Red Sox Leadoff Production Among MLB’s Worst; How Can They Fix It?

The numbers aren't pretty


Only two teams in Major League Baseball have scored more runs than the Red Sox this season, so to say they have a problem with their offense is probably overstating things.

However, that’s not to say they don’t have a problem within their offense. Or, more specifically, atop their offense.

While Boston’s offense continues to put up runs — Wednesday night’s loss to the Rays notwithstanding — it has done so without much of anything from the leadoff spot in Alex Cora’s lineup. The Red Sox actually have been among baseball’s worst teams when it comes to getting production from the No. 1 spot in the batting order.

Batting average28th
On-base percentage30th
Slugging percentage28th

In case you forgot: There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. So, that’s not great.

Unsurprisingly, it’s been a revolving door atop the lineup card for Cora, who has tried five different players in the leadoff spot: Kiké Hernández, Christian Arroyo, Marwin Gonzalez, Michael Chavis and most recently, Danny Santana.

That Chavis is currently in Triple-A, while Santana and Gonzalez are hitting a combined .176 on the season should confirm the options haven’t been great. Hernández probably is the best option, but he’s actually settled in quite nicely as the No. 8 hitter, and Arroyo is probably best utilized in a utility role.

What are the options then? It’s becoming more and more likely Boston’s best leadoff hitter option isn’t currently on the roster. Here are a few potential remedies:

Promote Jarren Duran
The simplest, easiest option, and it might also be the riskiest. Duran continues to make the most of his opportunities this season, and at a certain point, he’s going to end up forcing the club’s hand. The 24-year-old has been very good at Triple-A Worcester, with a .291 batting average to start the year, while flexing his muscles and hitting 13 home runs in just 134 at-bats. Playing at hitter-friendly Polar Park against subpar competition undoubtedly has inflated his offensive production, but Duran also impressed in a brief showing with Team USA earlier this month against better pitching. The downside, though, is his defense probably needs more refining, and there’s always an inherent risk with promoting a player and having them fall on their face at the next level. But still, Durran’s hit tool and speed make him an obvious option to help fix the problem with the big club.

Make a trade
The July 30 trade deadline is a little more than a month away. We dug into this a little bit earlier this week, going off The Athletic’s story about potential trade pieces across the league. Ex-general manager Jim Bowden hypothesized the Red Sox could be interested in players like Arizona’s Ketel Marte or Miami’s Starling Marte. Both have primarily operated out of the second spot in their respective lineups, but each also have past experience hitting leadoff. Ketel Marte would be a franchise-altering move and would cost a reflective price. Starling Marte, on the other hand, might be the perfect fit, given his toolset as a speedy defensive wizard, who happens to own a very impressive 165 OPS+ this season.

Try something else?
It technically is still possible Cora could do a 180 and insert someone else atop the lineup. He’s been adamant that he wants to use Alex Verdugo in the second spot, which admittedly has anot-broke/don’t-fix-it element. Would Cora be willing to do something like bat Verdugo in the leadoff spot followed by Rafael Devers? If he did, who fills the fifth spot vacated by Devers? Hunter Renfroe, who is hitting .329 since May 26 (24 games), would be the most-likely option. But for all of that to happen, you’re completely changing the look of your lineup which, again, largely has been good. The best option still is to find a suitable leadoff replacement and allow everything else to fall (or stay) in place.

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