Here's a first draft of the offense I'd like to see the Red Sox place in the field in 2013. I made this line up out before Aviles was traded for John Farrell, so that's why he's not in here. I'll expect this, along with my projected 2013 stats for the players (projections for 1-5 in the batting order listed below; I'm getting to 6-9) to start a lot of arguments, because I don't want Kool-Aid drinkers reading this blog. So feel free to use the comments section to tell me I suck, I'm horrible, I'm a moron, and that we really need to trade for Hanley Ramirez to solve all of our problems.
1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Pedroia, 2B
3. Ortiz, DH
4. Ross, LF
5. Middlebrooks, 3B
6. Saltalamacchia/Lavarnway, C
7. Gomez, 1B.
8. Sweeney/Kalish, RF
9. Ciriaco, SS
Jacoby Ellsbury, expected 2013 stats:
.295 BA/.331 OBP, 28 HR, 96 RBI, 45 2B, 45 SB, 110 R
Ellsbury had a career year in 2011, and many players who have career years never quite reach those offensive stats during subsequent years. So I adjusted Ellsbury's 2011 BA, OBP, homers, RBIs, doubles and runs scored down by 10%. Since Ellsbury has stolen 70 bases in a season before, I think 45 stolen bases is a conservative estimate.
Remember, this is the penultimate contract year for Ellsbury -- this is the spot players dream of working their way to. If he can stay healthy, I expect the first thing on Ellsbury's mind when he steps to the plate is "Where's my goddamn 8 year, $200 million contract?" Ellsbury has bashed the shit out of the ball before, and he will do it again.
Dustin Pedroia, expected 2013 stats:
.302 BA/.380 OBP, 17 HR, 85 RBI, 35 2B, 20 SB, 100 R
Playing most of the 2012 season with a hand injury didn't to much to slow down Pedroia, given that he hit .290 with 15 homers and 39 doubles. And Pedey is still improving as a hitter -- his doubles are lower because he's hitting more balls over, not off, the monster; and his OBP has remained steady despite a regression with his batting average. I wouldn't be surprised to see Pedey hit more than 20 homers next year, but I'm trying to keep stat projections conservative.
David Ortiz, expected 2013 stats:
.310 BA/.407 OBP, 38 HR, 120 RBI, 40 2B, 90 R
Most players in their late 30s aren't in the shape to hit for the third highest slugging percentage of their career (.611). Ditto for their on base plus slugging figure (1.026), which is helped with a healthy .415 OBP. The OBP numbers are helped by that player striking out less, and if said player is a lefty who has a defensive shift named after him, it's also odd when they become one of the leagues best hitters against left handed pitching.
Before Ortiz was injured last season, we witnessed a vastly improved hitter at the plate. Ortiz isn't a threat to hit 50+ homers anymore, but when he's at the plate he can now slap a single to the opposite field, take a walk, hit it deep into Williamsburg, hit it off the monster, and do just about anything besides swipe a base. It's only Ortiz's inevitable age-induced regression that serves as the real wild card here. We've been expecting Ortiz's age to catch up with him for years, and it looked like Ortiz was done at the beginning of 2010... But 2012 is a 180 degree turn from 2010 for Ortiz. He made the conscious effort to improve himself, and that should be rewarded with a two year deal. If he stays in shape, I see no reason to worry about age regression in 2013.
Cody Ross, expected 2013 stats:
.270 BA/.330 OBP, 26 HR, 90 RBI, 40 2B, 72 R
The last time Cody Ross had a season with 20+ homers, 30+ doubles, and 80+ RBIs was 2009, when he was 29. Since 2009, he kinda of sucked until he realized that he had a love affair with hitting at Fenway. Cody's numbers dropped off a bit because of a poor September -- he had a .277 batting average from April-August, but .229 in Sept/Oct -- but other hitters on the team lost focus at that point since they were out of the playoff hunt and Bobby Valentine was now obviously a lame duck manager. I expect Cody's 2013 numbers to improve if he's focused for a whole season.
Will Middlebrooks, expect 2013 stats:
.270 BA/.309 OBP, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 25 2B, 68 R
In May, 2012, Middlebrooks stormed out of the gate with a .343 OBP, 6 homers and 21 RBI. By July, he was down to a .314 OBP with 3 homers and 10 RBI. Before taking a pitch on the wrist in August, Middlebrooks was hitting .194 with a .286 OBP, 2 homers, and 7 RBI that month. After May, teams updated their scouting reports and started tossing Middlebrooks less fastballs and more breaking pitches that he was willing to chase. Middlebrooks needs to improve his discipline at the plate before we can expect to see a 30 homer season from him. While no longer a prospect, Middlebrooks still needs development as a major league player.
On the plus side, Youk's August on the South Side was only marginally better than what Middlebrooks was giving this team before his injury. Personally, I would have liked to have seen Youk remain with the Red Sox for the entire 2012 season so Middlebrooks could have had time to go back down to Pawtucket and instructed to learn more patience at the plate... Regardless, Youk wasn't returning for 2013 anyway, and nobody argues that a developing Middlebrooks at third isn't a step forward.