Although the Boston Red Sox have caught fire as of late, there is still room for improvement. What stands out most is the lack of production they are getting from leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury.
What has happened to the Red Sox superstar? After his breakout 2011 campaign in which Ellsbury hit 32 home runs, drove in 105, stole 39 bases and hit for a .321 average, it seemed as if Boston had the next great five-tool outfielder. However, injuries derailed him in 2012. He came back for the second half of the season but was a shell of his former self, hitting only four home runs and driving in 26 runners in over 300 at bats.
Expectations were high in 2013, particularly since Ellsbury is a Scott Boras guy. Boras’ clients are well known to produce in contract years, and a return to his 2013 form didn’t seem impossible.
This season has been a huge disapointment though for Ellsbury. More than a quarter of the way through the year, Ellsbury has just one home run, 14 RBIs and is hitting a dismal .241. It’s having an impact on the team too. As the leadoff hitter, it is imperative for him to get on base and use his speed to generate runs.
Manager John Farrell needs to shuffle his lineup. Ellsbury has had almost two months to show that he belongs in the leadoff spot and has failed. Here is how the batting order should go:
1. Shane Victorino. He has speed, and is hitting a solid .283 this year.
2. Dustin Pedroia. Pedey is naturally a No. 2 hitter but has been forced into the third spot due to necessity. He’s a better fit in the two-hole.
3. David Ortiz. It worked well throughout the Manny Ramirez era, so why not now? Papi is hitting the ball as well as he ever did during his prime.
4. Mike Napoli. The Red Sox first basemen has become the biggest source of power for Boston, and leads the club in RBI. Cleanup is a natural place for him to hit.
5. Daniel Nava. The Red Sox version of Rudy is having a monster season. His consistent production has shown that he isn’t a flash in the pan. Boston can count on him in the five slot.
6. Will Middlebrooks. The youngster is finally hitting as of late, and will only continue to improve hitting sixth.
7. Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s a natural leadoff hitter, but until he finds his swing, he should hit towards the bottom. By shuffling the lineup, hopefully Farrell can improve Ellsbury’s confidence and bring him back to the top spot where he belongs.
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The Sox catcher is the weakest link in the lineup, but doesn’t hurt you hitting in this spot.
9. Stephen Drew. Boston’s shortstop is better suited hitting ninth than eighth. He’s a better hitter than Salty, and can get on base to create RBI opportunities for Victorino and Pedroia.
Right now, this is the ideal batting order for the Red Sox. Until Ellsbury can get out of his slump and show that he can earn his next contract, he needs to be moved down.