The 2021 Red Sox undoubtedly has quite a few question marks. Will Eduardo Rodríguez be able to bounce back from not just myocarditis, but a recent bout with “dead arm” as well? Will Nate Eovaldi and Garrett Richards actually stay healthy over a full 162 game season? What will Chris Sale look like after Tommy John? Who will step up and be the closer? It does not take much to notice a pattern with these question marks, and they all pertain to pitching. The 2021 Red Sox, if they prove to have a problem, will have a pitching problem. The lineup? Well, if the spring is any indication, the offense will prove to be pretty darn good.
2021 Red Sox: A Different Leadoff Man
From 2014 to 2019, the Boston Red Sox had one of the most dynamic players in Mookie Betts. Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that Mookie Betts now wears Dodger blue. It is what it is. There’s nothing the fandom can do to change that fact. There’s no magic genie that will grant the fandom three wishes. The best Red Sox Nation can do is be very, very excited about how this 2021 Red Sox lineup can perform, which begins and ends with a dynamic leadoff man.
Alex Verdugo not only came to the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts deal, but he also came to play right field and was employed with the task of hitting leadoff. Verdugo proved to be a very formidable leadoff hitter in 2020, with a slash line of .308/.367/.478 and a wRC+ of 126. If Verdugo was so good in that role, why did Kiké Hernández play every 2021 Red Sox spring game as the leadoff hitter?
Kiké leading off during spring training has a great deal to do with manager Alex Cora. Cora stated, “one thing we noticed through our information is that whenever he was ahead in the count, he expanded the zone. When he’s behind in the count, he’s actually very patient. He stays within the zone. I think he can hit righties.” Kiké hit .256/.336/.470, 21 home runs, and a wRC+ 118 in 145 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This spring Kiké exploded to hit .327/.450/.592 with an OPS of 1.042 in 49 at-bats, along with three home runs and seven RBI. If the spring is any indication of how well Kiké will hit for the 2021 Red Sox, it’s safe to say there’s a new darn good leadoff hitter in Beantown, and his name is Kiké Hernández.
2021 Red Sox: The Two Through Five Hitters
With Kiké cemented as the leadoff hitter, just who are the guys looking to drive him in? Verdugo has been hitting second all spring, a spot that has become synonymous with the best overall hitter. Mike Trout bats second for the Los Angeles Angels. JD Martinez experimented as the second hitter during the shortened 2020 season. Cora has since stated, “J.D.’s not going to be hitting second for us this year.” During the spring, Martinez has mostly hit third in the order, with shortstop Xander Bogaerts hitting cleanup.
The three and four hitters in the lineup will look to drive in the leadoff man and the second hitter. Martinez and Bogaerts have combined for 146 home runs since 2018. Projected number five hitter Rafael Devers is a double-hitting machine, with 108 for his career, and leading the league in 2018 with 54. Cora wants a lineup with speed at the top and power in the middle to drive in runs.
2021 Red Sox: The Bottom of the Order
Alex Cora isn’t afraid to shake things up. And he’s certainly not afraid to ruffle the feathers of the “baseball nerds.” His lineup might not fit perfectly into a spreadsheet. What this 2021 Red Sox lineup will do is produce runs. As well, the bottom of the lineup looks to produce a lot of power.
The six through nine hitters will feature a combination of Marwin González, Christian Vázquez, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero and Bobby Dalbec. The six through nine hitters have combined for 252 career home runs. If there is a true weakness to the overall lineup it will come via the strikeout. There will be a lot of home runs, but there will also be a heck of a lot of strikeouts.
2021 Red Sox: The Opening Day Lineup Projection
- Kiké Hernández (2B) (R)
- Alex Verdugo (CF) (L)
- J.D. Martinez (DH) (R)
- Xander Bogaerts (SS) (R)
- Rafael Devers (3B) (L)
- Marwin González (RF) (S)
- Christian Vázquez (C) (R)
- Hunter Renfroe (LF) (R)
- Bobby Dalbec (1B) (R)
With Baltimore Orioles lefty hurler John Means slated for opening day, one would tend to believe that Cora will go with a more righty heavy lineup on Opening Day. Outside of Verdugo and Devers, everyone in the Opening Day lineup will hit right-handed, with switch hitter Marwin González opting to hit from the right side.
This 2021 Red Sox lineup is good. In fact, it’s very, very good. And versatile. Players like Marwin González and Kiké Hernández add a level of depth the 2020 Red Sox absolutely just did not possess. There will be a lot of platooning between players like Renfroe, Cordero, and González. Cora can use platooning as an advantage. He’ll be able to put the Red Sox in the best position to win any ballgame. The 2021 Red Sox are ready to play baseball and maybe shock a few many people.
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