With the dust settling from the last ten days or so flurry of trades and signings, the Red Sox in particular look pretty much set in terms of batters. Just a couple of tweaks in the bullpen region and they will be ready to roll. As the Yankees run around like a headless chicken, looking to sign anyone or anything to make up for missing out on Lee, Werth, Gonzalez and Crawford, what better time than now to have a look at one potential Red Sox batting order.
1. Ellsbury CF
2. Pedroia 2B
3. Crawford LF
4. Gonzalez 1B
5. Ortiz DH
6. Youkilis 3B
7. Drew RF
8. Saltalamacchia C
9. Scutaro SS
It is refreshing to see Francona and Epstein have both clearly decided Ellsbury deserves the chance to prove his worth, after a season stunted by injury. The old adage in sports is, you should never lose your job through injury (Drew Bledsoe might have a thing or two to say about that) and in this case Ellsbury clearly warrants another extended look. There were plenty of fans and indeed writers who were ready to push Ellsbury out of town, most notably the Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy. Mr. Shaughnessy openly questioned Ellsbury’s bravery, which was both reactionary and, as it turns out, extremely erroneous. Thankfully those that matter, the Red Sox coaching staff, are clearly sticking by their man. Manager Tito Francona made it pretty clear where he wants Ellsbury to bat; "I think I've been pretty consistent all along, our best team is when Jacoby is hitting first"
Possibly the most solidified, certain spot in the order, there is no way (barring injury or alien invasion) anyone but Pedroia is starting the season in this slot. He is simply perfect for it. Rarely ever strikes out, always moves the runner over. Does the little things so well, and chips in with more than his fair share of power-alley gap shots. The perfect number two man for the Red Sox.
Crawford himself has said he hates batting lead off, and his history in Tampa suggests that’s not without good reason. He hasn’t done well statistically there. Rays manager Joe Maddon tried Crawford in the three hole, and was so enamored with the results he left him there for good. Not a big home run hitter, however there is plenty of thunder just behind him in the order to balance that. By putting Crawford in the three hole the Sox would lengthen their lineup in a way that basically it would be like having two ‘number two’ type guys back to back, Pedroia and Crawford, ahead of the heavy thunder.
Gonzo fits the four spot like a well made glove, the perfect guy to have here. Considering his commendable body of work to date, imagine the possibilities in terms of RBI numbers for Gonzalez. With all due respect to the Padres, a scrappy, feisty team, Gonzalez has never had OBP guys like Pedroia and Crawford, or table setters with the speed of Ellsbury batting in front of him before. Assuming it all works out, no injuries and what not, what’s the over under for his 2011 RBIs, 115/120? I would take the high there.
Finally, some controversy. Most articles have Ortiz one or even two spots further down the order. Have those writers been following the Sox the last couple of years? Gregarious Ortiz needs to be loved. Nothing wrong with that, he just thrives in the right situation, with the backing of his employers. Considering what he has done numbers wise for Boston, he has possibly earned the right to bat directly behind Gonzalez. There’s a part two to this also, which is…
…can’t you see Youkilis agreeing to bat behind Ortiz, at least for the start of the year? Youkilis is such a team first guy, he would probably have no issue batting a little lower down the order, in a move which would keep Ortiz’s morale up and lengthen the Sox lineup just that little bit further. Imagine opposition pitchers, navigating their way through the top five in the Sox order, only to find this little surprise waiting for them in the six spot? Mercy!
Batting JD Drew in the seven hole is a win, win, win situation for all involved. First things first, Sox fans can expect a little boost from Drew this season, this is the final year of his current Sox contract believe it or not. If he can stay healthy (a reasonably large if) then Drew figures to come out firing in 2011, playing for a new deal. Having him this low down in the order takes both pressure and expectations off his shoulders, and once again lengthens the lineup considerably. There are not many teams in MLB with a player of this caliber in the seven hole. Enjoy what might be his last season in Boston, love him or hate him, Drew has contributed a very steady offensive output and a couple of very, very clutch hits down the last couple of seasons (Grand slam in Cleveland stands as my favourite Drew moment).
Having ‘owned’ Jarrod Saltalamacchia the last couple of seasons in a keeper fantasy baseball league, it is hard to get excited about his potential Sox tenure. The potential is there, for all to see, and he is young, however it has been a few years now since he got his chance at this level, and, still no fireworks. Absolutely no doubting the potential, though. This is one spot higher than most other mock Sox lineups, and that’s because…
…I think people are forgetting managers love to have a ‘second leadoff’ guy in the nine hole. Anybody who gets on base at a regular enough clip, has decent base running skills and plays small-ball well. Assuming Scutaro isn’t traded, he could become a firm fan favourite in this role, there’s no doubt he is better than 95% of MLB ninth spot batters and should out produce his lineup spot enormously.
So there it is. Nothing can be set in stone at this stage, the club might look different after spring training, for example, but one thing is absolutely certain, the Sox lineup is going to be one of if not the best in MLB in 2011. Feel free to put your own potential Sox lineups in the comments section, get involved! Now, when does spring training start?
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