The Red Sox have a number of players in their lineup that fit either one or both of these descriptions. While it may be a luxury, the number of options available to manager Terry Francona has also led to a juggling act.
Each night, Francona is faced with the difficult task of deciding who he wants hitting ahead of power bats like Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. Most of the time, the decision has come down to the night’s matchup, while other times it has been a matter of plugging in who is producing.
But a trio of outfielders have emerged from the pack as the most likely to lead off for the Sox on any given night; Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew.
Upon arriving in Boston, it was believed that Crawford would bat either second or third more often than not. With his struggles, though, Francona has looked into other possibilities, and one of those happens to be in the leadoff role.
Crawford has a career .284 average as leadoff hitter over the course of 372 starts. The number is below his overall career average (.294), but his speed and ability to get on base makes him an attractive option.
With Tampa Bay prior to this season, Crawford hit mostly as a No. 2 hitter and, with a .305 career average in that spot, it appears as though that is where he’s most comfortable hitting.
Ellsbury has bounced around the lineup since coming up through the Red Sox organization, but he’s mostly been utilized as the Sox’ leadoff man. Like Crawford, Ellsbury’s speed after getting on base forces pitchers to over-think and labor through subsequent at-bats.
He has led off the past two nights, showing a willingness on the part of Francona to go back to some old ways, but Ellsbury has struggled a bit in the role this year.
Drew, though, is the most unique option to lead off for the Sox.
The 35-year-old doesn’t have the speed of Crawford or Ellsbury, but plugging him into the leadoff spot makes sense given his propensity for getting on base.
His career on base percentage (.387) is the highest of the three players, but he hasn’t exactly excelled while leading off.
Drew’s .230 career batting average and .339 career on base percentage in the leadoff spot shows that it’s an experiment that hasn’t exactly yielded positive results thus far.
Which Red Sox player would you like to see leading off every day? Share your thoughts below.
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