Although the Red Sox roster is just about set for the start of the 2020 season, manager Ron Roenicke still has some decisions to make in terms of who will be hitting where in the team’s lineup.
More specifically in this case, Roenicke is looking for other candidates not named Andrew Benintendi who could potentially lead off against a left-handed starter. Two players he has in mind for that role are Jose Peraza and Kevin Pillar.
Peraza has been someone the Red Sox have been impressed with since the team regrouped for Summer Camp at Fenway Park earlier this month. Roenicke even said two weeks ago that he’s been “so impressed” with what the 26-year has been doing offensively.
Prior to signing a one-year deal with Boston back in December, Peraza batted out of the leadoff spot in 98 games for the Reds going back to the start of the 2016 season.
Over those 98 games, the Venezuela native accrued 120 plate appearances against left-handed pitching and posted a decent .318/.361/.400 slash line to go along with a 5.8% walk rate, a 7.5% strikeout rate, and a wRC+ of 102. In terms of counting stats, Peraza collected seven doubles, one triple, and four RBI while scoring 15 times.
Pillar, meanwhile, has accrued 387 career plate appearances out of the leadoff spot over seven big-league seasons between the Blue Jays and Giants. 118 of those plate appearances have come against left-handed pitching.
In that relatively small sample size, the now-31-year-old, who also signed a one-year deal with the Sox in February, slashed .303/.339/.541 while walking 5.1% of the time, striking out 12.7% of the time, and posting a 131 wRC+. He hit three homers and collected 14 RBI over that same time frame as well.
“I know Pillar can do it. I feel good with him up there against the left-handers,” Roenicke said of the veteran outfielder batting leadoff against southpaws. “And then we’ll just kind of see.”
The reason why Roenicke is pondering using a different leadoff hitter besides Benintendi is mainly because he is wary of deploying two left-handed hitters — Benintendi and Rafael Devers — at the top of the lineup against left-handed starters.
“I think we have some options. But right off the bat, I may go with the two left-handers and give those guys a chance to do it,” added the Sox skipper. “And I know we’ve talked about the short season, how we need to get off to a good start. But I still know that if those two guys are hitting well, Andrew and Devers like we’ve seen so far — they’re hitting left-handers and right-handers right now — so I feel pretty comfortable with both of them.”
Following the same criteria used for Peraza and Pillar, Benintendi owns a career .752 OPS and 103 wRC+ in 91 plate appearances against left-handed pitching while batting out of the leadoff spot since making his major-league debut in August 2016.
As you may already be aware, this all comes as the Red Sox prepare for their Opening Day opponent: Orioles left-hander John Means, who really had his way with the Boston bats during his rookie year last season, posting a 2.89 ERA over five starts and 28 innings of work in 2019.