BOSTON (CBS) — When Jacoby Ellsbury left Boston for New York this winter, it left a big hole atop the Red Sox lineup for 2014.
While Jackie Bradley Jr. is seen as Ellsbury’s replacement in center, the Red Sox are without a true leadoff hitter as spring games get underway. The Boston Herald’s Scott Lauber joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Adam Jones Show on Thursday to discuss Boston’s issues atop their lineup, and who could fill the void left by Ellsbury.
“It’s going to be interesting. If I’m Farrell I use a combination there. The [Shane] Victorino and [Daniel] Nava combo, with Nava playing against righties and Victorino against lefties may be the best way to go,” said Lauber. “I don’t know if that’s how they’ll do it; ultimately they might prefer to have one guy up there once they get deep enough into the season.”
Both players led off for Boston a few times in 2013, with Victorino going 7-for-36 (.194) with seven runs and a walk atop Boston’s lineup, with Nava going 11-for-38 (.289) with eight runs scored and a walk.
“I covered Victorino in Philadelphia and saw him lead-off for an extended stretch of time, and he’s not the most prototypical leadoff hitter,” said Lauber. “While he might have the speed up there, he’s not the most selective hitter in the world.
“That’s where Nava excels; at seeing pitches, drawing walks and getting on base at a pretty high rate. He doesn’t have the speed you typically want, but I don’t know if that’s necessary,” he said. “I think it’ll be a combination, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Daniel Nava, when he’s in the lineup, is the guy at the top there.”
The leadoff spot isn’t the only place Boston has a question mark in their lineup. Will Middlebrooks is coming off a very shaky 2013 after showing his potential in 2012, and could make a very big difference in the middle of the Boston order in 2014.
“Bill James’ predictions for him are kind of off the charts; he has him for 32 home runs and 100+ RBIs, which would be All Star quality production out of your third baseman. It would certainly be more than any of us expect after the year he had last year,” said Lauber. “I really don’t know if the Red Sox know what to expect out of him, but I do think they feel like he has the ability to have a big year, the ability to be much more like the guy we saw in that small sample size of 2012 than the guy we saw last year.
“I think he has the potential to put up big numbers and they need him to put up big numbers. He’s a guy that can make that middle of the order a lot deeper and a lot more dangerous,” said Lauber. “To me, he’s kind of a focal point of the lineup and there’s a lot riding for them on what he does this year.”
Lauber also discusses Grady Sizemore’s return to the field, and if Jon Lester and David Ortiz can expect contract extensions for Boston: