Coming into last season, Pablo Sandoval had mammoth expectations but didn’t quite live up to them.
The Boston Red Sox’s front office made two major moves last offseason– signing Sandoval to a five-year, $100-million deal and Hanley Ramirez to a four-year, $88-million deal. Both saw their playing time hindered due to injuries but unlike Ramirez, Sandoval was completely ineffective when he was on the diamond.
The 29-year-old Sandoval struggled immensely at the dish in 2015, posting career-lows in batting average (.245), on-base percentage (.292), slugging percentage (.366) and his ten home runs were his lowest since he entered the league in 2008. Sandoval was extremely ineffective from the right side of the plate that he became solely a right-handed batter.
His struggles at the plate were just part of his what was a train-wreck campaign for the 2012 World Series MVP. Sandoval’s range and accuracy also diminished leading to a career-high 15 errors.
Over the offseason, Red Sox manager John Farrell reported Sandoval was down 20 pounds from his last game in 2015. Losing weight was a clear goal for Sandoval heading into the winter if he wanted to be on the field. The more weight you are carrying around, the more cause for concern on the injury side of things.
What to look for in 2016:
- His weight
It’s obvious he was out of shape entering and leaving last season. No one is expecting Sandoval to drop 50 pounds, 20 pounds should significantly help him defensively. The big question then becomes if he will be able to keep it off. Sandoval lost 22 pounds during a six-week span in 2013 and shredded more than 40 pounds heading into 2014.
Sandoval has never been anything out of the ordinary from the right side of the plate but the presence of a switch-hitter in the Red Sox order would be significant. Having a switch-hitter come up in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two outs is strenuous on the opposing manager.
- Patience at the Plate
Sandoval took a base on balls one in every 20.2 times at the plate last season, which is a far cry from his All-Star years in 2011 and 2012 when drew a walk one time in every 14.6 and 11.6 plate appearances respectively.
- Patience with Sandoval
The Red Sox have two serviceable backups licking their chops to see action on the field. Brock Holt is coming off an All-Star season filling in for Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez for a majority of the season. 2015 was the debut of Travis Shaw and he made the most of it. The long-time minor leaguer finished the season with 13 home runs, all coming in the months of August and September. Shaw, a left-handed batter in his own right, hit seven of those home runs off right-handers. A platoon could be in the works if Sandoval isn’t hitting.
- Trade Deadline
Two scenarios could cause Sandoval to move teams this season. One, he could just be completely ineffective and Farrell decides he wants to go with the younger players. Two, the Red Sox could be completely out of it meaning there would be no sense in keeping a high-priced player like Sandoval.
My Expectations for Sandoval in 2016:
He’s going to have a nice bounce back season in year number two in Boston. There is seemingly no way Sandoval is as bad as he was portrayed to be last season. He will benefit from a much stronger Red Sox lineup going into the season with the emergence of Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts.