Editor’s note: Each weekday starting Jan. 17, NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will offer his take on 10 different potential lineups for the 2011 Red Sox. Check back every day to see a new offensive rundown and the pros, cons and likelihood of each.
The Red Sox have several “good problems” when making out their lineup card next year. There are so many guys accustomed to hitting in the top half of a batting order, yet only enough spots to go around. Someone will have to hit a little lower than that which they are accustomed, specifically David Ortiz and J.D. Drew.
But what happens if Terry Francona decides to drop one of his other high-end hitters? We’ve explored the possibility of Jacoby Ellsbury batting ninth, but beyond that there may not be too many other such options. As it is, Kevin Youkilis batting fifth and Ortiz sixth almost seems a bit low. Nobody is dropping Dustin Pedroia.
Yet, one guy whose customary spot is already occupied and could possibly be moved around is Carl Crawford. He has played the bulk of his games batting second, and many more as a leadoff hitter. Those two spots are pretty much locked down, provided Ellsbury and Pedroia hit the ground running in April. Crawford has been projected as the No. 3 hitter for the Red Sox, but he has done that just 16 percent of his time as a major leaguer.
Dropping Crawford into the heart of the order could create an interesting look to give opposing pitchers. Here is what the entire lineup could look like, followed by some reasoning:
Since we’re on the topic of guys hitting in customary spots, this allows Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez and Youkilis to feel as “normal” as possible in their usual roles. Moving Gonzalez and Youkilis, perhaps the two best all-around hitters on the team, up a spot gives them a few more opportunities over the course of a long season. And if this lineup was thrown out there 162 games, Crawford would be the first batter in the second inning several times, acting almost like a second leadoff man.
This lineup assumes a right-hander is pitching, hence the presence of Saltalamacchia and Drew. Therefore, the pairing of Crawford and Ortiz, both of whom can struggle against left-handers, is not an issue unless a lefty comes out of the bullpen to face them. Drew could be placed behind Ortiz to provide him a little more protection than Saltalamacchia, but then there would be three left-handed hitters in a row, and none of them rake vs. southpaws. That might be too much of a risk.
Likelihood we will see this lineup in 2011
If Francona wants to ensure that both Gonzalez and Youkilis remain in that top four, this would be his best option. It could be a dangerous order if Crawford thrives. He has said he will hit anywhere.
Friday, Jan. 21: Jed Lowrie Gives Terry Francona Lineup Flexibility, Especially if Marco Scutaro Struggles