Thankfully the Sox will not have Todd Helton starting at first this season. It will be Kevin Youkilis. And his job is relatively secure. Last season Youk had a solid year, hitting 13 homers, knocking in 72 RBI, and scoring 100 times. He's not a typical first-baseman in that he isn't a big slugger. But he's not a typical leadoff hitter in that he isn't all that fast. He had 5 SBs last season on 7 attempts.
He did have a .381 OBP, which is where his value lies. He walked 91 times, and although he also struck out 120 times, at least he worked the count a lot. He's the kind of player you have in your lineup so that other players can do their jobs more easily. He compliments power hitters like Ortiz, Ramirez, and to a lesser extent Lowell. He gets on base, wears out pitchers, and helps the team produce runs.
He'll probably see most of the time at first-base, where he's got a decent glove. Unlike previous years, we're not wasting a roster spot on a defensive first baseman, or on Kevin Millar.
Eric Hinske will be the backup at first-base. He'll come in to spell Youkilis, and may come in against difficult right-handed pitchers. He could be used as a pinch hitter for Youk against guys late in the game, depending on situations. If it's a tough righty, Hinske is a lefty. And if we need a hit more than we need the count to be worked, Hinske can do that a bit better.
David Ortiz will see time at first-base during interleague games in NL ballparks. If he sees time there for any other reason, something has gone wrong. During these interleague games, you might see Youkilis playing 2B or 3B to keep him in the lineup.
I think very highly of Youkilis and I think he'll have a good year. He might be pushed further down the lineup with Lugo on the team, but I'd like to see him as a #2 hitter, getting on base and working counts right before the big bats in the middle of the order.
Prediction: .285 average, .400 OBP, 15 HR, 75 RBI, 120 Runs