The Boston Red Sox offense enters the 2023 MLB season with uncharacteristically low expectations.
In each of the last seven seasons, the Red Sox have ranked in the upper half of the league in runs scored. They finished ninth with 735 runs in 2022 despite a last-place finish in the American League East. But following the offseason departures of Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, plus Trevor Story's elbow injury, Boston may have to face a new reality.
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ESPN unveiled its "way-too-early 2023 MLB lineup rankings" on Friday and not only do the Red Sox not rank in the top half of the league, they come in all the way down at 24th out of 30 MLB clubs.
Bradford Doolittle, the ESPN writer responsible for the rankings, shared his Red Sox lineup projection followed by his explanation.
1. Masataka Yoshida
2. Enrique Hernandez
4. Justin Turner
5. Alex Verdugo
6. Adam Duvall
7. Triston Casas
8. Adalberto Mondesi
9. Reese McGuire
"This is kind of a grim outlook for the Boston offense, one dragged down by a No. 28 ranking in BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play)," Doolittle writes. "I'm not sure I love that conclusion, but with below-average long ball potential and a so-so outlook in the patience category, a middling outlook is really about the best you can do from a forecast standpoint.
One of the areas of uncertainty is Yoshida, who the projections see as a strike zone discipline master but a little lagging when it comes to a BABIP that you'd expect will trend to elite -- if he's for real and translates his game to MLB. If he's the player the Red Sox signed him to be, he'll be elite in BABIP."
Yoshida is the biggest question mark for Boston heading into the 2023 campaign. The Japanese star outfielder is renowned for his elite bat-to-ball skills, though it's difficult to project how his talents will translate to the major leagues. If he proves worthy of his $90 million contract, he'll be a welcome addition to the top of a Red Sox lineup that has lacked a true leadoff hitter.
Justin Turner makes for a solid Martinez replacement. The addition of Adam Duvall adds some much-needed pop to the outfield. Rafael Devers is among the best hitters in the game. But those bright spots aren't enough to make up for the losses of Bogaerts and Story, even if Yoshida turns out to be everything Red Sox fans hope he'll be.
Adding salt in the Red Sox' wound is Doolittle's pick for the best lineup in MLB for 2023: the San Diego Padres. Bogaerts signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres in free agency.