We all love a good baseball argument, and with Opening Day arriving Thursday, we already know this much about the 2012 Boston Red Sox: They are going to spur a heck of lot of those arguments. For evidence, just take a look at Version 2.0 of my periodic rankings of the players on the 2012 Red Sox’ roster from 25 to 1 (based primarily but vaguely on projected importance to the team’s success immediately and in the near future). This is the third year I’ve done these rankings, and it’s perhaps the most challenging. Who is more irreplaceable: Ellsbury, Gonzalez, or Pedroia? How do you quantify all that Alfredo Aceves does? And will I make the mistake of ranking Bobby Jenks ever again? Click through to see the rankings, and let us know how you’d rank ‘em.
1. Dustin Pedroia
Previous ranking: 1
Pedroia was one of three Red Sox players to finish in the top 10 in AL MVP balloting last season, coming in ninth after a season in which he hit .307 with 21 homers, 91 RBIs, 195 hits, and 37 doubles while winning the Gold Glove award at second base. The argument can be made that either Gonzalez or Ellsbury belongs in the top spot on this list, but we’re going with Pedey not only because of his production, but because in the transition from Terry Francona to Bobby Valentine and in the effort to put the hideous September behind them, his leadership and attitude are more essential than ever.
2. Adrian Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 2
In his first season with the Red Sox, the sweet-swinging first baseman led the AL in hits (213) while batting .338 with a .957 OPS and hitting 27 homers. He was seventh in the AL MVP balloting, but there’s also the sense he could be even better in ‘12. Whether it was because of a shoulder injury or his participation in the Home Run Derby, his second half (.317-10-40) did not match his first half (.354-17-77) when he was the best hitter in the league not named Jose Bautista. We’re putting him down for 40 homers and a legitimate shot at the MVP award in ‘12.
3. Jon Lester
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