Boston Red Sox: Projecting Their Opening Day Lineup
With Opening Day just around the corner, baseball fanboys are abuzz about what their teams are going to look like headed into the season.
While Boston’s lineup is pretty much cemented, pending any injuries, the only question remaining is how the offense is physically going to stack up, one through nine.
From the leadoff spot to the bottom of the batting order basement, let’s take a look at how the powerful Red Sox will introduce themselves to pitchers come April 1st.
Leadoff: Jacoby Ellsbury
There has been a lot of speculation about Terry Francona hitting Ellsbury ninth, and while I see the benefit of placing a dangerous baserunner in that position, this is a better team with the speedy youngster at the top of the lineup.
While his lingering rib injury made him a non-factor in 2010, his 98 runs in 2008 and 94 the following year are all the evidence you need that Ellsbury should be the opening act, setting the table for what could be a daily feast of scoring.
2-Hole: Dustin Pedroia
Having already proven that he’s comfortable in the two-hole role, Dustin Pedroia can hit for contact, driving in runs while putting himself in a position to be driven in as well.
Unassuming, yet capable of hurting pitchers when they least expect, the former American League MVP was another casualty of the 2010 injury bug that plagued the team all year long.
Expected to be 100 percent for Opening Day, the scrappy second baseman may never again have a campaign like he had in 2008, but make no mistake, he’ll be back to putting on more laser shows than Pink Floyd and Cirque du Soleil combined.
3-Hole: Carl Crawford
The surprising acquisition of Carl Crawford had a lot of Red Sox fans foaming at the mouth in the offseason.
While he’s known for his speed on the basepaths, Crawford can also hit for average, and if his 2010 campaign is any indication of how his first year with the Sox will play out, he has the potential to put up 100-plus runs and 90 RBI.
By splitting up the speed of Ellsbury and Crawford in the lineup, you also give the two cheetahs the opportunity to stay out of each other’s way while keeping opposing pitchers uncomfortable.
And, oh yeah, he can also hit for power.
Cleanup: Adrian Gonzalez
With enough pop to his bat to make Adrian Gonzalez a fearful hitter in the cavernous Petco Park, the first base slugger should have no problem putting a few dozen long balls over the relatively short walls of Fenway Park.
Still yet to appear in a preseason game, Gonzalez rode into camp on offseason shoulder surgery, but while there’s always a question of durability after such a procedure, few doubt his ability to enter the Red Sox lineup and make a profound impact with his bat.
Ellsbury, Pedroia and Crawford should get used to saying, “Thanks for bringing me home, A-Gon” because he will be doing plenty of it all year long.
5th Spot: Kevin Youkilis
Nicknamed the Greek God of Walks for his patience, Kevin Youkilis can also hit, which should give Gonzalez plenty of protection at cleanup.
Yet another victim of injury in 2010, Youkilis will be entering the year with a clean slate, hoping to return to earlier form and continue his intimidation of pitchers with both his wild-eyed intensity and obscene sweating.
6th Spot: David Ortiz
Say what you will about Big Papi, but being able to have a 100-plus RBI man hitting sixth in your lineup is enough to have even the Evil Empire doubting their chances.
With two consecutive years of slow starts under his belt, Ortiz needs to come on strong in 2011, but with the pressure for a slugger who can put on a show now off thanks to the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, he should have no problem transitioning into a new role with the team while still being effective.
With so many quality hitters lined up in front of him, another year of 100 RBI is not out of the realm of possibility for Papi.
7th Spot: J.D. Drew
Although his ability to break like glass has not been well received by Boston fans, J.D. Drew has still been able to make a positive impact throughout his tenure with the Red Sox.
Infamous for settling into incredible hot streaks, Drew has his moments, though we all tend to remember his stubbed toes over his game-winning contributions.
Still, for a hitter dropped into the seventh spot, Drew is an attractive option, especially when you consider he is still capable of a decent average and 20 home runs.
8th Spot: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
One of the only real question marks on this team, new catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia isn’t expected to be an offensive juggernaut.
Splitting time with captain Jason Varitek, all Salty needs to do is with his bat is contribute and stay away from hitting into double plays.
The good thing is, Salty was once a top prospect with slugging potential. If he can tap into event a small percentage of those previous expectations, the new backstop could be a pleasant surprise in 2011.
9-Hole: Marco Scutaro
Although I’m a strong believer in Jed Lowrie being the Opening Day shortstop, Francona is surely going to side with reliable Marco Scutaro, who, in the wake of Ellsbury’s 2010 disappearance, did a commendable job slipping into the leadoff role.
However, as far as nine-hitters go, Scutaro is a nice transition into the top of lineup, capable of getting on base and carrying a rally into the meat of the order.
He won’t strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, but when your teammates all do that for you, being Mr. Reliable is just fine.