Farrell: Victorino, Nava are options to lead off

Farrell: Victorino, Nava are options to lead off
December 9, 2013, 5:00 pm
Share This Post

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- John Farrell reiterated that the Red Sox already feel comfortable with Jackie Bradley Jr. replacing Jacoby Ellsbury from a defensive standpoint.
      
But offense is another question. Ellsbury became an elite leadoff hitter with the Sox, compiling a .350-or-better on-base percentage three times in the last five seasons while topping 92 runs scored four times in his Red Sox career.
      
With Ellsbury gone, Bradley replaces him in center. But who replaces Ellsbury at the top of the lineup?
      
"A couple of guys quickly come to mind," said Farrell. "Obviously, it's Vic (Shane Victorino) and it's Daniel Nava. Both guys hit in the leadoff spot sparingly this past year. We're not going to replace 50-something stolen bases by Jacoby, so I think the biggest thing is who's our best on-base percentage guy, to keep that individual in front of (Dustin Pedroia), David (Ortiz) and Nap (Mike Napoli. Those are the two guys that quickly come to mind right now."
      
Victorino had a .351 on-base percentage last season and has a career .342 on-base percentage.
      
Nava, meanwhile, was second on the Sox with a.385 on-base percentage. Over his career, his OPB is .369.
      
Pedroia has hit leadoff on occasion in his career, but has let it be known that he's not enamored with the role. And Farrell would rather have the second baseman hit second or third, to give the Sox their best lineup.
      
"I think the way we finished the year," said Farrell, "with Pedey in the No. 2 hole and David in the No. 3 hole (is preferable). If we were to start today, we'd probably be looking at one of the other two guys mentioned in the leadoff spot."
      
"There's different ways to do it," added GM Ben Cherington. "What we want most is to have as deep a lineup as we can and whoever is at the top of the lineup, we need those guys getting on base. We've got some candidates to do that. As John mentioned, maybe it's more than one guy. We'll see. We're confident, in the end, that we'll have a lineup that scores runs."
      
Victorino hit strictly righthanded for the final two months of the season because of a hamstring injury, but Farrell said indications are that Victorino will go back to switch-hitting in spring training.
      
If he doesn't, Farrell added, that won't make him any less qualified to hit leadoff.
      
The Sox are hopeful that Bradley can be a successful top-of-the-order hitter, but don't want to put too much pressure on him, too early.
      
"He's gotten on base his whole life -- college and minor leagues -- at a high rate," said Cherington. "That's what we see as the No. 1 criteria, so we expect in time he'll be a good on-base big league and that would make him a candidate to (hit leadoff).
      
"But when we're thinking about lineups in the off-season, we're focused on guys who we know will be on the team and have some history of getting on base in the big leagues. That's where John's focused on now."
      
Asked if Bradley could convince the Sox in spring training that he's ready to hit there now, Cherington said: "Possibly. We usually spend some time early in spring training, talking about different combinations and we'll provide some feedback on some objective studies that we do on what the optimum lineup would be and what we think gives us the best chance to score the most runs.
      
"But in the end, there's a human element to it. There are certain spots in the order that guys do and don't like hitting in and we have to factor that. Again, I think a track record of getting on base in the big leagues is the most important thing, so we'd probably look at (Nava and Victorino) first."