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The winter lineup

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 9, 2010 06:41 PM

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crawfordfinn.jpgBeen hunkered down today with a media column/project that will run Sunday . . . but man, it's impossible not to be distracted and daydreaming in the aftermath of the Carl Crawford news. Don't know about you guys, but I zonked out early last night, and didn't find out about it until I hopped online this morning and saw PeteAbe's report. Heck of a way to start the day, wouldn't you say?

I'm sure we'll get more into this Crawford/Gonzalez double rainbow during tomorrow's chat (scheduled for 12:13 as always), but for now, here's one of those warm baseball thoughts/questions rattling through our heads on this otherwise frigid December day:

What will Red Sox lineup might look like come April 1 in Texas?

Here's my take. Hit me with yours in the comments, because I'd love to hear 'em:

Carl Crawford, LF: I know there's talk of hitting him third, and he has neither hit leadoff recently nor enjoyed it when he did. But I don't care. It's my lineup, dammit, and I like him in the leadoff spot . . . even if Jacoby Ellsbury's career on-base percentage is slightly higher (.344 to .337). OK, maybe the electric Crawford should hit third. His most similar batter each year from ages 26-28: Roberto Clemente. Really.

Dustin Pedroia, 2B: His career high in RBIs is 83, set during his MVP season in 2008. With good health, a little luck, and Ellsbury/Crawford on base often in front of him, he could easily surpass that in 2011. (Full confession: I'm still worried about that foot injury.)

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: Know who batted fourth behind Gonzalez in the Padres' lineup most frequently last season? Nope, not Nate Colbert. The correct answer is Chase Headley, who hit in the four-spot 59 times. In 607 plate appearances overall, he had 11 homers and a .702 OPS last season. Yes, I suspect Mr. Gonzalez is going to see some pitches to hit this year.

stapletonfinn.jpgKevin Youkilis, 3B: He's sort of the anti-Dave Stapleton, whose batting average famously dipped in each of his seven seasons. (His OPS+ in his final season was minus-11. I'm not sure, but I think that means he physically took runs off the scoreboard when the dude in the Monster tried to hang them.) Youk's OPS has risen in each of his seven seasons, from .780 in 2004 to .975 before his injury last year. As for those of you who suggested the Sox should move him to the outfield and re-sign Adrian Beltre, I'm glad Youkilis shot the idea down a couple of days ago. He's a lousy outfielder and he hates it. Isn't that reason enough? Hell, if you want a crazy plan that just might work, re-sign Beltre to play . . . shortstop! (I'm not gonna tell you if I'm kidding.)

David Ortiz, DH: I'll always wonder if Theo would have made more of effort to retain Victor Martinez had the club not picked up the $12.5 million option on Papi. Either way, any season with a productive Papi is an enjoyable season. It won't be the same when he's no longer with the Sox.

Jed Lowrie, SS: Yep, Lowrie, batting sixth and starting over Marco Scutaro. If he can avoid getting rickets, lice, polio, poison ivy, gout, and any other injury or weird ailment that hasn't already affected his career, he should be this team's starting shortstop, and given his .907 OPS and 23 extra-base hits in 197 plate appearances last year, I'm a believer that he's going to fulfill his promise as a hitter. As for batting sixth, I like have a switch hitter between the two lefties, and he might just justify it with his production anyway.

J.D. Drew, RF: I think we've all said our piece about him by now, right? At the worst, a Drew/Mike Cameron platoon should be very productive, provided they can stay out of the trainer's room. Drew has a .921 OPS against righthanded pitching in his career; Cameron has an .866 OPS against lefties. Works for me.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: I'll say it again. If the Sox are serious about going with this a Salty/Tek platoon, they will have a different starting catcher by July. Varitek faded before his injury last year and shouldn't be anything more than Josh Beckett's security blanket. Saltalamacchia has an option left and should prove he a) can hit, and b) is over his throwing issues before he's trusted with a significant role. Go ahead, put me down for Russell Martin as a super-utility guy.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF: Batting him ninth lengthens the lineup and puts less pressure on him coming back from his injuries. Also, I suspect signing Crawford, who has ridiculous range in left, makes the Sox feel better about putting Ellsbury back in center. I doubt they'll trade him -- why sell low? -- and I hope they don't. I want to see Ellsbury and Crawford in the same lineup. There's never been anything like it around here -- no, Damon Buford/Darren Lewis does not count, Jimy -- and the thought of such an electric 1-2 combo is one of those thoughts that gets a baseball fan through the winter.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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