It’s been a while since the Red Sox have had to worry about who will bat leadoff. Ever since Jacoby Ellsbury grabbed that position in 2008 and never looked back, he has remained entrenched (when healthy) as the primary leadoff man in Boston. However, Ellsbury is gone after signing a 7 year/$153MM contract with the dreaded New York Yankees and the Red Sox are left without a player to fill his shoes. Names like Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino, and even Dustin Pedroia have been floated around to fill the role, but John Farrell added a new man to the mix yesterday: Jonny Gomes.
Gomes does not really fit the prototype of a leadoff hitter by any means; he isn’t fast, he walks frequently but is not a contact hitter by any means, and generally is more suited to the middle of the order. Last season, his first in Boston, he slashed .247/.344/.426 with 13 home runs, 52 RBIs, and all of one stolen base.
However, that didn’t stop John Farrell from penciling him in as the leadoff hitter in yesterday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Minnesota Twins. Farrell cited Gomes’ on-base skills and ability to put up a quality at-bat as reasons that Gomes could bat leadoff when interviewed about the topic yesterday.
“(Gomes) puts up a quality at-bat regardless (of versus a) lefty (or) righty and we saw that repeatedly last year, so this is a look at maybe an alignment we see during the year, too,”
It’s still a bit of a stretch to imagine Gomes at leadoff though. He does possess a few traits that could make him a fit for the role, such as that attractive .344 on-base percentage, but he is really much more suited for the middle of the lineup. I’m still firmly in the camp that believes the Red Sox should use a leadoff platoon this year, with Daniel Nava against right-handers and Shane Victorino against left-handers. However, it couldn’t hurt to give Gomes a look at the lead off spot; perhaps he’ll surprise everyone. It wouldn’t be the first time.