Here’s where Trevor Story will slot in the Red Sox lineup
Trevor Story will make his spring training debut for the Boston Red Sox this afternoon. He’ll be batting sixth, an unfamiliar spot in the batting order for the two-time All-Star but one we should get accustomed to seeing him in.
This lineup may very well match the one the Red Sox roll with for Opening Day next week. The order is similar to what we would expect aside from their $140 million free-agent acquisition being buried in the bottom half of the lineup.
Since 2019, Story has hit exclusively in one of the top four spots in the lineup, aside from a few rare pinch-hitting appearances near the bottom of the order. If Story was in the starting lineup, he could expect to find himself in a prime spot. The No. 2 hole is where Story saw the most appearances during his tenure with the Colorado Rockies, with 205 career starts in that lineup spot. He only has 46 career starts batting sixth, a spot he hasn’t been placed in since 2018.
Boston’s lineup is certainly deeper than any that Story was a part of in Colorado but it’s still a bit surprising to see him that low in the order. While he isn’t cemented into that spot, Story will frequently find himself batting sixth this season.
Manager Alex Cora revealed that he plans to put Story in the No. 6 spot against right-handed pitchers with Rafael Devers hitting second, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. Against lefties, Story will move up to the No. 2 hole with the left-handed Devers sliding down to the cleanup spot.
Slotting Story lower in the order is not a sign that the Red Sox are concerned about his career production outside of Coors Field. The contract they handed him shows they are confident that Story will hit at Fenway Park. There are strategic reasons for dropping Story in the order against right-handed pitchers though.
The best hitters in the lineup typically bat second or third. Hitting higher in the order provides opportunities for more plate appearances while balancing chances to step to the plate with runners on base. Devers and Xander Bogaerts are the best bats in the Red Sox lineup so they should see most of their time in those prime spots.
It takes a certain skill set to fill the leadoff spot and Kike Hernandez proved capable of adapting to that role last season. Cora likes the trio of Devers-Bogaerts-Martinez in the middle of the order and we expect he’ll keep them together.
Story has more pop in his bat than Alex Verudgo, which would seem to make him a better fit for the fifth spot. However, putting Verdugo ahead of Story avoids stacking three right-handed hitters in a row. That also explains why the weak-hitting Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t hidden at the very bottom of the order. His left-handed bat follows a pair of right-handers. There are three lefties in this lineup and this order ensures they are all sufficiently separated without using more than two right-handers in a row.
Story’s speed will be a welcome addition to a Red Sox lineup that was among the worst in the league in stealing bases last year. The former Rockies star has swiped 20+ bases in three of the last four seasons and he led the National League with 15 during the shortened 2020 season. He’s capable of leading his new team in steals but the Red Sox might be hesitant to let him run in front of the big bats in the middle of their order, any of whom can knock him in from first base with an extra-base hit. Story might run more from the sixth spot where his speed can help manufacture runs with the weaker bats in their lineup at the plate.
Cora intends to shuffle his lineup when there’s a lefty on the mound. Story has always been better against southpaws, with a career .308/.381/.621 slash line against left-handed pitching. The Red Sox will take advantage of that track record by bumping him up to the No. 2 spot against lefties.
Devers is capable of handling lefties but his career OPS is 166 points lower compared to his production against right-handed pitchers. He’ll remain in the heart of the order along with Bogaerts and Martinez but dropping him a couple of spots in order to move Story up near the top makes sense.
That alignment puts three consecutive right-handed bats at the top but that’s by design with a lefty on the mound. It also may be unavoidable with fewer lefties in the lineup. Christian Arroyo will replace Bradley Jr. in the lineup against lefties and he crushed left-handed pitching last year (.329/.356/.529). Bobby Dalbec also mashes against lefties (.281/.326/.576 for his career).
Verdugo will drop back to at least the sixth spot and perhaps lower considering his struggles against lefties last year (.228/.269/.286). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Devers followed by three more right-handed bats in Martinez, Dalbec and Arroyo with Verdugo falling to eighth in the lineup against lefties.
The addition of Story lengthens an already dangerous lineup. Batting sixth against right-handed pitching will be a bit of an adjustment but it’s warranted considering the talent around him and he’ll get plenty of opportunities in the coveted No. 2 spot when the Red Sox face a lefty starter.