Re: A Realistic View at 2013: Part II
posted at 3/31/2013 9:37 AM EDT
Spring training review continued...Infielders
Health is the key as both Pedroia and Middlebrooks are returning from injury-plagued seasons. Ironically it was the health of the new shortstop, Drew, that opened the door to one of spring training's most pleasant surprises.
Napoli...he has looked much better than I expected at first base, good hands, a willingness to dive for balls and only seemed to struggle on pop-ups behind him. He will not remind anyone of Gonzo with the glove, but he will not embarrass himself there either. He will hit, especially at Fenway, if he stays healthy and gets his at bats. Great eye and a quick stroke. He will hit lots of wall-ball singles and balls that would be home runs in other parks that will only be singles in Boston. He should produce a lot of runs in the middle of this order.
Pedroia...quite simply the best player on the team and a joy to watch play every phase of the game. I would bet that he played more spring training innings than any other MLB regular as he just never seems to want to come out of a game. I don't necessarily like him in the three hole, but that's where he apparently will be until (if) Papi gets back. This is clearly "his" team now and he is surrounded by hard-nosed players who play like him.
Iglesias..one of the most pleasant surprises of the spring was the emergence of his fairly respectable bat. First of all, he doesn't even look like the same skinny kid who played short here at the end of last year; he's probably 10 pounds heavier, all in the arms and shoulders. His defense is jaw-dropping at times, and he has the ability to make great plays look routine. I would not want to be the person who has to decide what to do with him when Drew returns, but for the many on here who think he needs more time in AAA because he hasn't earned the starting job yet, you simply need to watch him play. He and Pedey are right now the best keystone combo in baseball and will only get better as they work more together.
Middlebrooks...He has been a monster this spring. Once upon a time I thought that long-term he would have to move over to first to accomodate Boegearts (sp?) but he looks like a very solid MLB third baseman. His arm is too good to waste at first and he showed much more range than I remember from last year. I know that he is young and is likely to have to learn to make adjustments as pitchers adjust to him, but he should be a middle of the order mainstay for years. He will hit close to 30 bombs and knock in over 100 runs if this spring is any indication!
Ciriaco...at the start of ST it looked like he might be in a battle with Holt for the back-up infielder role. He made that competition a mismatch from the start. Last ST he was the best player in the camp, and while he can't say that this year, he still showed that Farrell should have no hesitation to rest any of his regular infielders as he can hit, has some pop, and can run and field.
Drew...obviously didn't see too much of him but I liked what I did see on defense. On offense, he looks like his brother, a patient (his brother was TOO patient) hitter with decent power for an infielder. However, I would try to find another home for him because Iggy would be my shortstop.
Holt...although Ciriaco blew him away for the back-up job, Holt showed me that we have very adequate depth just a phone call away. He's a good hitter, but with no power, and a pretty good defensive player. Much better at second than anyplace else. but solid insurance.
Carp...he must have pictures of Ben, Larry or somebody to have "won" a spot on the roster.
others...Gomez started out strong but as soon as it bacame apparent that Ortiz was not going to be ready and a "real" job might open up, Gomez folded. He hit well last year (MVP at AAA) when the late season games were meaningless, but... And make no mistake about it, this guy is a DH only! Nava (more on him when I write about outfielders) played an adequate first base early while they were waiting on Napoli and seems to me to be a much better solution than the fish. I didn't see much of Boegearts but you can tell that the ball jumps off his bat. Very young abd raw though, and his future could be anywhere from first to third to left field. I saw flashes from some of the younger infielders, the most impressive of which was Heiker Menesis.
Is this a playoff caliber infield? I don't know. But with Iggy and Pedey we are terrific up the middle; one key to a playoff team. We have power bats at the corners, another key. And we have a great offensive middle-infielder in Pedroia, a bonus on most teams. We have a solid backup in Ciriaco. But we will also most likely have a controversy when Drew is ready. My choice, as it has been for a couple years now, is for Iggy to be my shortstop. That is not a knock on Drew, simply my assessment of what makes this a better team. If the situation calls for it Farrell can always pinch-hit Nava late for Iggy and put Ciriaco in his place, but Iggy would be my guy. I do know this, last year's biggest weakness, our starting pitching, immediately gets better with Iggy and Pedey in the middle.