With Mookie Betts gone, the Boston Red Sox have a big void to fill in terms of production and a leadoff hitter.
The saddest part of the Mookie Betts blockbuster deal is that the Boston Red Sox won’t have a dangerous hitter leading off baseball games in 2020. Unless someone steps up in a major way, filling that void will be a tough task for interim manager Ron Roenicke.
In terms of production, the void left by Betts will be big enough, but who on the team can get on base and steal bases with some consistency?
Well, the obvious answer for Roenicke is Andrew Benintendi who MLB.com predicts as a player who will breakout in 2020. If you are a Red Sox fan, you may be saying it’s would be about time he does. You may also be thinking Benintendi as a leadoff hitter may actually hurt his production.
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But we are not the manager of the Red Sox.
With newly acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo sidelined to start the season, the team may not have any other choice but to leadoff with Benny Ballgame. Roenicke hinted towards that on Monday when addressing the media.
"“We’ll see what happens, Benny is always a guy I bring up because he did it last year because he’s an on-base guy. I know he can hit, he’s a really good hitter and has a really good eye,” Roenicke said, as transcribed by WEEI. “He takes pitches, he does everything you need as a leadoff hitter and he can steal bases too so I like him in the leadoff spot we’ll see in camp – I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with him and if he’s good with it, we’ll try and see how it goes and see how everybody else fits in.”"
Of course, Andrew Benintendi is a player that does whatever the teams asks of him so he will be okay with the idea. However, it would be a bad move if he lets the pressure of it get to him.
If history is any indication, the Boston Red Sox left fielder could be average at best in that spot. Last season, he started off leadoff and struggled, batting just .119 in 48 games. But, with a career average of .256 with a .767 on-base percentage, there is some potential there that will depend on Benintendi’s approach at the plate.
As indicated towards the end of the 2019 season, Benintendi going back to his college swing could help propel as a leadoff hitter. Slimming down will also help as he will return as more of a contact hitter vs a guy swinging for the fences.
Can Benintendi be like Mookie?
Like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi simply has to find a way to get on base and mix in the power he does has as well. It’s certainly worth a try as he has the attributes to fill the void, but it can set him back as a hitter if he starts the season with a similar slump going 5-for-42.
With Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez following him in the order, getting on base will be essential for anyone in that spot. Someone who has the mentality to leadoff will be key for Ron Roenicke. History suggests that Andrew Benintendi does not have that mentality, so the team has to be careful not to force him in a position he is not equipped to handle.
In other words, the Boston Red Sox need a player like…Mookie Betts. Sigh.