Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
One of the greater debates after Jacoby Ellsbury left this offseason was who would replace the speedster in the leadoff role in the upcoming season. The general consensus was that on-base machine Daniel Nava and jack-of-all-trades speedster Shane Victorino would split leadoff duties for the Red Sox. However, with Nava out to a slow start and Victorino on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, high-ceiling acquisition Grady Sizemore is emerging as a legitimate candidate to start regularly in that leadoff spot.
After being signed to a $1MM contract with the potential to earn around $6MM in incentives, Sizemore defied all odds first to make the 25-man roster at all and now holding down the regular center field job. Sizemore had a productive spring and in the first week of the season, he has impressed with a .278/.381/.500 slash line.
Despite missing the last two seasons with a plethora of injuries to his knees and back, Sizemore’s skill set fits the leadoff role perhaps better than anybody else on the Red Sox roster. He has always been a patient hitter (career 10.6% walk rate) and that continued in 2014 as he has walked 3 times in 21 plate appearances. Sizemore also has shown flashes of the speed and power combination that once made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball as he has both a home run and a stolen base in the early going.
Manager John Farrell will continue to give Sizemore frequent off days as he regains the feel of being a major league baseball player. However, if Sizemore settles into that routine and is playing nearly every day, it seems that he could be the eventual choice for the leadoff spot. Obviously, health has plagued him over the past several years and the first step is to stay healthy. If Sizemore can do that, however, the sky is the limit and he’ll be best able to reach his incredible ceiling coming out of the leadoff spot.