The Red Sox lineup is projected to put up some big numbers this year with the additions of Sandoval and Ramirez. Now, I know, Pablo and Hanley didn’t exactly put up superstar numbers last year. But if they, along with the entire lineup, can stay relatively healthy, then I like their ability to put up improved numbers this year. I’ve always been a Hanley Ramirez guy so I think his numbers at the end of the year will look better than Sandoval’s, but we will touch upon that in a little.
Assuming the entire lineup stays unrealistically healthy, here is my prediction for the way the Red Sox lineup will look by the end of the season:
1. Rusney Castillo:
First things first, if you were looking for a weak spot in the Red Sox lineup, it might be the fact that they still do not have a true leadoff man. They haven’t since the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury. At the moment, most people are anticipating Mookie Betts will be starting in center field and leading off. I love Mookie Betts. I also love Rusney Castillo though and judging him off the limited experience he received last year after signing with the Red Sox late in the year (and from what I’ve read about him), he’s a guy who is relatively fast and has the ability to showcase power from time to time.
I think experts forget that the Red Sox signed this guy to a seven-year, 72.5 million dollar contract, the largest of any contract for a Cuban player of all time. They also tend to forget how much the Red Sox ownership team, lead by John Henry, appreciates getting the most value from any contract they give out. Maybe he doesn’t get the start on opening day, but expect to see him in there day in and day out soon after that. This is a kid who is already 27 years old, a little more experience in the majors and he will be able to shine.
2. Dustin Pedroia:
Red Sox fans tend to hate me for how tough I can be on Dustin Pedroia so I’m sure I’ll receive some flack here too. I do think that Dustin Pedroia is one of the best second basemen in the country. I think he is a guy who can make the plays that help you put wins on the board. However, I think the notion that he is this ‘tough and gritty’ player mostly stems from his height (or lack thereof depending on the way you want to view it).
When judging him solely based off his numbers, it is much easier to see the point that I am trying to make. In 2008, he had a great season and went on to become the MVP. I’m not denying that he was terrific player that year, but if you take that year out of the equation he’s played 7 full seasons in the MLB along with an injury plagued 2010 season. He’s managed to bat over .300 3 times and has a career batting average of .299. Not bad, you might say, but the aspect of his statistics that I really like to focus on is his RBI total. He has never managed to hit 100 RBI in a season (including his MVP season) and his highest amount was in 2011 when he hit 91. He also hit 21 home runs that season, but has never managed 20 in any other season.
You may ask, then why do you, Mr. Know It All, still have him in the #2 spot. I’ll supply you with a 2-part answer to that. 1. The Red Sox see the value in him less for what he is able to do on the field, and more for what he can provide off the field (ticket sales, jersey sales, etc.). And we all know how much the ownership team values that aspect of running a baseball team. 2. Because he is still a good hitter capable of hitting at the #2 spot. Just not as great as everyone tends to think, in my not so humble opinion.
3. Pablo Sandoval
Most people have David Ortiz in the number 3 spot at the moment. David Ortiz is now 39 years old now, though, and will be 40 by the time the playoffs hit. Red Sox fans are going to have to realize that at some point he is going to have to begin to break down. Unfortunately, this could be the year. I hope I’m wrong on that account.
Now, for Pablo Sandoval, a lot of Red Sox fans cried afoul this summer when John Henry went all out trying to sign Sandoval. I like the move, especially considering Sandoval is 28 and going into the prime of his career. Plus, it’s not my money, so it’s not my problem. When looking at Sandoval’s career numbers, they can be a little inconsistent (unless you’re looking at his postseason numbers, which tend to always be excellent). He should benefit off being around so many other quality hitters who know how to get on base. Look for him to have his first season with over 100 RBI’s. He will be playing a game of wall ball with the Green Monster all season long.
4. Hanley Ramirez
As I mentioned before, I was a huge fan of the Hanley Ramirez signing. Yes, I know, he is 31 years old and coming off a season in which he struggled from time to time. He batted .283 with 13 home runs and 71 RBI’s last year. For some reason he is criticized when he puts up those types of numbers while Pedroai is praised, but I digress. He’s not the type of guy who’s going to hit a ton of home runs and he’s only managed over 100 RBI’s once in his career, but he has the ability to get on base (has hit over .300 5 times in his career) and score runs.
If there is some switching up in the lineup necessary, I would not be surprised to see John Farrell try out Ramirez in the leadoff spot due to his ability to effectively get on base. I’m going to keep him at the number 4 spot for now though, which is where he is projected to be at the start of the season.
5. David Ortiz
I don’t have to tell everyone what David Ortiz has done in a Red Sox uniform or what he is capable of. He is one of the greatest Red Sox players of all time and a potential hall of famer depending on how they judge him for his alleged PED use. He was one of the only productive players for the Red Sox last year. He managed to hit 35 home runs and 104 RBI. Those numbers were actually up from 30 and 103, prospectively. The statistic I like to look at for older players though is batting average. Once that statistic dips, the player begins simultaneously to crumble with it. He batted .263 after batting north of .300 for the previous three years.
As you can see, I’m taking a pessimistic viewpoint on David Ortiz’s upcoming 2015 season. I still believe he is capable of 20-25 home runs and wouldn’t even be shocked if he managed 30. I do not, however, see him managing to him 100 RBI. Look for John Farrell to sit him as much as he possibly can in order to maintain his health at the age of 39. I also think there is a solid chance that he could be looking at a batting average similar to the one he had last year. He is still David Ortiz though, and he’s not a bad option to have at the number 5 spot.
6. Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli is your classic number 6/7 hitter. He has displayed the ability to get on base at an okay level the past few seasons. He can hit a home run from time to time, he hit 17 last season and 23 the season before, both of which he played for the Red Sox. In 2013 he managed 92 RBI, but that number went down to 55 last season. Not numbers to write home about, but definitely numbers that you don’t mind seeing in your 6 or 7 spot. Plus, he can come up with a big hit in clutch situations. I expect him to put up better numbers this year with an improved lineup set up around him.
7. Xander Bogaerts
All die hard Red Sox fans know why Xander is on this team. It’s his defense. This can be frustrating at times for a fan because defense isn’t the sexiest part of the game. It does undoubtedly provide a team with value though, which John Farrell of all people appreciates.
He is still only 22 years old so he has some time to drastically improve his ability with the bat. I just don’t know if this will be the year. Last year he managed to bat .240 with only 12 home runs and 46 RBI. Look for these numbers to slightly improve this year where he will most likely bat over .250 with 15 HR’s and 60 RBI. Those numbers aren’t going to help out this club on the offensive side, but he should be able to improve on some of the errors he made at shortstop last year and provide this team with a lot of value on the defensive side of the ball.
8. Brock Holt
Brock Holt is a guy who provides this team with a lot of value. He is listed as a 3B, but has the ability to play multiple positions. By the end of this season, I like his chances of playing right field. Last year he saw the field for 106 games. He batted .281 with 4 home runs and 29 RBI. If he manages to get a full season under his belt this year, at the age of 26, I like his chances at improving those numbers.
A lot of people would have Shane Victorino in this spot, but combining his age with his injury problems, I don’t think that is a safe bet. Victorino is another guy who will add a lot of value to this team off the bench though. The question remains, can Holt be trusted to consistently start at right field. I, unfortunately, can’t answer that question. I do know that he has been reliable at all positions that he has played thus far though so there is no reason to doubt his ability. This kid could be an x-factor for this team this year.
9. Christian Vazquez/Ryan Hanigan
I have two guys listed at this spot because I believe both of these catchers will get a ton of playing time this year. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be shocked to see the Red Sox management attempt to bring in another catcher at some point before the trade deadline. If not, Christian Vasquez will probably see the diamond a bit more than Hanigan because of his age (he is 24, Hanigan is 34).
Neither of these catchers are projected to do much this season. Vasquez is still a young guy, but Hanigan hasn’t exactly put together an all star type career. This is a weak spot for this Red Sox team, but the catcher position is a weak spot for almost every team. If these two guys can combine to get the job done defensively, they will do their part in helping the Red Sox win baseball games. Note: These opinions are my educated opinions, and do not represent my employer or any other member of MLB_NL_AL. Jake will post his "If I were manager" in February with his opinions.
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Jake Wesley is now the only writer for MLB_NL_AL.com all of these articles are ether based on facts and pieces of his opinion.