BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox went out and added the power bat they needed in J.D. Martinez. The next line of business for the Red Sox and manager Alex Cora is to figure out a lineup. It’s an interesting challenge and there’s plenty of room for debate.
The easy part is the 1-2 hitters. Cora has already stated that those spots would belong to Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Now, the hard part.
It was an interesting development Tuesday in Fort Myers when Cora declared that Hanley Ramirez was going to be his No. 3 hitter. In 2016 as the full-time first baseman, Hanley notched 30 home runs and 111 RBIs with an .866 OPS. Last year as a DH, in 133 games he put up 23 HRs, 62 RBIs, and a .750 OPS.
Cora did see Hanley rake in the postseason series against Houston when he was 8-for-14 with 3 RBIs. Cora thinks he can get Hanley to produce and this is certainly instilling a faith in him. What’s interesting will be how Cora handles Mitch Moreland. How many games/at-bats can he get him? Moreland hit 22 HRs with 79 RBIs and a .769 OPS while playing a good portion of the season with a broken toe. Cora continues to say that it’s his job to find at-bats and rest for his players. Looking at it from afar, it will certainly be a challenge.
Meanwhile, you have to figure that the newly signed Martinez will be your cleanup hitter.
After Martinez, there are lots of ways to go. If he wants to break up a run of right-handed hitters, he can insert Rafael Devers into the five slot. Devers made a splash when he debuted in July, and had his ups and downs. However, he does show tremendous power and potential, as witnessed by his oppo HR at Yankee Stadium against Aroldis Chapman and his postseason performance (.364, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs).
Xander Bogaerts is a player I think could handle the No. 3 spot, but it appears Cora may settle on him in the 6-7 spot depending on how he hits. Bogaerts should be someone that Cora can help become more consistent. A hand injury didn’t help him last season, but two years ago he had a 111 OPS+ while hitting .294 with 21 HRs and 89 RBIs. If he gets back to that, he may not be down in the order for too long.
Cora says he wants a long and athletic lineup. He has options in the 7-8-9 part of the order as he can go Eduardo Nunez-Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-Jackie Bradley Jr. in any order he likes.
Nunez was a spark plug when acquired from the Giants last season until he got hurt in early September. You could go with the theory of two leadoff hitters by batting him ninth, or you could get him up sooner than that.
Bradley is a guy I’d keep around solely for his exceptional defense. I’d also hit him ninth and keep him there to take any pressure off him.
So, my lineup may be vastly different than what Alex Cora may produce, but here’s what it could be come Opening Day in Tampa, if the Sox stay healthy:
1. Mookie Betts CF
2. Andrew Benintendi LF
3. Hanley Ramirez 1B
4. J.D. Martinez DH
5. Rafael Devers 3B
6. Xander Bogaerts SS
7. Eduardo Nunez 2B
8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. CF