One look at the projected starting lineup for the Boston Red Sox in 2013 gives the impression that this year’s team is not going to live as much off the long ball as it has in the past.
DH David Ortiz, who missed just about the entire second half of last season with an Achilles heel injury (he still finished second on the team in home runs with 23 in 90 games), is the lone major long ball threat but he’ll need to stay healthy. Dustin Pedroia has pretty good pop and is probably good for anywhere between 15-20 dingers and Will Middlebrooks is coming off a rookie season of 15 homers in just 75 games.
Question marks abound, though. Ortiz and Middlebrooks (wrist) are both coming off injuries and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (a team-high 25 HR in ’12) strikes out a lot and struggles big-time against breaking pitches. His power production went down significantly the second half of last year.
Perennially near or over the 200 mark in home runs every year, the Red Sox finished with 165 round-trippers (ninth in the AL) last season, though that number would have been more had Ortiz and Middlebrooks remained in the lineup. The addition of Jonny Gomes, coming off a season with 18 blasts for the Oakland Athletics , could supply power from the right side of the plate. As well, injury-plagued Mike Napoli, always a Red Sox killer in his time with the Texas Rangers , has the potential to thrive in Fenway Park with its short left field wall.
It’s important not to overlook oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury and his 32-homer, near-MVP performance of 2011. However, going deep just four times in over 300 at-bats last year renders Ellsbury’s status as a guaranteed long ball threat questionable. The potential is there for the Red Sox to reclaim their place as one of the league’s top power-hitting clubs. But health is going to be a huge factor.