Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Possible super lame nickname for the Red Sox outfield:

The Triple J Ranch

For the first time this century, the Red Sox start a season without Manny Ramirez penciled in as left-fielder. It's still strange. But necessary. Manny's offseason demands hopefully demonstrated to even the most ardent Manny apologist (Bill Simmons), that he is a spoiled brat and a loose cannon.


Jason Bay's the left-fielder, and he's the most reliable of the three starters out there. He hit .293 in his time with the Sox last year, and had 101 RBI between the Sox and Pirates. He performed solidly in October, which had been a concern. He hit .341 in the playoffs with 9 RBI and 3 HR.

With his performance last year, it seems he's back to his usual form. An average hovering between .290 and .300, a very good OBP that approaches .400, and a tidy .550 slugging percentage.

I'm very interested to see where Bay ends up in the lineup. It could be 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, even leadoff. He's versatile enough to do an adequate job wherever he hits, and he seems to have the disposition of someone who'll do what he's asked without a problem.

Jacoby Ellsbury's overrated until proven otherwise. We all fell in love with him in September and October of 2007. But since then, he's been strictly mediocre. Yeah, yeah, he steals bases. Whoopty doo. But what good are stolen bases if you can't even get ON BASE?

Ellsbury's 0 for 14 in the ALCS was a major reason the Sox lost the series. Nobody else wants to say it, but it's the truth. His .280 average was nice, but batting average isn't as important as OBP. His was .336. That's only .023 higher than Varitek's. He also struck out twice as often as he walked. At the very least, Ellsbury and these subpar numbers were far from leadoff material.

Until he proves otherwise, I'm afraid he's a bottom of the lineup player.

Then there's the Great Enigma in right field. JD Drew. A man capable of this...

And this...

also has multiple yearly flings with the disabled list. He had a .408 OBP last year, but only played in 109 games. This year, he's already gotten cortisone injections for his back. It's strange. He's got some bizarre form of hypochondria. He always thinks his back is hurting him.

Nobody's going to call him Iron Man anytime soon. But he's still a solid ballplayer, and the Sox still desperately need his production, when he happens to make it in the lineup. He had 6 RBI in the postseason, not great, not bad. He had a .250 average in the LCS (bad), but had a .379 OBP (good). In two years with the Sox, he's had some big hits.

He'll hit around 20 HRs, maybe more. He'll flirt with .300 and end up in the .280 to .290 range. RBIs might be hard to come by, depending on where he ends up in the lineup. He may even be the leadoff hitter for a good part of the season.

Brad Wilkerson will be a backup outfielder when the season begins, but I don't see much of a place for him once Kotsay returns. Jeff Bailey can play the outfield and Wilkerson is a pretty light hitter.

Rocco Baldelli is one of the players Sox fans might be most anxious to see. The Woonsocket product was once one of the best up-and-coming players in the game. His ability to play every day has diminished, but he can fill-in for Drew or Ellsbury against lefthanders (he hit .292 vs. LHP last year).

A serious question with Baldelli is this. Drew is liable to miss a few weeks at a time. Ellsbury doesn't need much rest, but there's a good chance he hits .150 in his first 200 at-bats and needs to be replaced. Is Baldelli up to playing everyday for 2 or 3 weeks at a time?

Mark Kotsay and Jeff Bailey are also options. Kotsay is out until at least May. Bailey can latch on as an outfielder and can play first base, so I think he's likely to make the 25 man roster, especially with Kotsay out. With Wilkerson's offensive troubles, Baldelli's health problems, and Kotsay's injuries, Bailey might be JD Drew's #1 backup out there in right.

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