Projecting the Boston Red Sox 2014 Lineup
Projecting the Boston Red Sox 2014 Lineup
The Boston Red Sox will go into the Winter Meetings with a team that is just about ready to begin their mission to repeat as World Series champions. They have re-signed first baseman Mike Napoli to a two-year deal and added A.J. Pierzynski to handle the majority of the work behind the plate. They will also turn to a pair of rookie eligible players, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and expect them to play a major role for the team.
The Red Sox have also added a pair of right handed arms to the bullpen. They traded a rookie ball prospect to get Burke Badenhop, essentially a salary dump by the Minnesota Twins, and signed free agent Edward Mujica to bolster the back end of the bullpen.
They have lost a couple pieces that played integral roles in the championship team. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has moved on to the Miami Marlins, Jacoby Ellsbury becomes the latest bearded Red Sox center fielder to jump to the hated New York Yankees the season after winning a championship, and Stephen Drew remains unsigned.
The starting rotation remains the same, and should be a strength of the team in 2014. There will also be an entire rotation of potential big league starters sitting at AAA Pawtucket come opening day.
There might still be moves coming, whether via free agency or by dealing a veteran starter for extra depth in the outfield, but they have enough to field a very competitive 25 man roster already.
1. Shane Victorino – Right Field
The Boston Red Sox don’t have a prototypical lead-off hitter now that Jacoby Ellsbury is gone. Dustin Pedroia has hit some as a lead-off guy, but his numbers tend to dip significantly when he does. That leaves the best option as Shane Victorino. Victorino shined defensively in right field in 2013, winning a Gold Glove Award, but he also shined at the plate, hitting near .300 and reaching base at better than a .350 clip.
2. Daniel Nava – Left Field
Daniel Nava will probably share time in left with Jonny Gomes, but should get the majority share. Despite being a switch hitter, he is significantly better against left-handed pitchers than right. His career batting average is 70 points better, and on-base is a full 100 points higher against lefties. In terms of batting order, when Nava in in the lineup, he will likely hit second, but when Gomes plays, he will probably hit sixth, and guys slotted 3-6 in this projected lineup will each move up one spot.
3. Dustin Pedroia – Second Base
When Robinson Cano signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, Dustin Pedroia’s legacy was actually improved. Pedroia signed an eight year extension during the 2013 season worth “just” $110 million. He had the chance to be a free agent after the 2014 season and cash in big time, but decided to take a hometown discount to remain a Boston Red Sox for the rest of his career, and keep some room on the payroll to stay competitive that entire time too. He will likely go down as one of the all-time fan favorite Red Sox in history.
4. David Ortiz – Designated Hitter
Is there really anything that requires an explanation behind having David Ortiz batting cleanup? The 2013 World Series MVP and arguably greatest DH to ever live, just goes out and puts up numbers.
5. Mike Napoli – First Base
Mike Napoli, along with Jonny Gomes, combined for the leaders of the beards in 2013, and Napoli resigned with the Boston Red Sox for another two years. Napoli was looking for a three-year deal, while the Red Sox preferred a one-year contract, but the two parties ended up meeting in the middle for a two-year deal that fits both team and player very well. Napoli serves as the perfect right-handed power bat to protect David Ortiz, and he even proved to be a surprisingly impressive defensive first baseman.
6. A.J. Pierzynski – Catcher
A.J. Pierzynski brings a fire to the Boston Red Sox. He is widely known as a player guys hate to play against, but love to call a teammate. He also brings some pop at the catcher’s position, and can hit for a pretty good average. He instantly becomes the best offensive catcher the Red Sox have had since Jason Varitek’s prime.
7. Xander Bogaerts – Shortstop
Rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts came on strong late in the 2013 season and in the playoffs. The highest ranked prospect in the Boston Red Sox system since Hanley Ramirez, Bogaerts faces some of the same questions Ramirez did, and frankly still does. He is a big bodied shortstop, leading many to project him to end up a third baseman in time, but he has proven he is plenty agile and fluid to stay at short despite his larger size, standing 6-foot-3. His upside is as a future three-hole hitter, which would allow Dustin Pedroia to move up into the two hole, a more natural spot in the lineup for him, but Bogaerts will likely be brought along slowly in terms of batting order, and start the season hitting seventh.
8. Will Middlebrooks – Third Base
Will Middlebrooks lost his job and spent a good amount of time back at AAA in 2013, but came back strong down the stretch. Given his history of some struggles, and the fact the Boston Red Sox will be going with a rookie at short, there will likely be another signing to add a guy that can fill in on the left side, but Middlebrooks will get the first shot. Garin Cecchini is another third-base prospect that has an incredible approach at the plate, but is still a season away from being able to make an impact at the big league level, that leaves this season as a year for Middlebrooks to prove he can be the future at the hot corner for the Boston Red Sox.
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. – Center Field
Many Boston Red Sox fans want Jackie Bradley Jr. to fit in as the lead off guy as he is the heir apparent to Jacoby Ellsbury. He is not the same kind of player. Bradley Jr. is a terrific defensive center fielder based on his incredible instincts, where Ellsbury was able to make up for his poor jumps at times with his great speed. Bradley Jr. is also not a base stealer. He may one day become a quality on-base lead-off guy, but he will never be the speed threat. In 2014, his biggest asset will be his defense, and anything he does offensively will be gravy for the Red Sox.