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2021 Red Sox Infield Outlook: Talent, Versatility, Prospects Fuel Optimism

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Assuming (comparatively) good well being, we all know what we’ll get this season from the left facet of the Red Sox infield.

The fitting facet? That’s the place issues get attention-grabbing, however nonetheless intriguing.

Boston in 2020 received one other wonderful season from shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who hit .300 with 11 homers and 28 RBIs. The 28-year-old solidified himself as one of the best all-around participant on the group, in addition to the chief within the clubhouse. Third baseman Rafael Devers was a slightly different story, as he skilled an all-around regression from his MVP-caliber 2019 marketing campaign. However, nonetheless oozing expertise at 24 years previous, there may be little cause to fret about Devers, particularly with Alex Cora again as supervisor.

Now, about second and first base.

The next gamers all noticed time at second base final season: Jose Peraza; Michael Chavis; Jonathan Arauz; Tzu-Wei Lin; and Christian Arroyo. Relying on how spring coaching shakes out, it’s solely potential none of these gamers break camp on the foremost league roster.

Right here’s how Red Sox second basemen collectively ranked in numerous statistical classes, by way of FanGraphs:

FanGraphs WAR: -0.2 (twenty fifth)
FanGraphs offensive score: -9.0 (twenty second)
FanGraphs defensive score: 0.5 (18th)
Batting common: .236 (sixteenth)
On-base share: .295 (twentieth)
Slugging share: .356 (twentieth)

Yeah, it wasn’t good.

The numbers for first basemen have been barely higher, largely due to Mitch Moreland, who was wonderful earlier than a midseason commerce to the San Diego Padres. Rookie Bobby Dalbec’s late-season energy surge additionally helped.

Right here’s how Moreland, Dalbec and Chavis (21 stars) collectively fared:

FanGraphs WAR: 1.0 (thirteenth)
FanGraphs offensive score: 9.7 (sixth)
FanGraphs defensive score: -8.0 (twenty fifth)
Batting common: .253 (tenth)
On-base share: .328 (twelfth)
Slugging share: .522 (fifth)

Once more, higher, however with caveats.

So, what’s totally different this yr, and why might issues be higher?

The signings of Enrique “Kike” Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez ought to present extra expertise and flexibility and, consequently, extra stability. Each veterans could be described as “superutility” gamers, able to taking part in most infield and outfield positions. And they need to see loads of time on the appropriate facet of the infield.

Hernandez (a .240 profession hitter) made 22 begins at second base final season for the Dodgers and twice appeared at first base. He’ll play in all places however, if he performs effectively, he may very well be the first second baseman

Gonzalez final yr made 19 begins at second and 5 at first. A switch-hitter, Gonzalez might platoon at first with Dalbec along with taking part in everywhere in the outfield and infield. The 31-year-old has extra offensive upside than Hernandez, together with his 2017 marketing campaign (.303 common, 23 homers and 90 RBIs) representing his high-water mark.

Regardless of the problems of final season, it wasn’t all dangerous. Arroyo impressed down the stretch and will platoon at second. Arauz, who began sizzling however completed chilly, probably will begin the season within the minors however presents extra worth as a superutility depth choice. He’s younger and has upside.

Clearly, Dalbec, for all his strikeouts, offers followers a lot to get excited over. As for Chavis, his future — be it within the infield or the outfield or, maybe, even the minors — probably will probably be decided by his spring efficiency.

After which there’s the farm system.

Jeter Downs, acquired within the Mookie Betts commerce, largely is considered because the No. 2 prospect within the Red Sox system and the second baseman of the longer term. He would possibly pressure his method to the majors as early as mid-season. Additional down the pipeline is first baseman Triston Casas, Boston’s prime total prospect. He nonetheless is a pair years away, however some evaluators see Freddie Freeman written throughout him.

So, now matter the way you slice it, you must really feel higher in regards to the 2021 Red Sox infield than you do the 2020 model, and you’ve got cause to imagine the longer term is (very) vivid.

For now, let’s concentrate on 2021. Listed below are our best- and worst-case situations, plus an X-factor, for Boston’s infield:

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
Let’s attempt to hold this considerably real looking.

Devers, fueled by Cora’s return, reclaims his standing as among the best younger offensive gamers within the sport and settles in as a median defender. Bogaerts takes his sport to a different degree, setting career-highs in homers (33 in 2019) and batting common (.320 in 2015).

On the appropriate facet, Hernandez does simply sufficient offensively and defensively to earn the vast majority of the time at second base. Arroyo, a first-round decide in 2013, finds a house in Boston and proves worthy of a spot on the bench. Gonzalez fills in when wanted.

At first, Dalbec hits 30-plus homers whereas posting a tolerable strikeout price and taking part in strong protection. Gonzalez, reunited with Cora, places his 2020 struggles with the Minnesota Twins behind himself and presents above-average offense in a platoon position.

Maybe Downs pops after a mid-to-late-season call-up.

Oh, and everybody stays comparatively wholesome.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
Once more, let’s hold this real looking. It’s not just like the sky will fall on the infield.

Devers doesn’t enhance at third base and proves himself to be a defensive legal responsibility. The Red Sox, needing to maintain his bat within the lineup, are pressured to maneuver him from third to first to designated hitter, creating all types of probably problematic instability.

Bogaerts has a down a yr when the Red Sox want most of their gamers to over-perform in the event that they need to make the playoffs.

Boston by no means fairly finds the correct mix and matchups for Hernandez and Gonzalez, and neither exceed expectations when they’re on the sector. Arroyo struggles and loses his spot on the massive league roster.

Dalbec, placing out far an excessive amount of, goes by a sophomore hunch and loses taking part in time. Gonzalez isn’t a lot better.

Downs scuffles in Double-A, prolonging his promotion to the massive leagues.

X-FACTOR
Dalbec.

He has plenty of work to do. Nonetheless, the 2016 fourth-round decide possesses middle-of-the-order offensive potential. Ought to Dalbec get off to a great begin and, say, hit .250 with 30-ish homers, every thing adjustments for this offense.

Ought to issues go sideways for Dalbec, Gonzalez might need to play greater than anticipated at first base, thus limiting Cora’s means to make the most of his versatility.

The submit 2021 Red Sox Infield Outlook: Expertise, Versatility, Prospects Fuel Optimism appeared first on NESN.com.

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