One of the reasons that the Boston Red Sox had such a wildly successful season in 2013 was because of their surprising running game. They managed to swipe 123 bases last year which is pretty remarkable when you consider the Red Sox have historically been a very slow, plodding team.
Of course, one of the big reasons for so many stolen bases is due to former center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and his 52 swipes. However, both Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia were also were in double digits in stolen bases. Now that Ellsbury is gone, the question is who is going to bat leadoff?
There seems to be two really strong possibilities. The obvious one would be Victorino who batted leadoff for most of his career and could very easily slide into that role. He is definitely dynamic enough to be a threat on the basepaths and make things happen. One concern, however, is getting past those nagging injuries that seem to keep him out for a game or two here and there. Another candidate is a little less obvious. That would be platoon left fielder Daniel Nava.
I know what you are thinking. Nava, are you kidding me? He can’t run. He’s not fast. One huge misconception about the leadoff position is that one needs to be a burner to thrive, but that isn’t necessarily true. You just need someone who can get on base — a lot. Nava had a .385 on base percentage which is very good. A player who can perhaps get a few doubles is doing the same thing as a player who steals a lot of bases. Believe it or not, Dwight Evans, who was one of the greatest players the Red Sox ever had, batted leadoff for a time and he was very good at it because he could get on base. The fact that he wasn’t really fast didn’t matter at all.
Red Sox nation, keep your mind open about Nava. He could do just as well in the role as Ellsbury, but he may do it in a unique way.