Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The lineup is going to look severely different than that of Opening Day last season. Last year, the lineup included Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross and Mike Aviles, all who aren’t in the organization any longer or definitely won’t be starting.
Boston made a bunch of changes to its offense over the winter, and it appears that more than half of the starters will be making their debuts in a Red Sox uniform on Opening Day. Here’s how I think John Farrell should align his stars against the Yankees on April 1.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Center Fielder
The Red Sox desperately need Jacoby Ellsbury to stay healthy this season. He’s the obvious choice as the team’s leadoff hitter. He has very good speed and is a consistent hitter at the plate. There’s even the chance he gets to prove that his 2011 power wasn’t a fluke. In the final year of his contract, it’ll be interesting to see what Ellsbury’s number’s will look like at the end of 2013.
Shane Victorino, Right Fielder
Shane Victorino had a poor spring with the Red Sox before joining Team USA, playing for his country in the World Baseball Classic. He hasn’t played well there either, which is somewhat concerning for the time being. He was signed to be the right fielder, and even with the injury to David Ortiz, I would’ve still had him toward the top of the order. I think the No. 2 spot is a perfect fit for the Flyin’ Hawaiian.
Dustin Pedroia, Second Baseman
Dustin Pedroia is the leader of this team, and with the absence of Ortiz, he’ll have to step up and hit in the No. 3 hole to start the season. He is a career .304/.356/.484 hitter in the three-hole with 11 home runs and 40 RBI. When Ortiz eventually comes back, I would expect that Pedroia stays here, although he could move up to the two-spot. Regardless, it should be another good year for the Boston second baseman.
Mike Napoli, Designated Hitter
Mike Napoli doesn’t seem to have any problems with his hips this spring and has put up some nice numbers. He was signed to be the first baseman, but with Ortiz out, it makes sense to have him be the designated hitter. There’s no point in overusing him in the field when the Red Sox don’t have to. He has a lot of power which is why I have him hitting cleanup.
Will Middlebrooks, Third Baseman
Now healthy, Will Middlebrooks comes into 2013 with a fresh start, looking to avoid a sophomore slump. In his rookie year, he was very successful and impressive. He was the main reason the Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis, but in the long-term, that was the best move. Middlebrooks seems like a safe choice to hit fifth in the lineup, protecting Napoli and giving him the opportunity to drive in a lot of runs.
Jonny Gomes, Left Fielder
Jonny Gomes is one of the new characters that will be a regular in Boston this season, manning left field on most days—although the Red Sox could platoon him if he doesn’t get off to a great start. He’ll have fun playing the Green Monster in left field and also has the potential to hit a handful of home runs over that same wall. I think that hitting Gomes sixth is the best spot for him.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Catcher
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the final repeat Opening Day starter for the Red Sox, joining Ellsbury and Pedroia. The switch-hitting catcher will be sharing time with David Ross this season but will still be the primary starter. He hit sixth the most often last season, but seventh is calling his name this year. In 53 at-bats hitting seventh in 2012, he went 17-for-53 with four home runs and 10 RBI.
Mike Carp, First Baseman
Out of all of the candidates that are in contention to “replace” Ortiz, I’m going with Mike Carp. He’ll end up playing first base a good amount while Napoli serves as the designated hitter. He’s not the best fielder in the world, nor is he a fantastic hitter, but he’s Boston’s best option for the time being. Once Ortiz returns, he’ll likely be coming off of the bench late in games for situational at-bats.
Stephen Drew, Shortstop
Although Stephen Drew is currently battling concussion issues, I feel confident saying that he’ll be fully recovered by the time Opening Day rolls around. I don’t think that Jose Iglesias has what it takes to beat Drew out for the job. Drew is a smart hitter that is valuable at the bottom of the lineup and is a pretty good fielder. Farrell should hit him ninth because he has a great eye and the top of the order can provide the power to get him home.