Mar 3, 2014; Bradenton, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (25) works out prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the leadoff man of the future?

There has been a great debate over who will lead off for the 2014 Red Sox. All of the candidates for that role, however, are stopgap options who would not be expected to hit leadoff for the next several years, particularly Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. It’s time we turned attention to the future and looked at a few prospects that could help out in the leadoff spot for Ben Cherington’s “Next Great Red Sox Team.”

  • Jackie Bradley Jr.- Bradley Jr. is the prospect that most fans would turn to when asked this question, and rightly so. Despite not being great at the Major League level last season, he lit up Triple-A to the tune of .275/.374/.469 with 10 home runs and 7 stolen bases. Bradley Jr. doesn’t have the speed of an elite leadoff hitter, but he has every other positive quality: he hits for a decent clip, walks a ton, and even has a bit of pop to keep pitchers honest. If everything pans out as expected for Bradley, then he will likely be the leadoff hitter of the future Red Sox.
  • Garin Cecchini- If everything does not pan out, however, Cecchini seems like the next man that could benefit. Cecchini had one of the best offensive seasons in the minor leagues last season, slashing .322/.443/.471 with 7 home runs and 23 stolen bases. He hits for an even better clip than Bradley and walks more, even reaching the elite level of walking more than he strikes out, as well as picking up more steals than Bradley despite not being a fast runner. Just 22 years old, however, there’s still the chance that Cecchini could grow into some home run power and if he does, he would be more a fit for the middle of the lineup.
  • Mookie Betts- Betts was the biggest breakout star in last season’s Red Sox organization as he came into the year ranked sub-50 on most prospect lists, but slashed an incredible .314/.417/.506 with 15 home runs and 38 stolen bases. While that looks great, there are still questions surrounding Betts. First, whether that production is sustainable. Betts had never hit for any power in the past and it’s possible that his 2013 numbers could be a fluke. Secondly, there are questions over where Betts will play. He played second base in 2013, but that position is obviously occupied by Dustin Pedroia at the big league level and Betts may have to switch to shortstop or outfield. If he can keep up that production in 2014 and the future, then like Cecchini, he could be a fit for the middle of the lineup.

Overall, Bradley seems like the ideal candidate for the leadoff spot given his track record of performing at that level (both Cecchini and Betts had major breakout years in 2013). However, if both players continue to perform at a high level in 2014, then they could force Bradley’s hand in the future. Like every other facet of the Red Sox’ minor league system, the Red Sox have plenty of depth at this spot and that’s a good thing that will certainly in the future, possibly as soon as this year.

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Tags: Boston Red Sox Garin Cecchini Jackie Bradley Jr. Mookie Betts

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