Predicting Red Sox Spring Training Positional Battles

First Base

Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America

Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America

Starter: Mike Napoli

This was another fairly easy one, as Napoli became one of the pillars of the 2013 Championship team and is locked up through the end of the year on a $16 million contract. Napoli’s second year in Boston was not quite as good as his first, but he still put up good numbers even as the Red Sox offense sputtered.

Napoli triple slashed .248/.370/.419 and knocked in 17 dingers. The notable drop came in the form of his RBI totals (just 55 in 2014, 92 in 2013), and this can seemingly be attributed to the offensive output around him dropping off. Or perhaps it was resulting from a drop off in doubles hit? The 33 year-old Napoli will likely have to prove it was the former if he hopes to be rewarded with a new contract after his walk year.

Backup: Daniel Nava

This is a tricky call. On the one hand Craig is undoubtedly more talented than Nava, but on the other hand, Nava has proven himself in Boston where Craig has not. Nava thrives as a left handed hitter, a scarcity in a Boston lineup heavy on righties, and Nava is also the better defender of the two (although that is saying more about Craig’s deficiencies than Nava’s ability), and more affordable.

One of these two players will make the roster as a 1B/OF to spell the injury prone Napoli and Ramirez, while the other will likely be traded. To give up on Craig this early would be a painful move for Cherington, but can he put his faith in Craig bouncing back? We will have a better answer after Spring Training but for now, my gut says Nava stays.

Just missed: Allen Craig

Second Base

Starter: Dustin Pedroia

Is there really a case to be made for someone else? Quiet down Betts fans, as much as I hope Betts gets plenty of playing time in 2015, he will have to look elsewhere. The keystone has been and will continue to be for the foreseeable future the home of Pedroia. Now firmly entrenched in the number 2 spot in the lineup, completely healthy (reportedly), and surrounded by offensive weapons, Pedroia will have a chance to bounce back in 2015.

Pedey batted .278 last year, not a bad number by any means, but his lowest mark since his rookie year in 2006. More concerning was his continued decline in power: his slugging percentage dropped to .376, also his lowest number since his rookie year. Regardless, Laser Show plays the best defensive second base in baseball and I have faith in a better offensive year too.

Shortstop

Starter: Xander Bogaerts

Here’s a big one. Well, I guess the offseason additions mitigate the risk of Bogaerts failing to meet expectations again in 2015, but if he can reach the heights he was expected to reach last year, he’ll be an x-factor for this team. He is one of the players that can take this offense from great, to dominant (I’ll get to the other two later.)

His defense remains a question mark, but he will be here for his bat. On the season his slash line was a mere .240/.297/.362, but those who watched him saw flashes of what he could be in May and September when his slash lines were .327/.407/.490 and .313/.317/.490. He also knocked in 12 homers and 28 doubles, showcasing a taste of his power potential. Keep an eye on X, I have a lot of faith in him taking off this year.

Just Missed: Devin Marrero

Third Base

Starter: Pablo Sandoval

The first of the offseason additions on this list, Sandoval was absolutely coveted by Red Sox fans, and apparently the Red Sox front office, as soon as the World Series ended. The Kung Fu Panda hit .429/.467/.536 in the World Series showcasing all of the talent he had been flashing across his seven year career.

The 29-year-old was signed to a five year contract worth $95 million with a sixth year option, to be the Red Sox everyday third baseman. He should provide good defense next to Bogaerts and offer good hitting and power from the left side of the plate batting fifth in Boston’s new look lineup.

Just Missed: Garin Cecchini

Utility Infielder

Backup: Brock Holt

The legend of Brock Holt continues! This one is another no brainer, even with the signs of coming back to Earth that Holt showed after the All Star break. The man plays stellar defense at every position and has shown that he can at least be a streaky hitter. Sounds like a pretty solid utility player in my book.

6 Responses

  1. sparkyII

    I must say this was the best YB article I have enjoyed to date. Too bad the Sox can’t keep all of those players mentioned in this run down but hey, it looks to be a great trade line up. I along with many Sox fans will be disappointed to see some of our favourites not on the roster come April but that’s baseball. It don’t get any better than this.

    Reply
    • Ryan Hathaway

      Wow that is tremendous praise, thank you very much I’m happy you enjoyed my piece. It was an exciting winter and I can’t wait for this season to get started but it’s also quite exciting to remember how much flexibility this team has in both this season and beyond. There are so many trade possibilities and so many prospects that can be plugged into this team if it doesn’t work. It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out and you’re right, it really doesn’t get any better than this!

      Reply
      • sparkyII

        I wasn’t expecting a response from you but I’m glad you did. It’s nice to know some writers do indeed follow up by reading comments from the readers. I will be following you throughout the season so keep up the good work.
        One other thing, I predict the Sox, Cole Hammels, and the Phillies will come to terms by the end of March if not sooner. What’s your thoughts?

      • Ryan Hathaway

        Again appreciated, seeing a comment at the bottom of my posts is one of my favorite aspects of this job.

        For me, too, Hamels or another pitching addition seems quite likely. Though I’m not sure it will happen by March. I think that Amaro and Cherington are in a stand off and I think that either Amaro will budge or Cherington will move onto someone else like Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, or Doug Fister sometime before the deadline.

        In terms of a spring training trade, I actually think it is more likely the team takes a look at Cliff Lee if he proves healthy.

      • sparkyII

        You’re probably right on the trade dead line, I’m just getting anxious, but I keep thinking the Phills are a lot more desperate than they let on. Getting rid of Hamel’s contract and adding a top prospect is better than playing in limbo for another year. I wonder how the Philly fans will react to the stalemate their team is in and how long their GM will keep his job under such pressure.

      • sparkyII

        One other thought: the Sox have been interested in Cole Hamels for a long time and he would be much more affordable than Zimmerman and the others you named. One top prospect and two prospects of lesser value would or should be enough to make this deal happen. It would be to the
        Sox advantage to have Hamels in ST along with the rest of the team

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