By: Ryan Graywacz
The Red Sox currently have a glut of infield options heading into the 2018 season, but not all of them are going to be able to crack the roster. There are definite players such as Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, but who else is available to play the dirt for the Red Sox this season?
1) Mitch Moreland
Moreland was brought back on a bargain two year deal worth only $13 million. His 2017 numbers were a little skewed as Moreland played roughly six weeks with a broken toe in which he went 5-for-56, but in total, he slashed .246/.326/.443/.769 with a career high 34 doubles.
He will be the primary starter against right-handed pitching, and not play so much versus left-handed pitching, which might have come in to play as to why he was so cheap. Expect Moreland to put up another solid season all around, health assuming.
1a) Hanley Ramirez
Here we go again - Hanley back at first. Should problems kept Hanley away from first base last year except for a handful of games, but he's expected to be back there in 2018. Ramirez underwent shoulder debridement surgery to get it cleaned out in preparation for the season.
The biggest question, as always, is what is Hanley going to do? Is he going to be close to the 2016 second half Hanley where he carried the team to the playoffs, or the 2017 version where he slashed .242/.320/.429/.750 with only 23 home runs, and 62 RBI.
Hanley has a vesting option for 2019 for $22 million based on if he reaches 497 plate appearances this season. He's going to have to earn that as the Red Sox will look to potentially limit his playing time to not be on the hook for that sum of cash.
2) Sam Travis
He's still considered a prospect and he got his cup of coffee last season. However, he only hit .263/.325/.342/.667 without a home run in 83 plate appearances. He's supposed to be a good source of power, and was still recovering from a leg injury a season prior. As it stands now, he's insurance if Hanley and/or Moreland were to go down with injury.
1) Dustin Pedroia
The de-facto captain of the team remains locked in at the position. Pedroia is recovering from offseason leg surgery, and in a recent podcast with Rob Bradford of WEEI, Pedroia said he is aiming for an Opening Day return despite the original prognosis keeping him out until May, potentially June.
Pedroia slashed .293/.369/.392/.760, which isn't terrible, but all below his career averages. Upon return, he's going to have to prove he can still hit while remaining healthy. His defense is elite and one of, if not the biggest reason as to why he's so valuable.
2) Marco Hernandez
Remember him? Hernandez was starting to get everyday at-bats at third base as the Pablo Sandoval show continued to fail until a freak injury took him out for the season. He fielded a ground ball at third base in an awkward way, hurt his shoulder and was done for the year.
Hernandez is the leading internal candidate to take over at second should Pedroia not be ready. Acquired from the Cubs in the Felix Doubront trade, he's shown flashes of potential with a decent average and above-average speed. This might be the time he finally gets his chance to show what he can do, and even if he's not the starter all year, he might earn the utility job.
1) Xander Bogaerts
There it is. There's the answer. He's solidified himself as the shortstop on the Red Sox and there's not really a backup plan in place. Bogaerts has fallen off the map each of the last two seasons post All-Star break. Consistency throughout the season will need to be his biggest improvement as he's a legitimate threat offensively.
His defense, on the other hand, needs work. Bogaerts seems like a great candidate to learn a lot from new manager Alex Cora. Bogaerts regularly is bottom of the pack in advanced metrics such as Defensive Runs Saved, UZR, and others. He will need to hit better, or play better defense to continue to grow as a player.
1) Rafael Devers
The pudgy, smiling 21 year old will enter Spring Training as the starting third baseman - as he should. After his call up on July 23rd, Devers smashed to a .284/.338/.482/.819 with 10 home runs in 222 at-bats. He also had some big hits in the Red Sox limited postseason run.
His defense, on the other hand, is questionable, even a little scary. Devers made some flashly plays, and put himself on the highlight reel a couple of times. But the routine play wasn't always routine. As the days wore on and months got longer, errors caught up to him. Devers committed 14 errors in his 56 games. Devers is another play who will greatly benefit from Cora's teachings.
2) Deven Marrero
Eh? Marrero is out of options entering 2018, so it's possible he'll either find his way onto the team, be removed from the 40 man roster, or traded.
Marrero will never be anything special with the bat - ever - but he's glove is one of the best out there. He can help some team defensively late in the innings, but it doesn't seem like Boston will be that place in 2018.
1) Christian Vazquez
Coming off a strong finish to the season, Vazquez was named the #1 catcher heading into 2018. In the second half of the season, Vazquez hit .314/.359/.453/.812, and his defense remained top notch throwing out 42% of runners.
Should he continue to improve offensively and defensively, or even stand pat where he was in the second half, the Red Sox will have themselves a bonafide two-way catcher.
2) Sandy Leon
Sandy will enter the season as the backup catcher as has been the career norm less 2016. Sandy wasn't much offensively in 2017, batting only .225/.290/.354/.644, but he did throw out 37% of baserunners.
Defense is why Leon will be on the team, and he's a solid backup catcher. He'll have his moments with the bat, but he's there to call a good game and throw out potential stealers.
1) Brock Holt
Holt might be one of the biggest questions, if not the biggest, on the Red Sox. Recovering from concussions and vertigo, Holt was underwhelming in 2017 hitting .200/.305/.243/.548 with just six extra base hits, all doubles.
Brock Holt doesn't need to play at an All-Star level like he did in 2015, but he needs to be better. His versatility around the infield and the ability to even play some outfield spots makes him one of better finds in the game. But if he doesn't hit, he won't play.
2) Tzu Wei-Lin
The Tzunami. Lin became a quick fan favorite upon his call up, providing a few big hits, playing stellar defense and not looking at all overmatched despite never being above AA ball or being on the radar of anyone. He provides the same skill set as Brock Holt, but a lot younger at only 23 years of age.
Lin could challenge Holt from the utility spot in Spring Training, but it seems more likely he'll be in AAA for the beginning of the year.
3) Blake Swihart
Here's an interesting name. A catcher by trade, Swihart was tried in the outfield in 2016, and broke his ankle, missing the remainder of the season. Reports are now that he's being tried around the infield to provide versatility and restore some of the top prospect status he once held.
If successful, Swihart could play second base, third base, and catcher. If that's doable, plus the potential his bat has, he could be an intriguing piece. It's more likely he'll remain the third string catcher.
The Red Sox infield doesn't have much question marks. It's very likely to see Moreland, Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Devers around the diamond on most nights. But it;s possible Dave Dombrowski could still bring someone in through trade or free agency.