We're still better than a month away from the first game of spring training, but John Farrell already seems to have his lineup mostly figured out. In an appearance on WEEI Thursday night, the Red Sox manager laid out his plans for spots one-through-six. Here's the general idea:
- Mookie Betts
- Dustin Pedroia
- David Ortiz
- Hanley Ramirez
- Pablo Sandoval
- Mike Napoli
Farrell was less explicit with Betts at leadoff, and Brock Holt also got mentioned as someone who could slot into the top spot on days he was in the lineup, but it certainly seems like Betts left a good impression with his performance in 2014. Given his speed, Rusney Castillo also seemed like a good candidate, but Farrell indicated that wasn't in the cards, with the Red Sox presumably wanting to ease their late-August signing into things with only 10 major league games under his belt.
From there, it's pretty much as expected. Dustin Pedroia will return to his traditional spot in the order, with the arrival of Hanley giving the Red Sox an Ortiz - Ramirez combo at 3-4 for the first time since July 30, 2008. And while Mike Napoli's on-base abilities would suggest he and Pablo Sandoval should perhaps trade places, John Farrell is prioritizing getting Sandoval and his righty-mashing bat in between the two righties. Certainly a worthwhile consideration on a team strapped for lefties.
Given that the starting catcher will almost certainly be batting ninth on any given day, that leaves us with just two spots likely reserved for Xander Bogaerts and Rusney Castillo. Though there's some small chance the Red Sox don't exactly commit to a "starting outfield" in an attempt to maintain a regular rotation, it's hard to envision that if Betts is, indeed, trusted enough to hold the leadoff spot. Which of the two bats seventh and which bats eighth is anyone's guess, but those are some pretty good names to be tossing around that low in the batting order.
Honestly, John Farrell probably could have pulled names out of a hat and come up with a pretty good lineup assuming he didn't toss the pitchers in there. It's no secret that the strength of this 2015 Red Sox team is at the plate, but after spending the last couple months stressing over pitchers, it's nice to get a reminder that Mike Napoli is batting sixth.