Lineup Flexibility Will Make The Red Sox "Cool"


Who’s on first?  It’s an iconic line and the title of the classic baseball comedy routine by Abbott and Costello.  This year it is also going to be a question asked by Red Sox fans when the lineup is posted before every game.  Along with who’s on second, in left and right?

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One of the great things about baseball in years past was bonding with a group of players and watching them play.  You knew from night to night, from year to year, where the core players would be playing and what the lineup was going to be.  Occasionally players would be traded away, but usually his replacement was included in the deal and took over on a regular basis.

In my youth it was the Red Sox of the late 70s.  We knew we have Yaz on first, Remy at second, Burleson at short, Hobson at third, Rice in left, Lynn in center, Dewey in right, and Fisk behind the plate.  Sure, occasionally one of them would get a game off, but not too often. 

As recently as 2018, the Red Sox had six players who all played over 115 games at one position.  Mitch Moreland at first, Xander Bogaerts at short, Rafael Devers at third, Andrew Benintendi in left, Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center, and Mookie Betts in right.  Three short years later, more than half of those players are gone, but their replacements are far from set.

The 2021 Red Sox currently project to have only three players inked in to the starting lineup on a nightly basis; Bogaerts at short, Devers at third, and Alex Verdugo most likely in center.  Christian Vazquez will get the majority of the starts at catcher, but the rigors of the position calls for the backup to get starts a couple of days per week.  The rest of the lineup could be any combination from night to night based on matchups with opposing pitchers and left/right splits. 

Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

First Base

Bobby Dalbec made a splash late in the shortened 2020 season, but he isn’t a lock to get the bulk of the playing time in 2021, or even to start the season in Boston.  Recently acquired Marwin Gonzalez will also see time at first, and there’s still a chance Mitch Moreland could return to form a platoon with Dalbec.

Second Base

Kiké Hernandez was signed away from the Dodgers in the offseason and is the current favorite to see significant playing time at second base.  He has made a career as a super utility player, and that flexibility could come into play for the Red Sox.  However, Hernandez is only a career .222 hitter vs right handed pitching.  Fortunately for him he Red Sox don’t currently have a viable option on the roster to replace him.  Christian Arroyo has a career .213 average against righties.  Michael Chavis’ righty splits, while not great (.259), are significantly better than either Hernandez or Arroyo.  This could be Chavis’ shot to make the team.  Don’t be surprised to see Gonzalez get some time at the keystone position as well.

Left Field/Right Field

Things get even more interesting when we get to the outfield.  It is assumed Bradley, a free agent, will sign elsewhere, though CBO Chaim Bloom continues to leave the door open for Bradley to return.  Although with Bradley reportedly seeking a four year deal, and Jarren Durran waiting in the wings, it would seem the days of JBJ making highlight catches in a Sox uniform are over.

Bradley’s departure appears to open the door for Alex Verdugo to move to center, at least until Durran gets called up.  With Verdugo moving to center, and the trade of Benintendi to the Royals, left and right fields are wide open and will likely see a new face every night.  The candidates to fill those spots are the aforementioned Gonzalez and Hernandez (who could also see time in center), along with newcomers Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe. 

At this point it’s doubtful even Manager Alex Cora knows what he’s going to do with his corner outfielders, but he appears to like the idea.  At today’s press conference Cora was quick to extol the possibilities brought by the newfound flexibility. “We’ve got a lot of versatile guys,” Cora said. “We’ve been talking about this the whole offseason.  Having (Kiké) and Marwin on the same team, we can be creative.  People talk about creative teams and how cool that is.  Well, we have a cool team, too.”

We may not know who’s on first.  But the odds are good that he will be cool.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Lineup Flexibility Will Make The Red Sox "Cool"
Lineup Flexibility Will Make The Red Sox "Cool"
Boston Sports Syndicate
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