The No. 9 spot in the batting order sometimes goes to a speedster, somebody a manager likes to call a “second leadoff hitter.” Other times, maybe it goes to a light-hitting catcher or middle infielder.
Then you have the Red Sox and manager Alex Cora, who are going against convention with their ninth-place hitter in 2021.
The powerful Bobby Dalbec, who belted eight homers in 80 at-bats last season in his first look at the Major Leagues, will bat ninth in this, his true rookie season.
This is the same Dalbec who is projected to hit 36 homers in the Bill James Handbook and 28 by Baseball Prospectus.
Dalbec, who has hit in the middle of the order for most of his baseball life, isn’t taking Cora’s decision as a slight. In fact, he seems to be getting a kick out of it.
“I mean, I think the lineup speaks for itself, pretty dangerous lineup, especially when everyone’s firing on all cylinders,” the 25-year-old Dalbec said before Boston’s 2-0 Grapefruit League victory Wednesday night against the Orioles at JetBlue Park. “I’ll hit wherever they want to put me. And hitting ninth is cool. I get to flip the lineup potentially and hand it off to the next guy, and that’ll be my thing if that’s where I am.”
The club’s No. 3 prospect, as rated by MLB Pipeline, Dalbec has maintained his power this spring, with six home runs and a 1.221 OPS in 45 plate appearances. The first baseman looks forward to providing a power threat at a spot where opposing pitchers are accustomed to sometimes being able to take a breather.
“Yeah, it’s cool. I mean, I think A.C. has said that we’re trying things, he’s trying things a little bit different with the lineup,” Dalbec said. “And it sounds pretty fun to me.”
The idea first came into Cora’s head after the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals for Franchy Cordero. Cordero, who has as much raw power as Dalbec, will hit eighth against righties in his platoon role.
“It’s just the cards that we have. You have to maximize your lineup,” said Cora. “I do believe this is a great way of maximizing our lineup. You see the at-bats. Even Franchy, in the short period of time, although it’s still Spring Training, you can see a conscious effort of making contact. It will be great for him if he makes contact. He can do damage. And then with Bobby, just one of those that, we will protect him. I think he’s protected in that spot.”
You could see a similar look in some other lineups. Gary Sánchez or Clint Frazier might hit ninth for the Yankees. The Twins could go with power-hitting prospect Brent Rooker at the end of the lineup.
But big boppers hitting low in the order remains a rarity.
The lineup Cora will send out not only will have power at the bottom but should have balance throughout.
Then, if all goes well, those two boppers at the bottom of the lineup will produce.
“And if you are the opposition, there’s no breathing room with us. Christian is one of the best offensive catchers the last two years in the big leagues, and he’s going to be hitting seventh,” said Cora. “Certain situations, he’ll hit higher. It’s just a good lineup. It’s a complete lineup. It just happens that our bottom guys, they hit for power.”