Even without Mookie Betts leading things off in 2020, the Red Sox still project to have one of the best lineups in baseball for this truncated, 60-game season.
While listing off the 10 best lineups in the league on Monday, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince ranked the Sox at No. 9, right in front of the Los Angeles Angels and right behind the Chicago Cubs.
Using a projected lineup of Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo, Christian Vazquez, Mitch Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Jose Peraza, Castrovince gives the following reasoning for listing the Red Sox where he did:
Hey, the gang’s… not all here. But the departure of Betts doesn’t stop the Boston bunch from posing a threat because of the nucleus of Martinez (142 projected wRC+, via Steamer), Devers (129) and Bogaerts (123). Devers and Bogaerts both ranked in the top four in the Majors in extra-base hits last season. Vázquez emerged as one of MLB’s more productive catchers.
That’s not to say there aren’t questions elsewhere. To ultimately justify this spot on the list, the Red Sox will need to get positive production from Verdugo (projected for a 119 wRC+). He arrived while recovering from a stress fracture in his back but is operational now.
Coming off a 2019 campaign in which they plated 901 runs (4th in A.L.), crushed a franchise-record 245 home runs (6th in A.L.), had a team on-base percentage of .340 (2nd in A.L.), slugged .466 as a team (4th in A.L.), and were worth 28.5 fWAR (5th in A.L.), the Red Sox’ offense certainly wasn’t the main concern despite a lackluster 84-win season.
One year later, and it looks like that much will hold true for Boston once more; where the club scores plenty of runs but gives up their fair share as well.
As previously mentioned, the loss of Betts, one of the best offensive players in baseball, certainly does not help the Red Sox’ cause in 2020. That being said though, the core of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez is still intact, and those three combined to account for more than 39% of the team’s 857 RBI last year.
A healthy Alex Verdugo, as well as a bounce-back season from Andrew Benintendi, are all in play, too. Not to mention that Christian Vazquez is coming off a career year, Mitch Moreland is coming off a season in which he averaged 15.7 at-bats per home run, Jackie Bradley Jr. is swinging the ball well at Summer Camp, and Jose Peraza is less than two years removed from a 182-hit season with the Cincinnati Reds in 2018.
All that considered, and we haven’t even mentioned, Kevin Pillar, Tzu-Wei Lin, Bobby Dalbec, Michael Chavis, and Jonathan Arauz yet, it’s certainly understandable to expect decent run production from the Red Sox offense this season.