Red Sox: Should Benintendi drop down in the batting order?

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 24: Andrew Benintendi
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 24: Andrew Benintendi /

The young outfielder is struggling to start the season, and may benefit from a slide down the lineup.

The Red Sox have scored four runs in 28 innings, dropping three straight games. They also were no-hit over the weekend against Sean Manaea. After their torrid start, their offense has gone cold since Mitch Moreland‘s grand slam in Oakland against the A’s. Now manager Alex Cora must decide if the lineup needs a shakeup.

The offense was bound to come back down to earth after blowing out the Angels 10-1, 9-0 and 8-2 in Anaheim’s three-game series. Boston’s offense produced video game numbers against one of the best teams in the American League, including the shelling of ace Shohei Ohtani.

But the offensive sputter has cost the Red Sox three straight winnable games. The starting pitching continues to produce solid performances, allowing the Red Sox to stick around in low-scoring road games. Yet, the lineup continues to strike out at a high rate and hit at a low rate.

While some Red Sox hitters started the season hot and have cooled since, one hitter has slumped consistently: Andrew Benintendi.

The young outfielder tore up spring training, belting balls out of the park practically every game. However, Benintendi is batting .227 with one home run and 14 strikeouts in 75 at-bats. While Benintendi has looked off at the plate, he hasn’t looked lost. He has four doubles, two triples, 14 walks and 14 RBI, showing the 23 year old is still finding ways to help the team.

Even though the season is far from ripe, the pressure mounting on Benintendi to hit may also be causing him to press. A young hitter with a cluttered mind who isn’t seeing the ball is perfectly normal. But when that young hitter is batting No. 2 in a star-studded lineup that is apart of a major market city, the manager needs to protect him. Cora should move him down in the lineup.

The lineup has usually looked something like this since Xander Bogaerts‘ injury:

  1. Mookie Betts
  2. Andrew Benintendi
  3. Hanley Ramirez
  4. J.D. Martinez
  5. Rafael Devers
  6. Eduardo Nunez
  7. Jackie Bradley Jr.
  8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon
  9. Brock Holt/Tzu-Wei Lin

Benintendi’s lefty bat breaks up the first four in the order, following baseball’s traditional rule of using alternative-handed bats to balance a lineup. Moving Benny’s bat down to sixth, while moving Devers’ bat to second abides by that rule. However, it may be counterproductive to do so, since Devers (21) is younger than Benintendi, and may not be ready to handle the pressure of the No. 2 spot either.

Additionally, if the first four in the lineup are: Betts, Bogaerts, Ramirez and Martinez, that breaks baseball’s suggested lineup balance.

Maybe the aggressive hitting Nunez can be bumped up to second? His defense and speed has been worse this year, but his bat can be counted on high in a lineup. Brock Holt is another option, as the veteran has heated up since his awful 1-16 start at the plate. Neither of these are fantastic options, but it’s only for the interim until Bogaerts returns.

Protecting Benintendi is important for not only this season, but his career. Moving him down would allow him to bide his time mentally with less of a spotlight to produce big numbers. Using all sides of the field and not falling into a pull-heavy approach could do wonders for Benny, but right now it’s more mental than anything. Getting back to a clear-minded approach without second guessing could propel the outfielder back to stardom at the plate.

If Benintendi is superstitious, growing his hair back may be necessary, too.

But with Bogaerts’ imminent return and Ramirez’s hot start, Benintendi would seemingly be the odd man out anyways. One could argue that moving Ramirez to No. 5 behind Martinez wouldn’t be a huge difference than hitting him at No. 3. But with the offense scuffling, a team looks for its No. 1, 2 and 3 hitters to set the tone for the rest of the lineup. The Red Sox need Han Ram to be one of the tone setters, not wait for him to do so at No. 5.

There can be arguments made for many scenarios with the top of the Red Sox’ lineup once Bogaerts returns. Whether it’s Benintendi or Ramirez dropping, Bogaerts deserves to be No. 2 or 3 with his scorching hot start to the season. Since the season is still young, there’s no need to give the lineup a facelift.

Next: Red Sox starter Rick Porcello ahead of 2016 Cy Young pace

But something has to change when a team has scored four runs in 28 innings.