What To Make Of Red Sox Lineup As Alex Cora Tips Opening Day Hand

The time for tinkering is nearing an end


March 24

The Red Sox look like they’re preparing for Opening Day with the start of the 2023 season less than a week away.

Boston will tangle with the Atlanta Braves on Friday night (6 p.m. ET, NESN) in Grapefruit League action with a batting order that might tip Alex Cora’s hand on how he’ll set his lineup next Thursday against Baltimore.

Alex Verdugo, RF
Rafael Devers, 3B
Justin Turner, 1B
Masataka Yoshida, LF
Adam Duvall, CF
Triston Casas, DH
Christian Arroyo, 2B
Reese McGuire, C
Kiké Hernández, SS

Certainly, nothing is set in stone regarding the season-long plan, but it is interesting to see Alex Verdugo potentially land the leadoff spot. However, he has some experience in the role. He spent the bulk of a pandemic-shortened 2020 season as Boston’s leadoff hitter. He hit .304 with an .804 OPS while scoring 27 runs in those 33 games. This lineup is better than the 2020 Sox, so if Verdugo can regain those table-setting ways, the move will look rather prudent.

It’s really no surprise to see Rafael Devers hitting second. That trend has become more and more popular across the league in recent years. Long story short, slotting a hitter like Devers in that spot still allows him to get plenty of run-producing opportunities while also maximizing the number of actual at-bats he can get over the course of a season.

As is the case with a lot of the 2023 Red Sox, the rest of the equation is largely based on “ifs.” If Justin Turner still can resemble the hitter he was in LA, he fits in nicely at No. 3, getting a chance to drive in the double-happy Verdugo and/or Devers while setting the table for Masakata Yoshida in the cleanup spot. Defensively, he could also get some run at DH as he reacclimates to first base.

And if Yoshida can handle big league pitching, his ability to put the ball in play should give him plenty of RBI opportunities. That he just led the World Baseball Classic in RBIs — against solid competition — is an encouraging sign for Cora’s club in that regard.

Adam Duvall has 30-home run power. Triston Casas is a legitimate top prospect looking to build on his first taste of the bigs. Anything close to ceiling for those two really lengthens the lineup.

And at the bottom of the order, a healthy Christian Arroyo would be intriguing, too. He saw his average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage increase last season but only played in 87 games. Reese McGuire, meanwhile, is a bottom-of-the-order catcher with slightly above-average contact ability.

Kiké Hernández makes sense in the nine-hole as someone who should be able to turn over the lineup, extend innings and get things back to the top. That being said, his ability to handle the bat makes it likely he sees plenty of different order responsibilities this season.

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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