’s production and I expect Victorino to put up his usual solid-yet-unspectacular numbers but the amount of production that we see from the top 3rd will live and die by what we get out of Ellsbury.
The middle third – On paper this section looks like it can give the Red Sox a lot of power but there are health concerns here as well. Ortiz has come out of the gate strong for a few years running but it will be interesting to see how he looks coming off of his Achilles injury. All eyes will be on Mike Napoli’s hip and how, if it all, it affects his play. The youngster of the group, Will Middlebrooks, is coming off of a wrist injury of his own. Assuming that these guys stay relatively healthy you should see them producing a lot of runs. All of these guys have 30 home run/100 RBI potential. Middlebrooks says that he is 100% following wrist surgery and at 24 should be the most dependable bat in the heart of the order. Expect Napoli to wear out that wall in Fenway and use the gaps on the road. We all know what Ortiz can do if he’s healthy.
The bottom third – A lot of people have Drew hitting seventh and Salty hitting ninth but I am putting Salty in the seventh hole. He hit a team-leading 25 home runs last year and is not one to get on base much. He’d be much better served a bit higher in the lineup where he can utilize his power and his lack of OBP won’t be as much of a liability. He can also slide up the the 6 hole if one of the guys in the middle third goes down. Meanwhile Drew will be able to set the table for the top of the lineup with his OBP skills. I’d much rather have a guy like Drew who is more apt to get on base when the top of the order is coming back around than a guy like Saltalamacchia who strikes out more often than he gets on base. Jonny Gomes is a grinder and should be just fine for the Sox at #8.
The bench – Most of these guys will likely find themselves in the bottom third when they crack the lineup with the possible exceptions of Sweeney and Ciriaco. Sweeney will probably spend a lot of his time platooning with Gomes and plugging right into the #8 hole. Ross could switch with Drew when he spells Saltalamacchia. Overbay will probably move between #6 and #7 when he’s in there.
Let’s face it – scoring runs will not be a problem for the Red Sox. They’ll get production from their lineup. It’s the pitching that will make or break this team. That being said there are some health concerns with some key components in the lineup. You might hear names like Iglesias, Brentz, and Shaw by time it’s all said and done. One of the things that I like about the Red Sox’ lineup additions is that we should see them get back to produce OBP and working pitch counts, something that has been lacking with this time over the past several seasons. Nonetheless the Sox seem to have enough to at least keep them afloat if the pitching can hold up their end of the bargain.