Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez Likely to Hold Down Middle of Red Sox’ Order

Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez Likely to Hold Down Middle of Red Sox' Order The heart of this year's Red Sox lineup will bear a striking resemblance to the team's batting order at the end of the season, anchored by Victor Martinez and Kevin Youkilis.

Several players shared the third and fourth spots in the lineup last season, including Jason Bay, David Ortiz, Martinez and Youkilis. But while Bay and Ortiz gave the Red Sox solid production for the most part, both struggled mightily at times as well. With the more consistent Martinez and Youkilis set to hold down the fort in the middle of the order in 2010, Boston should not have to worry about extended power outages from the Nos. 3 and 4 spots.

The Red Sox acquired Martinez at last season's trade deadline, and he did his part to help the team reach the playoffs, hitting .336 batting with a .405 on-base percentage in 56 games with Boston. 

The switch-hitting Martinez gives the Red Sox solid production from both sides of the plate. He hit .316 with 13 home runs from the left side and .272 with 10 homers as a right-handed batter last season, proving that he can provide consistent power from either side.

Martinez's presence also provides protection to the rest of the Red Sox lineup. Dustin Pedroia hit .311 and posted a .388 on-base percentage hitting in the No. 2 spot last season, and he should produce similar numbers this season with the 31-year-old Martinez hitting behind him.

In addition, Youkilis thrived last year when placed in the order in the No. 4 spot behind Martinez. Following the Martinez acquisition, Youkilis hit .337 in August. Overall, Youkilis hit .305 with 27 home runs in 2009, posting a team-high .413 on-base percentage while hitting almost exclusively in the No. 3 or 4 spot in the lineup. Youkilis especially proved his worth in the cleanup spot, bashing at a .338 clip as the team's No. 4 hitter last year.

But it's not only Martinez and Youkilis who should thrive in 2010. With stronger batters up and down the lineup and fewer spots to pitch around, the rest of the Red Sox lineup should also be helped. Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew and Ortiz all have been productive middle-of-the-lineup hitters at different times in their major league careers. Likely hitting lower in the order should take pressure off these players while adding depth and pop to the rest of the lineup.

Still, with Bay leaving via free agency, Boston could miss his 36 home runs and 119 RBIs. If other players don't step up to fill the power void, the team may need to make a trade to bolster its offense, and a change in the batting order isn't out of the question.

Boston reportedly has shown interest in Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez this offseason. If either of these players were to become available around the trade deadline, the Red Sox could make a splash by adding a young star who could change the dynamic of the lineup this season and well into the future. There's a long way to go before July 31, though, and if the team has a need for offense at that point, there should certainly be options.

For now, Boston has a middle of the lineup that ought to provide, at worst, very solid production. And if things go right, Martinez and Youkilis have the potential to hold down the No. 3 and 4 spots in the Red Sox lineup for years to come.

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NESN.com will be answering one Red Sox question every day through Feb. 23.

Thursday, Feb. 18: Which new pitcher will make an impact out of the bullpen?

Saturday, Feb. 20: Is John Lackey a viable Cy Young candidate?

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