Red Sox: Five questions for the 2017 season
I’m not trying to imply that the Sox will have a bad lineup in 2017, in fact, I think they’re capable of approaching 800 runs scored again. The big concern is that they lost the best hitter in baseball to retirement.
At 40-years-old, David Ortiz was able to lead the league in OPS (1.021) and slugging (.620), to go with 38 home runs and 128 runs batted in. The Red Sox passed on free agents Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Matt Holliday, and Carlos Beltran that could take over his absentee DH position. Instead, they signed Mitch Moreland to a one-year deal with the assumption that he’ll platoon first base with Hanley Ramirez.
There is no one player in this lineup capable of replicating Ortiz’s offensive value, everyone will have to contribute. Hanley will have to be a big part of that contribution, protecting Mookie Betts in the middle of the lineup and taking most of his cuts at DH. He has a 1.014 OPS in 155 career plate appearances in that role, so he’s obviously comfortable focusing on just one aspect of the game. So long as Mitch Moreland proves capable against right-handed pitching, Hanley will be put in a spot to excel as the DH.
The rest of the production will come by committee. Without Ortiz, Mookie will be looked at to lead the team offensively. As the MVP-runner up last season, he’s more than capable. Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts will need to replicate their success from last season. While Jackie Bradley Jr. will have to prove that his 26 home runs and 116 OPS+ are repeatable.
They’ll also get a full season out of superstar rookie Andrew Benintendi, which leads to the next question.