Red Sox 2017 Lineup Outlook: Who Will Be Boston’s DH, Corner Infielders?

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The Boston Red Sox are on to 2017, albeit a little earlier than they had hoped.

The Red Sox’s offseason officially began Tuesday after they were swept away by the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series. It was a disappointing end to a pretty successful season, but the future still looks bright for Boston, as the majority of its 2016 roster should remain intact.

There will be changes, though, namely involving the elephant in the room: Who will replace David Ortiz? The retiring designated hitter leaves a huge void in the middle of the lineup, putting the Red Sox in a tricky spot. Should they open their wallets for a free agent replacement like Toronto Blue Jays star Edwin Encarnacion? Transition Hanley Ramirez from first base to a full-time DH role? Rotate a number of players through at the position?

That decision also hinges on Boston’s other conundrum: Who will start at third base? The revolving door of Travis Shaw, Brock Holt and Aaron Hill (a free agent in 2017) didn’t exactly inspire this year, and the return of veteran Pablo Sandoval and rookie Yoan Moncada next season makes things even more interesting.

So, how will things shake out? Below is our best guess for the Red Sox’s 2017 Opening Day lineup, followed by two other possible scenarios. A note: These obviously don’t account for free agency and only include players under contract for Boston next season.

Lineup No. 1
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Mookie Betts, RF
Hanley Ramirez, DH
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Travis Shaw, 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Sandy Leon, C
Andrew Benintendi, LF

Sandoval can win back his third base job if he’s healthy and has a strong spring training. Ramirez and Shaw are interchangeable at first base and designated hitter, but Hanley looks like the front-runner to be Boston’s DH (among internal options, at least).

Lineup No. 2
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Mookie Betts, RF
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Pablo Sandoval, DH
Brock Holt, 3B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Sandy Leon, C
Andrew Benintendi, LF

Ramirez stays at first base while Sandoval begins the season at DH to work off the rust. That means Holt gets a chance to win the third base job, which he took over late in 2016. Boston also could rotate between Holt and Shaw.

Lineup No. 3
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Mookie Betts, RF
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Chris Young, DH
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Sandy Leon, C
Andrew Benintendi, LF

If Young builds on his solid 2016, this could be the Red Sox’s best offensive lineup. Boston’s talented outfield stays intact, while Ramirez and Sandoval man the corners. Shaw provides depth at DH, first and third, while Holt also can play third.

First base, DH and third base obviously are the three biggest question marks, and if Moncada takes a major step forward in 2017, he could muddle that picture even further. The Red Sox also could add an outside bat like Encarnacion to the puzzle. Yet fortunately for Boston, the rest of a lineup that scored the most runs in baseball this season pretty much is set in stone.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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