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Let's assemble the Red Sox lineup and bench

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We know who will be on the roster, so let's organize them into lineups.

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Now that Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes are signed, whatever tiny chance there was of a major winter overhaul in the Red Sox lineup has passed. So, now we can sit and wait for spring training or for an official announcement of what the Boston lineup is going to look like, or we can take what we know and build this thing ourselves.

There are a bunch of moving pieces in this lineup, thanks to standard platoon split opportunities, questions about production from more than a couple of spots, and the need (or luxury, really) for getting Brock Holt his work. So, let's start by looking at who we know is going to be starting every day, or at least, every day where possible:

  • Designated hitter: David Ortiz
  • Second base: Dustin Pedroia
  • Third base: Pablo Sandoval
  • Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
  • Right field: Mookie Betts

That's just five of the nine spots, and Sandoval's full-time grasp on third base could end up being tenuous depending on his performance, or if the Sox get into discussions with still-a-free-agent David Freese. As he's still a free agent, though, and Panda's pre-2015 suggests there is probably still a good player there, let's do the optimistic spring thing and give him the position.

The spots in question, at least as far as how playing time will be distributed, are first base, left field, center field, and catcher. Catcher should be the easiest of them to solve, but maybe is not: Blake Swihart is going to start, but the question is how often that means he'll be playing, since Ryan Hanigan is such a good backup. Chances are good the veteran Hanigan will do most of his work against lefties, since historically that's where the right-handed bat has had his success, but even that's somewhat up in the air since Swihart, a switch-hitter, battered southpaws throughout the minors.

Either way, we can assume Swihart will get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate since there will be more right-handed pitchers than left-handed ones on the schedule regardless of the nuances of the playing time plan.

swihart
Photo credit: Elsa/Getty Images

That's six positions down, and first base is probably the next simplest to figure out. Hanley Ramirez is going to be the primary first baseman, but manager John Farrell has said that he won't be playing every day. The presence of Travis Shaw allows for this, as Shaw is a first baseman already -- Hanley will be learning the position after a disaster defensive campaign in left field.

Whether Shaw can hit again is a real question, but he's shown some promise and an ability to adjust, even if it often takes him awhile to do so. At the least, he's earned a shot to be playing a couple times per week to make sure Hanley gets his rest in and is always at his best.

Center and left will be manned by three different outfielders: Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo figure to take up the bulk of the plate appearances at those positions, respectively, but bench outfielder Chris Young is going to get his at-bats against lefties. That means one of Bradley or Castillo will sit on those days, and since Young can play center, who the one is could change each time out, depending on performance or just how they're feeling. Remember, Castillo still hasn't played a full season, and Bradley has had some serious down stretches in the majors, so Young is going to play plenty even if things are going well overall.

That brings us here for lineup regulars:

  • DH: David Ortiz
  • C: Blake Swihart/Ryan Hanigan
  • 1B: Hanley Ramirez
  • 2B: Dustin Pedroia
  • 3B: Pablo Sandoval
  • SS: Xander Bogaerts
  • LF: Rusney Castillo/Chris Young
  • CF: Jackie Bradley/Chris Young
  • RF: Mookie Betts

Against right-handed pitchers, the lineup should probably look like this:

  1. Mookie Betts, R
  2. Dustin Pedroia, R
  3. Xander Bogaerts, R
  4. David Ortiz, L
  5. Hanley Ramirez, R
  6. Pablo Sandoval, L
  7. Rusney Castillo, R
  8. Blake Swihart, S
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., L

You get three righties at the top in a row, but Ortiz makes too much sense in the cleanup spot to move him to third, especially when Bogaerts doesn't have comparable power and the status of Hanley's bat is still a little up in the air, in terms of how reliable he'd be at four. The bottom of the lineup is a little more organized in terms of keeping opposing bullpens from mowing everyone down with platoon splits, and given how much less imposing it is, every little edge counts down there.

Against lefties, the goal should probably be to give Bradley as many plate appearances as he can to show he merits a full-time gig, while Castillo more often than not gets time off since health and his overall energy level is more in question given how much shorter the seasons are in Cuba than in the states:

  1. Mookie Betts, R
  2. Dustin Pedroia, R
  3. Xander Bogaerts, R
  4. David Ortiz, L
  5. Hanley Ramirez, R
  6. Chris Young, R
  7. Ryan Hanigan, R
  8. Pablo Sandoval, L
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., L

You might be sacrificing the eight and nine spots here by putting lefties back-to-back, but if the competent version of Bradley is around these days, then it won't be as much of a problem. Maybe Travis Shaw can get some days in at third base when lefties are on the mound -- Shaw is left-handed, but has had reverse splits against them on a number of occasions in his career, and Sandoval is a lost cause against them whether he's switch-hitting or exclusively left-handed, as he was during the second half of 2015. Brock Holt is also a lefty batter, but he's a career .293/.355/.401 hitter against lefties, so maybe the answer isn't about who plays third against southpaws so much as making sure it's not Panda.

So, the above lineup works just fine against lefties, but works even more if you sub in Shaw or Holt for Sandoval most, if not all days. If Bradley hits well against lefties, then just keep him in the nine hole, because the top of the order -- all righties and then David Ortiz -- is coming up next. Hanigan is a threat against lefties still at this point in his career(.364/.440/.455 last year in limited time, .270/.384/.392 for his career), so let him have the chance to drive in someone from the middle, including the lefty-mashing Young. Or, at the least, to get on base and keep things going.

On most days, the bench is going to be Ryan Hanigan, Brock Holt, Chris Young, and Travis Shaw. It's a versatile bench, since Young can play any of the three outfield spots, Holt can play anywhere on the diamond except for behind the plate, and Shaw has the infield corners covered, which should keep Holt from being overexposed or overextended. If Hanigan or Swihart goes down with an injury, Christian Vazquez is at Triple-A Pawtucket.

If one of the outfielders goes down, that's probably going to mean more playing time for Shaw and Holt, as Holt is the fifth outfielder as well as the backup shortstop and second baseman. Also, the only other outfielder on the 40-man roster is Bryce Brentz, and he might only be useful against lefties.

With these lineup set ups, there should be plenty of playing time available for all four bench players. Players like Castillo and Hanley will avoid being forced into trying to play five or six days per week, and without the Red Sox sending a nobody out there to fill in for them. Players like Sandoval won't need to rebound fully for Boston to get production out of their position, thanks to the fill-ins available. And maybe Dustin Pedroia will take a day off every now and again without losing his mind in the process, since Holt doesn't need to be everywhere at once. Well, in theory: we'll see what happens when the season begins.