5 Highly-specific needs the Sox must address for 2023 roster
MLB’s average Sprint Speed is 27 ft/second, and while several Red Sox players were above average in 2022, some of their fastest runners aren’t ones on whom the team can depend in other crucial areas.
Jarren Duran led the team with a 29.2 sprint speed, but he’s struggled offensively and defensively. Likewise for Franchy Cordero, who clocks in at third-fastest with a sprint speed of 28.6, and Bobby Dalbec, whose 28.3 puts him at sixth. Meanwhile, Rafael Devers and Triston Casas, who should be two of the team’s most crucial players going forward, are at the bottom of the list.
The only truly encouraging piece of information from this metric is that rookie catcher Connor Wong is the second-fastest baserunner on this team; his 28.8 ft/sec is only outmatched by Duran, and puts him 70th overall in MLB.
Xander Bogaerts is firmly above average at 27.9 ft/sec, by the way. As if the Red Sox needed another reason to pay him.
A new leadoff man
Since trading Mookie Betts to the Dodgers ahead of the 2020 season, the Red Sox have used 22 different leadoff hitters. The number would be ridiculous in a normal time, but consider that the 2020 season was only 60 games, and it’s even more absurd.
Unsurprisingly, switching things up in the leadoff spot is not working out. According to MassLive, the Sox ranked 27th in MLB in on-base percentage and 22nd in OPS from the leadoff spot in 2022. The leadoff OPS dropped from .741 in 2021 to .665 this year.
Alex Cora has drawn criticism in the past for his mismanagement of the leadoff spot. Ahead of the 2019 season, he announced that Betts and Andrew Benintendi would switch places in the lineup. The theory behind that decision was that if Benintendi could get on base, Betts could then drive him in, rather than simply getting on base himself in the leadoff spot. Of course, the decision backfired, as Benintendi was an abysmal leadoff man; in 48 games as the first batter to step up to the plate, he hit .119/.229/.143 with only five hits, including one double, drew five walks, and struck out 16 times. Still, Cora stuck with the decision until the last weekend in May.
Cora didn’t use Alex Verdugo in the leadoff spot in 2022, despite him being a career .288/.341/.412 hitter in 42 career games batting first. Nor did he put Xander Bogaerts in the leadoff spot once this year, and he’s hit .309/.406/.418 with 34 hits, four doubles, a triple, and two home runs in 28 games as the leadoff man. According to Baseball-Reference, Devers has never hit first in the Sox lineup. They’ll never know if he can unless they try.