Early Impressions of the Boston Red Sox Lineup

The Boston Red Sox entered the 2018 season with relatively high expectations as a likely competitor in October. The team’s late offseason signing of J.D. Martinez boosted Red Sox fans’ hopes. Yet their eagerness was utterly overshadowed by the New York Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton, who made the Yankees a clear favorite in the American League East.

After dropping the first game of the season to the Tampa Bay Rays on March 29, the Red Sox quickly turned it around and won nine in a row. This hot streak included a comeback win over the Rays in twelve innings on Opening Day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox also won back-to-back games in extra innings, and ended their winning streak with a 14-1 annihilation of their rival Yankees.

The Red Sox lost their next game, and then proceeded to win eight consecutive games including a sweep of the red-hot Los Angeles Angels in dominant fashion. 17-3 through the first twenty games was an unanticipated gift for the city of Boston.

Subsequently following these two phenomenal winning streaks, the Red Sox fittingly fell back down to Earth. They still managed to win plenty of games, and the Red Sox finished atop the AL East with the MLB’s best record (21-7) in April.

This Red Sox team came into 2018 with several huge question marks. One of those was consistency at the plate for Xander Bogaerts, who heads towards his third year of arbitration this offseason. Besides a short stint on the disabled list, Bogaerts has been absolutely fantastic in all aspects of the game. With the limited statistics he has accumulated, Bogaerts has an impressive .333 batting average with a solid .949 OPS. He looks much less selective at the plate, and his confidence is at an all-time high. If he can continue to produce night-in and night-out, then Bogaerts will regain fans’ trust and will be a vital member of the Red Sox lineup.

Another uncertainty for Red Sox fans was how their new slugger Martinez would be able to transition into the lineup and how much of an impact he could make for the league’s worst power-hitting team in 2017. Yet Martinez has been everything and more for which the Sox are paying in his five-year, $110 million front-loaded contract. Batting .349 with eight homers on the season, Martinez also leads the team in RBIs with 27. Martinez also has struck out the most on the team, but he has proven that he can produce when the Red Sox are need of clutch hitting.

The expectations of Hanley Ramirez for the 2018 season certainly were high for the potential free agent this offseason. Often wearing the energy-guy role on the team, Ramirez looks like his former self so far this season. Manager Alex Cora decided to stick him third in the lineup, and this spot has significantly raised Ramirez’ confidence at the plate. He has been slowing down since his ten-game hitting streak in early April, but Ramirez’ .297 average emphasizes his consistency in the three-spot. Ramirez’ steady hitting and excellent clubhouse presence are ideal contributions to the team.

With an impressively productive lineup, the @RedSox are atop the competitive AL East standings after 34 games.Click To Tweet

Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s struggles from the plate have continued in 2018. A .178 batting average for a starting center fielder is simply unacceptable for the top team in baseball. With his consistently miraculous fielding that always wows fans, JBJ also makes fans question whether his superb defense is even worth his lack of offense as he heads into his third year of arbitration.

A significant question going into this season was who the starting catcher would be. Last year’s starter Sandy Leon struggled hitting the baseball, and Christian Vazquez quietly had an efficient batting average last season. Vazquez started on Opening Day; however, both catchers have been unable to produce offensively this season with batting averages under .200. Catcher and developing utility-man Blake Swihart has seen limited action at the plate, and he has yet to truly find his role on the team. It will be interesting to watch how the Red Sox’ unique catching situation unfolds throughout the season.

Can American League Rookie of the Year runner-up Andrew Benintendi avoid a sophomore slump? So far, Benintendi has been hot and cold. While primarily batting second in the lineup, he has found himself producing in select moments, while other times struggling to consistently reach base. His .244 average certainly is not the best representation of his ability to produce, but it leaves plenty of room for improvement for the rest of the season.

Twenty-one-year-old stud Rafael Devers has had a pretty solid start to the season; however, he still continues to learn the game. His fielding at the hot corner needs significant work, as his seven errors are a tough blow to one of the league’s top defenses. Devers is hitting a comfortable .260 with six homers and 23 RBIs, but is second on the team in strikeouts. Overall, Devers looks to be a strong hitter for the Red Sox in future years, and but he will need to develop his skills as a third baseman.

Eduardo Nuñez has been extremely inconsistent as a injury replacement for Dustin Pedroia and a fill-in middle infielder for the Red Sox. At times, Nuñez has appeared to be a strong option as an everyday starter. Yet his batting average sits at an underwhelming .229; and with Pedroia expected to return later this month, Nuñez will start to see less time at the plate.

With several minor injuries early this season for the Red Sox, the bench has stepped up heavily. It is difficult to even keep the red-hot Mitch Moreland out of the lineup with his outstanding .347 batting average, five homers, and .1060 OPS. And before leaving the game on 4/26 with a hamstring injury (and subsequently being placed on the disabled list), Brock Holt was on a nine-game hitting steak and a .340 batting average on the season. Tzu-Wei Lin has provided at times off the bench and continues to transition into the majors. Yet both Moreland and Holt’s exceptional contributions are great signs for the long season ahead, but it unfortunately may be difficult for them both to crack the everyday lineup.

Yet how can the Red Sox’ lineup be evaluated without taking about Mookie Betts who has likely been the team’s most exciting player? Suddenly, the dynamic Betts is a power hitter; and not just that he has hit a few home runs so far this season, but he actually leads all of Major League Baseball with a crazy 13 dingers. Most of the names below him such as Joey Gallo and Bryce Harper have strong reputations as power hitters. Meanwhile, Betts, primarily a contact hitter batting leadoff, has had two three-homer games and one two-homer game. He even had a three-game period where he hit five home runs. Betts is batting .355 with 26 RBIs and an insane .1252 OPS. It is safe to say that if Betts can continue his hot hitting at the plate and his solid fielding, then he will certainly be a front-runner and give Mike Trout a run for the AL Most Valuable Player award.

This Red Sox team has unexpectedly rose to the top record in baseball and is positioned to make a deep run in the postseason under its new manager in Cora. Led by a star-studded lineup, the team will look to stay consistent in what already seems to be an intense pennant race in the AL East. The Red Sox have a long summer ahead, but they are already looking like one of the league’s most electrifying teams to watch.

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