The Red Sox are in an unfamiliar spot now that Jacoby Ellsbury has left town. John Farrell needs to figure out who Boston’s leadoff hitter is going to be in 2014.
While there’s obviously a chance that the Red Sox could add someone who’s capable of leading off, the more likely scenario is that the club’s new leadoff hitter is already on the roster. If that’s the case, Farrell sees Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava as two potential leadoff options for next season.
“A couple of guys quickly come to mind. Obviously, it’s Vic [Shane Victorino] and it’s Daniel Nava. Both guys hit in the leadoff spot sparingly this past year,” Farrell told reporters at the winter meetings in Orlando. “We’re not going to replace 50-something stolen bases by Jacoby, so I think the biggest thing is who’s our best on-base percentage guy, to keep that individual in front of [Dustin Pedroia], David [Ortiz] and Nap [Mike Napoli]. Those are the two guys that quickly come to mind right now.”
Victorino stole 21 bases in 122 games this past season, so he’ll certainly provide an element of speed, even if it’s not in line with Ellsbury’s wheels. The Flyin’ Hawaiian hit .294 and posted a .351 on-base percentage, which are marks comparable to those compiled by Ellsbury (.298 average, .355 on-base percentage).
Nava, meanwhile, enjoyed a breakout season in 2013. While he doesn’t have the speed typically associated with leadoff hitters, the 30-year-old posted a .385 on-base percentage in addition to hitting .303. That could be enough for him to get some leadoff looks, although it’s entirely possible that Farrell could implement some sort of rotation based on matchups.
“There’s different ways to do it,” Ben Cherington told reporters. “What we want most is to have as deep a lineup as we can and whoever is at the top of the lineup, we need those guys getting on base. We’ve got some candidates to do that. As John mentioned, maybe it’s more than one guy. We’ll see. We’re confident, in the end, that we’ll have a lineup that scores runs.”
Farrell also noted that his preferred lineup entails Pedroia batting second and Ortiz batting third — the setup used by the Red Sox later on in their 2013 postseason run.