Red Sox: Will Dustin Pedroia stick in the leadoff spot?


After thriving in the leadoff spot in the second half of last season, Dustin Pedroia should remain at the top of the Boston Red Sox lineup in 2017.

Spring training provides Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell an opportunity to experiment with various lineup constructions. JetBlue Park is his laboratory and the lineup card is another project for him to tinker with.

One spot in the batting order that should essentially be set in stone for Opening Day is at the top of the lineup, where Dustin Pedroia should reclaim the role he thrived in last season.

There’s a bit of a misconception that a prototypical leadoff hitter must possess blazing speed. Many of the great ones have used speed to wreck havoc on the base paths and get into scoring position ahead of the sluggers in the middle of the lineup. That’s not Pedroia’s game. The veteran is crafty enough to swipe the occasional bag, but he hasn’t tallied double-digit steals since 2013.

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Mookie Betts fit the mold of what teams look for in a leadoff hitter, so the Red Sox naturally locked him into the top spot for the bulk of the season. By August, his blossoming power was being wasted in that spot, so Farrell was finally convinced to move him toward the middle of the order.

Lacking another option with Betts’ base stealing abilities, the Red Sox had to look for other traits that would make a successful leadoff hitter. The threat of swiping a bag is a nice luxury to have at the top of the lineup, but above all else, a leadoff hitter’s most important task is to get on base. Of the players that still remain on this roster in 2017, nobody does that better than Pedroia, who reached base at a .376 clip last season.

In the 47 games after Pedroia was moved into the leadoff spot last season he hit a scorching .362/.394/.457. The veteran second baseman was already having a solid bounce back season in his usual No. 2 hole spot in the lineup, but after being bumped up to the top of the order he became one of the best hitters in the league.

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With those results proving that Pedroia can flourish in that spot, why mess with what’s working heading into the upcoming season? The only argument against keeping him in the leadoff role is if Pedroia was resistant to the idea.

There had long been a notion in Boston that Pedroia didn’t like to lead off, which may stem from his struggles in that role prior to last season. From 2008-2010 he hit a meager .210 over 195 plate appearances. It’s a small sample size split sporadically through three seasons, so we should take those results with a grain of salt. Last season showed what he’s capable of in that role, so it boils down to his comfort level with it. Contrary to popular belief, Pedroia has never been opposed to hitting at the top of the order.

"“I never didn’t like it,” Pedroia told reporters on Saturday, per’s Ian Browne. “I don’t know where that came from.”"

Being healthy for the first time in three years was the biggest factor in Pedroia’s bounce back year in 2016, but his amazing consistency was an underrated aspect of his resurgence. He hit at least .294 in each month last season, so while his blistering August when he hit .406 coincided with the move to the leadoff spot, it’s clear that Pedroia is going to hit no matter where you put him in the order.

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His excellent bat control, contact rate and veteran savvy are all traits that make Pedroia a great No. 2 hitter. In truth, that may still be where he would be best utilized on most teams, but not this team. Without another clear option to fill the leadof spot, Pedroia is the hitter best suited for the role.