With Truck Day just passing, the next big step for Red Sox baseball is Spring Training and with a little over a month until the 2018 season begins, it’s time to think about the starting lineup.
Catcher Christian Vazquez had an outstanding season in 2017. Vazquez played 99 games and ended the season batting a great .290/.330/.404 slash. Over his three seasons with the Red Sox, Vazquez has had a .993 or .994 fielding percentage. The downsides to Vazquez are his lack of power and lack of speed, hitting only five home runs and only stealing seven bases.
Mitch Moreland is returning to Boston for his second season at first base. Moreland has hit at least 20 home runs and 20 doubles in four of his last five seasons, only missing this mark in 2014 when he had an ankle surgery. Moreland is also a gold glove first baseman, winning the award in 2016. Moreland is one of the multiple streaky hitters, going 4-for-4 some days and going 0-for-4 on others.
Second base is one of the most questionable positions for Opening Day this year. Dustin Pedroia will not return until late April or early May due to knee surgery and it is unclear who will take his place in the field.
One likely player who could start at second is Marco Hernandez. Hernandez has already made his Major League debut but has yet to exceed his rookie status, only having 109 at-bats in the Majors. In these 109 at bats he has a batting average of .284. During his 103 AAA games, Hernandez was batting .292. While he has a high batting average, Hernandez has no power and is an average fielder, with a fielding percentage around .970 at second base.
2018 marks the first complete season of Rafael Devers. While Devers was not a perfect fielder, he was kept around for his offensive potential. Many people may remember the Red Sox-Yankees game on Aug. 13, 2017, when Devers tied the game in the bottom of the ninth by hitting a home run off of Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. Not only was this the first homer hit off of Chapman in 2017, Devers was only the second left-handed batter to hit a homer off of Chapman—not to mention the pitch was a 102.8 MPH fastball. Hitting 10 home runs in 58 games—if Devers was to continue this trend—he would become close to hitting 28 home runs this season.
Xander Bogaerts will be the starting shortstop of 2018 without a doubt. In his last three consecutive seasons, Bogaerts has hit .270 or higher and has won two Silver Slugger awards. While Bogaerts’s 2017 was not as good of a season compared to his 2015 and 2016 seasons, you can expect much better performances from him during the first half of the season. During his career, Bogaerts’s batting average during the first half of the season is .023 points higher than his batting average during the second half.
Andrew Benintendi had an outstanding rookie season in 2017, and if it had been any other season he would’ve won Rookie of the Year, as he came in second place to Aaron Judge. Benintendi was not only the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year, he also joined the 20-20 club with 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases. While he did join the 20-20 club, Benintendi may not be the biggest power hitter on the team, but I predict he will hit 20 home runs next season as well. Benintendi was outstanding at fielding with the Green Monster and was the top prospect at the beginning of the 2017 season.
Jackie Bradley Jr’s amazing performance in center field during the 2017 season should have earned him a Gold Glove award, but he was not even a finalist. Bradley Jr robbed many batters of home runs and has a cannon for an arm, but where he strives in defense he lacks in offense. He is a very streaky hitter, but he’s even more of a streaky hitter than Moreland. During June of 2017 Bradley Jr hit 15 homers with a .353/.431/.578 triple slash, but only hit three homers in Sept. and Oct. with a .172/.238/.280 triple slash.
Mookie Betts will most likely be returning to the leadoff spot in the lineup this year. He made his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance and won his second consecutive Gold Glove award for the 2017 season. Betts became the first Red Sox player to have consecutive 20-20 seasons and he became the second player to have two 20-20 seasons in Boston. The saddest thing about Betts’s 2017 season was that he underperformed, having his worst season yet when looking at his average and OPS.
After having a career-low .242 batting average this season Hanley Ramirez is hoping to come back as a big slugger in 2018. Ramirez played 2017 with an injured left shoulder, which would explain why he was much worse than he was in 2016. In 2016 Ramirez hit 30 home runs as opposed to the 23 home runs he hit this season. In 2016 Ramirez had a .286/.361/.505 triple slash, but a .242/.320/.429 slash in 2017. After having surgery on his left shoulder after the Red Sox were eliminated from the ALDS, he will hopefully return to his 2016 self.
I predict that the lineup will go something like this:
- Mookie Betts
- Andrew Benintendi
- Xander Bogaerts
- Hanley Ramirez
- Mitch Moreland
- Rafael Devers
- Christian Vazquez
- Marco Hernandez
- Jackie Bradley Jr
While this lineup does not seem to have a lot of power, it is promising and I expect this team to exceed expectations.