With Jacoby Ellsbury bolting Beantown for the House across the Street From the House That Ruth Built, the Sox have a need for a new leadoff man. No longer able to pencil in the speedy Ellsbury, the team may have take an unconventional approach in 2014.
The three players that may see extended time at the top of the order are Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes.
According to manager John Farrell, “We’re not going to replace 50-something stolen bases by Jacoby, so I think the biggest thing is who’s our best on-base percentage guy... Obviously, it’s Vic [Shane Victorino] and it’s Daniel Nava. Both guys hit in the leadoff spot sparingly this past year. “(Gomes) puts up a quality at-bat regardless (of versus a) lefty (or) righty and we saw that repeatedly last year, so this is a look at maybe an alignment we see during the year, too.”
It seems the Red Sox will be looking to figure out the leadoff options this spring. Nava was in the leadoff spot during Wednesday's 8-6 loss to the Cardinals and went 1-2 with a homer while Gomes was leading off Friday's game.
Let's run through the options for 2014.
Shane Victorino:Victorino hit .294 and posted a .351 on-base percentage last season, which compares favorably to Ellsbury (.298 average, .355 on-base percentage). Victorino may not have the stolen base ability of Ellsbury (52 steals in 2013), but he did steal 21 bases in 122 games last year.
Daniel Nava: While Nava is not the prototypical leadoff man, he did hit .303 and his .385 on-base percentage last season would be third among all leadoff men in the league behind Mike Trout and Shin-Soo Choo.
Jonny Gomes: Gomes is far from the usual leadoff man - beard or no beard. Leadoff would be some unfamiliar territory as he's batted leadoff just twice in 996 career games. Gomes could be an interesting option as he typically sees a lot of pitches, works deep into counts and OBP last year was .344.
What is likely to happen is Farrell will not have a set leadoff man and platoon the spot between the three. However, don't be surprised if sometime during the season another player forces his way into the top of the order - Xander Bogaerts.
While the Sox won't throw the X-Man into the fire just yet, Bogaerts is an interesting option if he maintains his minor league numbers. Bogaerts is a patient hitter with great plate discipline as we saw during last year's championship run where he reached base in 14 of his 34 postseason plate appearances.