Jacoby Ellsbury entered spring training with a little something to prove after being limited to just 18 games last season due to fractured ribs. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he’s been the best player in camp thus far.
Ellsbury is batting .429 over his first 35 at-bats this spring, leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, total bases and runs scored.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona understandably likes what he’s seeing. He told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this morning that Ellsbury will likely bat leadoff this season.
Some have argued that the Red Sox would be better served to use Dustin Pedroia out of the leadoff spot since he gets on base more often than Ellsbury. Under this scenario, the Red Sox would have Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in the first five spots of the batting order with Jacoby Ellsbury functioning as a second leadoff hitter of sorts out of the No. 9 hole. Assuming the Red Sox have Ellsbury lead off most of the time, we’ll likely see Pedroia second, followed by Crawford, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz.
One thing’s for sure, you won’t find any managers who have pity for Francona. This lineup has a chance to be a juggernaut, no matter who bats where.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.