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.
With a pair of high-caliber imports and several key players returning from injuries that cut short their 2010 season, the Red Sox figure to have one of the more dangerous lineups in their high-scoring history. On many days, manager Terry Francona could practically pull names out of a hat, a la Billy Martin, but obviously Francona will use his best judgment when filling out the lineup card.
More often than not, this is the lineup we will see:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Carl Crawford, LF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
8. J.D. Drew, RF
9. Marco Scutaro, SS
If everyone is healthy and nobody is in a major slump, Francona can put this group together and expect production. It keeps left-handers separated throughout, with the exception of the Crawford-Gonzalez pairing, which is rendered a non-issue if Gonzalez produces vs. southpaws the way he did last year (.937 OPS, 50 points higher than against right-handers). There is great speed in the first third, incredible run-producers through the middle third and a threesome at the bottom that shouldn?t hurt the cause.
Batting Saltalamacchia above Drew gives pitchers plenty of opportunity to pitch around Ortiz. Additionally, the unproven Saltalamacchia will have more RBI opportunities than the veteran Drew. The reason for the succession, of course, is that Ortiz and Drew almost have to be kept apart as the two guys who have struggled severely vs. lefties. That separation is accomplished, but if Saltalamacchia is an easy out, there could be some quick innings toward the bottom of the order.
Likelihood we?ll see this lineup in 2011
Unless the aforementioned issues with the Ortiz-Saltalamacchia pairing give him pause, Francona could trot this group out more than half the time.
Check back each weekday this week and next for other lineup possibilities, as well as the pros and cons of each.