Red Sox could use Andrew Benintendi in No. 2 spot this season

Aug 22, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (40) on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 22, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (40) on deck to bat against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi has what it takes to be a successful No. 2 hitter in the lineup this season.

The Boston Red Sox will be rolling out a new-look lineup in 2017. The biggest change of course will be the absence of retired slugger David Ortiz, who was a staple in the middle of this lineup for fourteen years.

Another change that the team should make is moving Andrew Benintendi toward the top of the lineup.

The 22-year old has appeared in only 34 games with the Red Sox, almost all of which were spent hitting in one of the bottom two spots in the order. The decision to keep him buried in the lineup was in part due to the impressive depth of an offense that led the majors in runs scored, but was also meant to take some of the pressure off of a young player getting his first taste of big league action.

Benintendi may technically still be a rookie since he had fewer than 130 at-bats last year, but he’s shown in his brief tenure in Boston that he can be trusted with a more prominent spot in the lineup.

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What does it take to be a successful No. 2 hitter? Ideally, you want a player that gets on base at a high clip in front of the big bats in the middle of the order. You also prefer to have someone that puts the ball in play, potentially giving them the opportunity to move the lead-off man into scoring position.

These traits are what made Dustin Pedroia a fixture in the No. 2 hole for years, but when Mookie Betts‘ emerging power convinced manager John Farrell to move him to the middle of the lineup, it was the veteran second baseman he trusted to replace him at the top of the order. Pedroia responded with a scorching .362 average over 47 games from the lead-off spot. As long as he carries that success over to this season, why mess with what works?

If Pedroia retains the lead-off spot then the Red Sox will need someone else that meets the desired criteria to hit behind him. Benintendi is more than capable of handling that role.

Benintendi hit .295 with a .359 OBP over 118 plate appearances with the Red Sox last season, so he’s proven that he can get on base. Of the players expected to be starting for this team in 2017, only four hitters had a higher on-base percentage last year, including Betts (.363) and Hanley Ramirez (.361), both of whom barely finished ahead of him.

Benintendi has shown patience at the plate, posting an 8.5 walk percentage that trailed only Jackie Bradley (9.9), Ramirez (9.7) and Pedroia (8.7) among those expected to be regulars this season.

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He also struck out only 25 times for a reasonable 21.2 percent strikeout rate that was middle of the pack among Red Sox hitters last year.

It’s a small sample size, but this production lines up with what he showed throughout his rise through the minor league system. Benintendi hit .312 with a .392 OBP, while drawing more walks (74) than strikeouts (63), over parts of two seasons in the minors.

Benintendi has experience hitting near the top of the lineup in college and in the minors. Heading into this season it seems as though Farrell is ready to move him up.

"“We did see some adjustments in the way he was attacked, and he handled that change with pretty decent success,” said Farrell, per’s Jen McCaffrey. “He’s got some things that excite you in terms of his calmness and the ease in which he seems to play the game with. I think that plays out over a long, full season. Ideally I would love to see him settle toward the top part of the order to break up some right-handers in the lineup, so we’ll see how that all unfolds in camp.”"

The loss of Ortiz leaves the Red Sox heavy on right-handed hitters in the top half the lineup, with Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Betts and Ramirez all hitting from that side. Sliding the lefty Benintendi into the No. 2 spot between two of those hitters would help break up the right-handers, making it more difficult for opposing teams to manage their bullpen against them late in games.

Here’s an idea of what Boston’s lineup could look like with Benintendi batting second.

  1. Dustin Pedroia
  2. Andrew Benintendi
  3. Xander Bogaerts
  4. Mookie Betts
  5. Hanley Ramirez
  6. Jackie Bradley
  7. Pablo Sandoval
  8. Mitch Moreland
  9. Sandy Leon

Farrell could consider batting Benintendi in the lead-off spot, where he hit as a freshman at Arkansas. The move would allow the team to utilize his speed more, but would extinguish Farrell’s desire to balance the lineup by breaking up the string of right-handed bats.

Next: What is Benintendi's potential?

Unless Pedroia struggles in the lead-off role or demands that he be put back in the spot that he became accustomed to over the years, the best spot in the lineup for Benintendi would be in the No. 2 hole. Either way, expect to see the rookie become a fixture near the top of the lineup for many years to come.