Jacoby Ellsbury had 660 at-bats in 2011, his breakout season, and all but 31 of those came in the leadoff spot.
Whether Ellsbury remains in the leadoff position in 2012, however, is open to some debate. After belting 32 homers and compiling a. 552 slugging percentage, there's some thought in the organization that Ellsbury might better serve the team hitting third while, say, Carl Crawford takes over the top spot in the lineup.
That would give Crawford the chance to be more aggressive on the bases and take full advantage of his speed. Ellsbury, meanwhile, showed last year that he can be a valuable run producer and, hitting third, could now do so with more runners on base and in scoring position.
"There's not many who have that same package (of skills)," said Valentine. "If he's not totally unique, he's in a real small sample. He's just a joy."
Valentine believes Ellsbury could succeed in the No. 3 spot and has already spoken to the outfielder -- at least informally -- to sound him out on a potential change.
"I think he could," said Valentine. "He just hasn't, which makes it a little bit of a mental challenge."
After the performance Ellsbury had last season, it's surprising it has taken this long to have this option discussed. The issue with moving Ellsbury is that he loses a bit of his value that he can bring to the team. Yes he can mash and drive in runs but his value as a baserunner is much more important to the Sox. Pedroia, Gonzalez, Ortiz, and Youkilis can rack up the RBIs but no one else can match to Jacoby's speed... except Carl Crawford.
Crawford was never a fan of leading off, even admitting to the St. Petersburg Times that he "thought he sucked at it" and that he was never comfortable leading off. Now factor in how he played last year and the wrist injury and the thought of him leading off feels like the Sox are setting him up to fail.
There were plenty of issues with the team last year but the top of the order was near flawless. Why try and tinker with something that is working so damn well?
Rest of the Links: Globe: Sox ban on alcohol in clubhouse is a lot to drink in| Ellsbury ready for his encore after stellar 2011| Herald: Ellsbury a leading man for Valentine| Middlebrooks learning 3rd base from Youkilis| Ellsbury deal a fast topic|Conditioned response from Albers on weight | CSNNE: Ellsbury open to sliding down batting order | Valentine focused on keeping opposing runners on first | A healthy response from Ellsbury | Beckett working on changeup | WEEI: Airing it out on mound & Josh Beckett see no reason to change | Ellsbury has his goals & 2012 MVP might just be one | In retrospect, Sox would have handled Theo compensation differently