Oct 10, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) reacts after scoring a run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game three of the 2016 ALDS playoff baseball series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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The Boston Red Sox are coming off a 2016 season that saw then win 93 games along with the AL East title. Many of the players that helped them reach that goal a season ago will once again be donning the red socks. However, there will be one familiar name that will not be there this season. After 14 seasons donning the Boston Red Sox uniform, David Ortiz has retired, leaving a large hole in the middle of the club’s lineup.
So how will the team shape their lineup without the city’s most iconic player from the last 20 years? The team did bring in Mitch Moreland via free agency this Winter and he will likely be handling the majority of the at-bats from the designated hitter’s slot.
Outside of Moreland, many of the other faces should be pretty familiar to Red Sox fans. Without any further ado, let’s take a look at how the Boston lineup could look like come Opening Day.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B – With Big Papi gone, Pedroia will be the longest-tenured Red Sox player in this lineup. After a few down seasons, Pedroia turned things around last season, showing he is more than qualified to take the reigns of leading off in 2017. Last season saw the man they call “Scrappy” post a .318 batting average and a .376 on-base percentage, which is the best number he has posted in that stat since 2011. He may not be a big base stealer, but he will certainly set the table and pile up the runs as he will have some really talented hitters behind him.[Kenny]
Andrew Benintendi, LF – A 22-year-old kid who is the early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year got a small taste of the bigs in 2016. Over the course of 105 at-bats, Benintendi showed some promise, hitting .295 and slugging .476. He is considered the Red Sox top prospect and he will be given every opportunity to earn the starting left fielder’s job, having to beat out Brock Holt and Chris Young. Given those two are solid bench options and Benintendi has a world of talent, not only will he win the job, but he will find himself near the top of the order in order to benefit from seeing better pitches since pitchers will not want to walk the man batting in front of Mookie Betts.
Mookie Betts, RF – The three hole is reserved for a team’s best hitter. Given Mookie Betts is one of the best hitters in all of MLB, he will certainly be in the middle of this lineup. Betts found himself in the MVP discussion last season after posting a .318 average, hit 31 homers, stole 26 bags and drove in 113 runners just to name a few stats. Betts can do it all and he will be the guy opposing pitchers least look forward to facing when they go up against Boston.
Hanley Ramirez, 1B – Hanley’s time in Boston has had its share of ups and downs. Last season saw him move to first base and with it, a nice power surge. Hanley launched 30 long balls over the fence to go along with 28 doubles. The clean-up hitter is someone who brings the pop and Ramirez proved in 2016 he is capable of doing just that. He should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs given the three names in front of him.
Xander Bogaerts, SS – Bogaerts is the type of guy who could find himself all over the lineup. He could easily slide into the two slot, as he gets on base enough to help set the table with Pedroia. If the team does not trust Hanley enough to put him in the four-hole, thus moving Betts down a spot, Xander could go in the three slot. But given he is an all around good player who can hit some homers at a solid batting average while also throwing in the occasional bag, the five spot seems ideal.
Mitch Moreland, DH – Count this as the slot for the players who will rotate in and out of the order. Mitch Moreland’s best asset is his power, hitting 22 home runs in 2016. He is not a guy who will hit for a great batting average, but he will drive in his fair share of runs. He will see some time at first base as well as DH, but he will also see the bench at times when the team faces a left-handed starter. In those instances, guys like Brock Holt or Chris Young could easily slide right into this six slot, or the seven spot, which would mean minimal disruption to the lineup as a whole.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B – So let’s be honest. We have no idea what we will be getting from the Kung Fu Panda in 2017. He had all of six at-bats in 2016 before having his season ended thanks to a shoulder injury. Following the trades of Travis Shaw and Yoan Moncada this Winter, Sandoval is the leading candidate to win the starting job, with Holt likely his main competition on the roster at this time. He has apparently been working hard this Winter and has gotten into decent shape, but we have heard that story before. So all that will matter are results. Putting him in the seven hole gives him a chance to get some big RBIs while also being low enough to not have too much pressure placed on him.
Christian Vazquez, C – Catcher will be the team’s biggest weak spot on the offensive end this year. Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart will be competing with Vazquez, but Vazquez is seen as the best defensive option of the three. This will be what ultimately wins him the job, although Swihart will still see his fair share of time. Ultimately this could turn into a bit of a platoon, with Swihart ultimately taking over after Boston has had enough of Vazquez’s lack of offense.
Jackie Bradley Jr, CF – Bradley is certainly a superior hitter than Vazquez, so you may be asking why he is down in the nine slot. Well, the answer is simple. He will serve as a second lead-off hitter essentially. Bradley had the best year in his career in 2016 without question. He showed some power and continued to improve his on-base percentage. He still has his flaws and certainly is not a true lead-off man, but he is a much better transition back to the top of the order than someone like Vazquez or Sandoval.
How do you see the Boston Red Sox’ starting lineup shaking out for the upcoming 2017 MLB season? Tell us in the comments!