By Dan Charest @dannyacharest on March 22, 2014
Opening Day is barely one week away and the starting lineup for the Red Sox is beginning to take shape. When John Farrell's defending champions take the field at Camden Yards against Buck Showalter's Baltimore Orioles on March 31, expect the starting nine to look like this.
The absence of Jacoby Ellsbury puts a whole at the lead-off spot and Nava, the former Independent League player, looks to take over. Nava, 31 years old, had a breakout year in 2013, batting .303 (No. 8 in the AL) and owning a .385 on-base percentage (No. 5 in the AL) in 134 games. Compared with Ellsbury, the lead-off hitter for the last six seasons, is that Nava lacks speed. He only has 3 career stolen bases whereas Ellsbury had 52 just in 2013.
The Flyin' Hawaiian learned to play a superb right-field at Fenway, which is regarded as one of the toughest outfield spots in the bigs. After a career worse .245 year in 2012 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Victorino hit .298 with the Red Sox in 2013, but the big news is the 33-year old looks like he will strictly hit right-handed, rather than his usual switch.
Dustin Pedroia is making a case as one of the most beloved Red Sox of all-time and part of that has been his consistent efforts year in and year out. In his seven full major league seasons the 30-year-old has never hit less than .288 (2010) to go along with his gold glove defense.
David Ortiz furthered his legend in Boston with a freak performance in the 2013 World Series, hitting 11 for 16 (.688) with two long balls and six RBI, while reaching base in 19 of 25 plate appearances. Just absurdly good numbers from Big Papi. The 38-year-old in his twelfth year in Boston will look to top his 30 home run, 103 RBI, .309 season from a year ago.
A made-for-Fenway hitter, Napoli earned a new contract in the offseason by hitting .259, smacking 23 dingers, and driving in 92 runs in 2013. Those numbers should be just about equal in 2014.
The darling of the 2013 World Series run after only playing 18 regular season games with the big club, the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball is already being predicted as the 2014 AL rookie of the year. Bogaerts is 21 years of age and has only hit .189 in 37 Spring Training at-bats but had 8 hits in 27 postseason at-bats last October.
Entering his 17th season in the show, one of the most disliked players in the majors is now on his fifth team. Despite his 37-year-old frame, Pierzynski has some impressive numbers, catching at least 128 games in the last twelve seasons and owning a career .283 batting average.
The former three-time All-Star has not swung a bat in the bigs for the last three seasons, but has impressed in Sox camp this spring, going 9 for 25 at the dish and outdueling Jackie Bradley Jr. for the vacant centerfield position. Despite the spring success, Sizemore has never been an average-hitter (.269 career) and has not hit more than 18 home runs since 2007 (33 with the Cleveland Indians).
Poised to have a strong sophomore season in 2013 after rookie success a year prior, Middlebrooks spent a couple months in the minors refining his swing last year. He upped his batting average to .227 to end the year (still poor but an improvement over the first few months of the season) and has been a pleasant surprise in Fort Myers (10 for 36, .278)
Jon Lester, more commonly referred to as "Johnny No-No," has thrown at least 191.2 innings in his first six full seasons but the fear is that 2014 might be a down year for the lefty. That is because Lester faced a workload of over 240 innings last season, regular and postseason combined. Regardless, the 29-year-old is line for a monster contract extension to stay in Boston.
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