Red Sox Lineup Card Likely Won’t Receive Major Facelift

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Red Sox Lineup Card Likely Won't Receive Major Facelift A lot is still unanswered about the Red Sox' roster for the 2010 season. It's not even December yet, and the Red Sox' front office still has a lot to figure about this winter about the team they plan to field next spring. In a lot of ways, we're still in the dark.

But we can speculate anyway.

What will Terry Francona's lineup card look like on Opening Day 2010? That depends on a lot of things. He's still waiting on a left fielder, a shortstop, and possibly another piece of his starting nine that may come this winter by way of a blockbuster trade. How will it all shake out in the end? Here's the best guess.
   
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, center field. This one's a no-brainer — after putting up a .301 average in 2009 and becoming the first Red Sox player ever to steal 70 bases in a season, Ellsbury established himself as the Sox' leadoff hitter for 2010 and beyond. He's firmly entrenched in the No. 1 spot on Tito's lineup card. The catch, though? He should learn to walk more. The Sox' center fielder only took 49 free passes last season, and an on-base percentage of .355 is decidedly unimpressive for a Boston leadoff man.

2. Dustin Pedroia, second base. He's only a year removed from an MVP campaign, and he's the ideal No. 2 man behind Ellsbury and in front of the big boppers at the heart of the lineup. Pedroia had 48 doubles last season, making him perfect not only for driving Ellsbury home, but also for putting men in scoring position for the heart of the Red Sox' order.

3. Kevin Youkilis, first base. Speaking of heart, enter Youk. The Sox' first baseman put up a .961 OPS last season, a career high, and finished sixth in the American League MVP race with good reason. He's an on-base guy, he's a big bopper, he's everything in between. Youkilis is the straw that stirs the drink. He's the main man of the Red Sox' order.

4. Jason Bay, left field.
Talk about a big if, but if Bay agrees to terms with the Red Sox on a new contract this winter, it will be to return to Boston as the Red Sox' left fielder and No. 4 hitter. The man gave them 36 home runs and 119 RBIs last season and you better believe that's worth paying for. You also better believe those stats earn him the right to take over the cleanup hole.


5. Victor Martinez, catcher.
The Red Sox made a superb, albeit obvious, move by picking up Martinez' option and penciling him in for 2010. Martinez went on a tear for the Red Sox in the final two months of 2009, hitting .336 with 20 extra-base hits. He's definitely proven that he still deserves to be in the middle of the order for the 2010 Red Sox and at this point, the only question is whether the front office can talk Martinez into a long-term extension.

6. J.D. Drew, right field. Is there anyone in baseball more underrated than J.D. Drew? Everywhere he looks, Drew finds himself getting booed and jeered for being overpaid, unproductive and apathetic. And yet, has anyone looked at the production he's giving the Red Sox, year in and year out? Drew's OBPs from his first three seasons in Boston: .373, .408, .392. He's averaging 28 doubles a season. He might be the best No. 6 hitter in baseball.

7. David Ortiz, designated hitter. The obvious question is which Papi will show up? Bad Papi batted .185 between Opening Day and the end of May, 2008, giving the Red Sox one single solitary home run and 18 RBIs. The rest of the way, we saw Good Papi climb out of the woodwork and notch a .264 BA with 27 homers and 81 RBIs. If the good guy sticks around, then expect him to hold down a job as the Red Sox' regular DH.

8. Mike Lowell, third base. This is where things get really iffy. At the moment, Lowell is the Red Sox incumbent third baseman, and he can expect to have a job in 2010. But plans might change. For one thing, there's the possibility that the Sox splash some money around and bring in a free agent to man the hot corner (think Adrian Beltre, Chone Figgins or Troy Glaus). On top of that, what if a blockbuster trade shakes things up? If Adrian Gonzalez gets shipped here from San Diego, we all know what that means — Gonzalez takes over at first base, Youkilis moves over to third, and Lowell is most likely out of a job. It's going to be a tough offseason for the Sox' third baseman — rumors are going to keep flying around all winter, and just about all of them will involve Lowell being left without a Boston gig.

9. Marco Scutaro, shortstop. He's my guess. At this point, no one knows who's going to take over the shortstop role for the Red Sox next season. Nick Green is not only a backup at best, but he's on the way out. Jed Lowrie has been injury-prone and ineffective, Jose Iglesias is promising but too young, and Alex Gonzalez has skipped town to sign with the Blue Jays. If the Jays can poach the Red Sox' middle infielder, why can't the Sox exact some revenge? Scutaro would be perhaps the best fit in the Red Sox' lineup, but if that doesn't work out, Orlando Cabrera, Adam Everett and Bobby Crosby are among the other names on the market.

There's the new lineup, which for the most part, is same as the old lineup. Truth be told, there's a good chance the Sox will let the winter pass them by without any huge blockbusters shaking things up in their starting nine. The team's offseason priorities are simple: keep their left fielder, track down a shortstop, and maintain status quo.

That status quo won them 95 games and a playoff berth last season. With a little health and a little luck, it might do even more down the road.

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NESN.com will answer one Red Sox question each day in November.

Saturday, Nov. 28: What does the future hold for Ryan Westmoreland?

Monday, Nov. 30: Who should be the next captain after Jason Varitek?

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