Zolak & Bertrand

Zolak & Bertrand

Zolak & Bertrand

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 23: Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora looks on during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park on August 23, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After months of offseason speculation, Red Sox spring training is finally upon us and Alex Cora is already hinting at his Opening Day lineup.

During Winter Weekend last month, Cora discussed Masataka Yoshida and Rafael Devers at the top of the order despite both being left-handed. That changed during Cora’s first meeting with the media on Tuesday, as he emphasized the importance of splitting both up to balance the lineup.

It’s clear things are fluid with the lineup construction due to the number of lefty bats and the loss of Trevor Story. Still, there’s a solid chunk of talent and upside with this group if guys are put in the right position to succeed/rebound.

Here’s my best guess at how the Red Sox will be filling out their lineup card on March 30th against the Orioles.

FYI: All projections come from Steamer. Also, check out my Lineup Projection 1.0 from a few weeks back.

  • 1. Masataka Yoshida

    Masataka Yoshida

    122 Games – 565 PA – .298/.388/.510/885 – 18 HR – 29 2B – 61 RBI – 140 wRC+

    Yoshida has been penciled in as the Red Sox leadoff hitter since the second he signed. Cora hasn’t done anything to dismiss that assumption yet, so it’ll be interesting to watch Yoshida adjust after batting mostly 3rd and 4th in the NPB. His combination of elite bat-to-ball skills and feel for the strike zone are something the Red Sox have lacked at the top of their lineup for some time. 

  • 2. Kiké Hernández

    BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 3: Enrique Hernandez #5 of the Boston Red Sox watches his game tying RBI double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on October 3, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 3: Enrique Hernandez #5 of the Boston Red Sox watches his game tying RBI double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on October 3, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    130 Games – 581 PA – .239/.310/.397/.708 – 16 HR – 31 2B – 60 RBI – 97 wRC+

    This feels like the toughest spot in the lineup to predict at the moment. Justin Turner makes more sense from an analytical front, yet it wouldn’t shock me if Cora gives Hernandez a chance to run with the spot early on. Over the last 3 seasons, Hernandez has posted a .671 OPS against right-handed pitching, so the leash would be short.

  • 3. Rafael Devers

    ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 08: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 08, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

    ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA – OCTOBER 08: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates his two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field on October 08, 2021 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

    150 Games – 662 PA-  .277/.345/.510/.855 – 32 HR – 39 2B – 100 RBI – 134 wRC+

    It pains me that Devers won’t be batting second, but this feels like the most likely way to split him and Yoshida up (at least against righties). Also, it’ll ensure Hernandez is constantly getting stuff to hit, which seems like it could go a long way towards a rebound campaign. Red Sox Stats brings up a great argument for Devers to be in the clean-up spot, but I don’t think Cora ultimately leans in that direction.

  • 4. Justin Turner

    Justin Turner

    Feb 15, 2023; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Justin Turner (2) participates in spring training workouts at Fenway South Player Development Complex. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    126 Games – 541 PA – .267/.343/.421/.765 – 14 HR – 30 2B – 66 RBI – 114 wRC+

    Turner in this spot keeps the left-right pattern going, which Cora continues to emphasize as a key variable in his lineup construction. Feels like the other name getting some mention here is Adam Duvall, but that feels way too risky with his hitting profile. If Turner can find a little more power at Fenway Park, which both Chaim Bloom and Cora have hinted at, it will go a long way.

  • 5. Alex Verdugo

    Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting an RBI home run in the bottom of the second inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on April 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

    Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting an RBI home run in the bottom of the second inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on April 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

    138 Games – 586 PA – .281/.388/.429/.767 – 14 HR – 34 2B – 113 wRC+

    Verdugo hitting right behind Turner should make pitchers work, with neither being susceptible to high strikeouts numbers. Last season, Verdugo finished in the 92nd percentile for K% while Turner landed in the 78th percentile. Feels like 2023 could be a breakout season for Verdugo after getting more athletic following his 2022 bulk-up.

  • 6. Adam Duvall

    Adam Duvall

    104 Games – 425 PA – .213/.272/.417/.689 – 20 HR – 17 2B – 55 RBI – 88 wRC+

    Putting Duvall in the 6th spot feels like the perfect place to take advantage of his power, while not suffering too much from his high strikeouts/low on-base numbers. Handle him just like you did Hunter Renfroe in 2021. No need to throw a ton of weight on Duvall’s shoulders as he tries to rebound offensively and handle the rigors of center field.

  • 7. Triston Casas

    BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 4: Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox follows through on his first major league hit, a single against the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on September 4, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 4: Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox follows through on his first major league hit, a single against the Texas Rangers during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on September 4, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    123 Games – 492 PA – .247/.351/.451./801 – 19 HR – 23 2B – 62 RBI – 124 wRC+

    I wanted Casas to bat fifth when piecing together this lineup, but Cora has talked about easing the younger guys in more.. His on-base skills should be a nice change of pace following Duvall and offer some opportunities for the bottom of the lineup. Wouldn’t shock me if Casas flips with Verdugo after a big April.

  • 8. Christian Arroyo/Adalberto Mondesi/Yu Chang

    CLEVELAND, OHIO - JUNE 24: Christian Arroyo #39 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run homer during the seventh inning at Progressive Field on June 24, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – JUNE 24: Christian Arroyo #39 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates with teammates after hitting a two-run homer
    during the seventh inning at Progressive Field on June 24, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    Arroyo: 70 Games – 283 PA – .263/.314/.419/.733 – 8 HR – 15 2B – 33 RBI – 102 wRC+

    Mondesi: 107 Games – 416 PA – .232/.278/.390/.668 -12 HR – 20 2B – 28 RBI – 83 wRC+

    Chang: 19 Games – 78 PA – .227/.291/.377/.668 – 2 HR – 4 2B – 8 RBI – 85 wRC+

    Since it looks likely Mondesi will start the season on the IL, Arroyo has the keys to second base with Chang offering depth across the infield. 

    When Arroyo is in the lineup, he slots in nicely in the 8th spot with a 104 wRC+ dating back to 2021. Chang has a 82 wRC++ in 158 games over that same stretch, so there could be times where he’s penciled in 9th if Wong/Alfaro are hitting well. 

    Mondesi might make more sense in the 9th spot once he gets healthy as well, where his speed and switch-hitting ability can set-up the top of the lineup.

  • 9. Reese McGuire/Connor Wong

    Reese McGuire

    Sep 13, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire (3) hits a home run during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    McGuire: 75 Games – 286 PA – .241/.294/.365/.658 – 5 HR – 15 2B – 28 RBI – 82 wRC+

    Wong: 42 Games – 167 PA -.249/.300/.436/.736 – 6 HR – 9 2B – 28 RBI – 102 wRC+

    McGuire was ridiculous after being traded to the Red Sox last season, posting a 145 wRC+ in 36 games. He offers a lefty bat following Hernandez and Arroyo in the lineup and doesn’t strikeout too much. When Wong is starting, it allows for a similar shakeup between the 8th and 9th spot with Mondesi in the mix.

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