What Are The Red Sox Third Base Options?

Since the days of Mike Lowell, the Boston Red Sox third base situation has been in a constant state of change. First were Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis. There was promise of Will Middlebrooks and, briefly, Jose Iglesias. Next came the Xander Bogaerts experiment and the Pablo Sandoval signing, followed by the Travis Shaw rise and fall.

red sox third base

This season, it’s been even more of a revolving door. After an impressive spring, Pablo Sandoval got his job back. When Sandoval was injured in late April, Marco Hernandez received some playing time. Then when Hernandez went down, journeyman Josh Rutledge got the opportunity. Since his struggles, however, former top draft pick Deven Marrero has been on the field. All of these injuries and slumps inconveniently happened while the original backup, Brock Holt, is recovering from vertigo.

In addition, the offensive and defensive production at third base for the Red Sox leaves a lot to be desired no matter who is on the field. Obviously, some of this is due to their inexperience, but when a contending team like the Red Sox needs consistent production, ironically changes tend to be made.

Currently, the Red Sox do not even have a third baseman who qualifies with enough at-bats to be ranked for batting average. The only players remotely close are Rutledge and Sandoval, who are batting .281 and .213 respectively. Sandoval, if healthy, would be third-to-last in the AL in batting average as of today. In the field, Hernandez and Sandoval rank in the top ten in errors committed, despite only playing in a combined total of 23 games.

Current Red Sox Third Base Options

So who will end up being the answer at third base? One could argue it will be Sandoval when he returns from the disabled list simply because he was the starter. It most likely will not be Rutledge or Hernandez full-time because they are just utility infielders by trade.

If not Sandoval, the Red Sox are left with few options. They could stick with Marrero because of his sound defense, but lose pop in the lineup. Considering they are already last in the American League in home runs, that is not a good idea.

Another option would be to ride it out until the trade deadline, see what Panda has to offer, then try to acquire somebody like David Freese, Danny Valencia, or even free-agent Brett Lawrie or old friend Will Middlebrooks.

The last option is unlikely but possible. Top infield prospect Rafael Devers is currently hitting .333 with a .403 SLG and a 1.007 OPS. He only has 4 errors in 27 games at Portland as well.

Ultimately, Dave Dombrowski will need to make a decision soon – as the Red Sox struggle to find offensive consistency.

Brock Holt Should Return to Utility Status

The return of Brock Holt has given the Red Sox a big boost this week. Since being reinstated from the concussion list, the versatile scrapper has collected a hit in each game and has provided a jolt of energy to his club. However, I cannot help but feel that Holt is better deployed as a super utility player rather than a starting left fielder, and that’s something the Red Sox could look to address before the trade deadline.

Brock Holt

In decades gone by, there was a stigma attached to utility players. They were usually guys who could do one thing well, usually with the glove, but whose overall play didn’t warrant regular at bats. Yet now, every team prizes flexibility, to the point where players are almost expected to succeed at multiple positions.

Joe Maddon was an early pioneer of the super utility position in Tampa, with Ben Zobrist filling the role. He has carried that over to the Cubs, where stars like Kris Bryant and Javy Baez are asked to change positions on a daily basis. Such a situation allows a manager to manage rest more easily, keeping his players fresh throughout a marathon season, while also taking advantage of platoon splits.

Brock Holt, The Ultimate Super Utility Guy

Brock Holt built a strong reputation as a super utility guy early in his Red Sox career. Last season, for instance, he played every position except pitcher and catcher. Despite his overarching status as a bench player, Holt still saw action in 129 games. He produced a very impressive batting average of .280 while getting on base at a .349 clip. That distinguished him as a very good player, but the ability to play almost any position really well while still hitting strongly made Brock Holt a phenomenal asset to the Red Sox.

The front office was so enamored with his performance that Dave Dombrowski gave Holt a regular job this season. When Hanley Ramirez transitioned to first base, Brock became the everyday left fielder. He still plays occasionally at other spots, but the bulk of his playing time has come in front of the Green Monster in 2016.

Why The Bench Needs More Versatility

Holt was performing slightly below his usual pace through the first few weeks, only for a head injury to keep him out of action for more than a month. During that period, the Red Sox missed his energy and leadership, but his presence as a regular-position player has also diminished the Boston bench.

Unheralded players like Mike Miller, Ryan LaMarre and Deven Marrero have been pressed into action, which is less than ideal for Boston. Chris Young has slowly turned around his season, and improvement has also been made by Josh Rutledge and Marco Hernandez, but the Sox still lack a certain amount of flexibility with Brock Holt anchored to left field.

If he could return to a utility role, filling in anywhere that rest is needed for veterans, Holt’s value would be increased, not diminished. Although his effort deserves a starting gig, Holt could still play almost every day, but at different spots on the diamond. Although Hanley Ramirez is having a good season, the Sox could always use some additional power to protect David Ortiz in the lineup, and left field could also be a spot to add that.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t going to make major moves to bolster an offense that has scored more runs than any other in baseball. If Dombrowski makes a big trade this month, it’s likely to be for pitching. That’s the major need of this ballclub. However, a good front office always tries to find incremental ways to eke more value from its major league roster, and a more dynamic utilization of Brock Holt is certainly one change Boston could explore in this regard.

Red Sox Versatility Should Not Be Overlooked

I have come to the conclusion that versatility is the Red Sox organization’s top strength and it should not be overlooked in 2016. Already we have seen guys step-up to the challenge when injuries and inconsistency arose. Guys like Josh Rutledge, Marco Hernandez, and Heath Hembree have all shown us what “Red Sox versatility” really is and by being key contributors and bright spots in what has so far been a dismal season.Red Sox versatility

Down in Pawtucket the phrase ‘Red Sox versatility’ can be seen in action on a daily basis with guys not only getting reps in at different positions, but also embracing the challenge. One of those guys is IF/OF Sean Coyle. A 3rd round draft pick out of Germantown Academy (PA) in 2010 has been seeing time this season down in Pawtucket at 2B, 3B, and CF. When I asked him about seeing time in the outfield, Coyle responded:

“It’s an easy comp, being an infielder and then going ahead to the outfield. i know Mookie started out as an infielder and then moved to the outfield, anywhere I can go and pick up some AB’s I’m ready to go, I’m ready to play and its kind of a challenge I’ve embraced.”

Having a guy who you can move all around the left side of the infield as well as CF not only helps the organization, but also will help him in the long run. With the way injuries have been taking over the first month of the season for the Sox, you could be seeing Coyle’s versatility at the major league level this season.

It’s becoming more of a common trend to see guys becoming utility-players . Names such as Ben Zobrist, Brock Holt, and Danny Valencia are showing teams that having the ability to play multiple positions can surely strengthen a teams depth, but also gives managers the flexibility to carry an extra pitcher or 2, and we all know you can never have too many pitchers.

 

Tim Roberson Hits for Cycle in Wild Sea Dogs Victory

Tim Roberson played the game of his career on Friday night, hitting for the cycle en route to a 13-11 comeback victory for the Portland Sea Dogs over the New Britain Rock Cats in front of 5,161 fans at New Britain Stadium in New Britain, CT.

“Just one of those nights, I saw the ball well,” Roberson told Kelsie Heneghan of MiLB.com. “Almost speechless and never expected that, but I’m blessed and happy that we got the win, most importantly. To do it Tim Robersonat the professional level, and at the place I’m in here and in this moment, I’ll definitely remember this one for the rest of my life.”

After Carlos Asuaje reached base on throwing error in the bottom of the third, Roberson got his first hit of the game when he launched a ball to left field for a two-out double.

Portland entered the seventh inning trailing the Rock Cats by a score of 10-4 and after Oscar Tejeda delivered an RBI single, Roberson drilled the second pitch he saw from Tyler Ybarra for a grand slam home run, the first Double-A home run of his career.

“I was looking for a good pitch to hit. I kind of chased the first pitch, a curveball down, and I was just looking for something up and to put a good swing on it. And I got that and squared it up,” Roberson told Heneghan.

“It felt good because we’re down five at that point and it got us back to within one and we’re battling all night. And it felt really good to help the team out and get us within one.”

Trailing by two runs, Tejeda would reach on a lead-off walk to begin the ninth before advancing to second on a single by Roberson. Both runners were able to move up on a sacrifice bunt by catcher Luis Martinez and then scored on a two-run single by shortstop Marco Hernandez to tie the game at 11 runs a piece.

Needing just a triple to become the third player in Sea Dogs’ history to hit for the cycle, Roberson stepped to the plate in the 10th with two on and one out.

The 25-year old West Palm Beach, Florida native launched a ball to center field and as he rounded first base he could hear first base coach Joe Thurston encouraging him to “go for it.” Roberson realized Thurston was referring to a triple and sped up as he rounded second before cruising into third with a two-run go-ahead triple to give Portland the 13-11 lead.

Even though it took one extra frame to accomplish the rare feat, it was a game Roberson will soon forget.

“I got a pitch up and put a good swing on it and things happened from there,” he said. “Just blessed that I get to do this every day and be a part of this. And what happened tonight, I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. Some things have to happen [to get a triple] — I’m not the fastest guy in the world but luckily, tonight was in my favor.”