This week, at the midpoint of the Red Sox’ season, we began to examine how the high hopes of the preseason have given way to a much harsher reality. Each day, we’ll focus on a specific area. Today, we’ll continue with the infielders.
Note: Statistical information is at the conclusion of 82 games. Next
March: Save for a serious injury derailing his season, this future, perennial All-Star will be the AL’s Rookie of the Year in 2014. He demonstrated a calm, cool, and collected nature when inserted for Will Middlebrooks in last year’s postseason and was completely unfazed by the astronomical pressure. After 30 career MLB games, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bogaerts get off to a slow start – a la Dustin Pedroia in 2007 – but, remember, this kid’s just 21.
Midpoint: Well, Bogaerts did get off to a slow start, hitting just .252 with one homer, five RBI, and a .700 OPS in his first 34 games. Thing is, in 43 contests since, he’s hit .250 with five home runs, 14 RBI, and a .717 OPS. In other words, his offensive tears have been balanced out by his rookie lulls for a .251 average and .711 OPS overall. It’s fair to wonder if the shortstop-turned-third-baseman is even the best rookie on his team at the moment (ehem, Brock Holt). Has Cuba’s Jose Abreau been named the Rookie of the Year yet? Or did it go to Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka?
Second-Half: With Stephen Drew added to the fold, Bogaerts will obviously finish out the season at third. His future there can be determined later. Expect a strong conclusion to a likely playoff-less season for the youngster. Bogaerts’ defense (11 errors) will improve and the average (marred by a .091 funk since June 8) will also return to form. An average approaching .280, double-digit long-balls, and 40-50 RBI should be attainable. Next
March: N/A (Waiting for his phone to ring.)
Midpoint: Drew’s panic-driven signing in response to Xander Bogaerts’ bad defense at short and Will Middlebrooks’ bad everything at third has been a full-time disaster for a prorated salary. In 17 games, the veteran and John Farrell favorite is hitting .133 with a .345 OPS. He has three extra-base hits (all doubles) and just two RBI. But, yeah, he’s been good defensively – only two errors in 77 chances.
Second-Half: Seemingly, the 31-year-old’s offense has to get better. Those of us against the idea of bringing Drew back were only joking when suggesting he couldn’t be as bad offensively as he was last postseason. Turns out, he’s worse. At least so far. The at-bats are low (just 60) after a far too short minor league assignment so it wouldn’t take much to turn his luck around. If he doesn’t finish closer to the .253 he hit in 2013, this could go down as GM Ben Cherington’s worst decision on his resume. That means it was probably Larry Luchhino’s. Next
March: The 29-year-old switch-hitting utility infielder can play every position but first base (and, truthfully, could probably hold his own there also) but he arrived in Boston with a stigma: His five seasons in the majors were spent in Colorado. Don’t be alarmed; his career splits are basically even. At Mile High, Herrera hit .266 with a .671 OPS in 533 plate appearances. On the road, he batted .265 with a .645 OPS in 576 trips to the dish. The transition from the Rockies should go fine.
Midpoint: WRONG! The sporadically used Herrera is hitting .224 with a .577 OPS. In 40 games and just 98 plate appearances, he’s driven in eight runs. As far as those splits, he’s hit .294 at home and .176 on the road because, well, unfortunately “the road” isn’t in Colorado. But, yes, he has played every position in the infield.
Second-Half: Should the team ever get healthy enough to have to choose between Herrera and Brock Holt as its utility infielder, you know which way that will go. Though Herrera has improved at the plate since the start of June, it’s hard to think he’ll still be on the roster for the duration. Next
March: N/A (In Pawtucket, though still the best part of the Joel Hanrahan trade.)
Midpoint: Ever feel like you’ve seen God in person? The versatile Holt has basically done everything but pitch and catch, though I’m pretty sure he’d be Pedro Martinez or Carlton Fisk if he tried. Before this season, Holt had never played first base or in the outfield, but who can tell? At the plate, the 26-year-old Texan is hitting .321 with an .818 OPS. He’s stabilized a lead-off position that was without answers and he rarely has a bad game. Oh, and he makes about $10 compared to other players of his brief and heroic value.
Second-Half: There’s no end in sight for this kid. Not because there can’t be, but because Red Sox fans can’t handle the idea of him coming back down to earth during such a disappointing season. Fans need something to root for, at least until football season, and it’s pretty much prospects and Holt. While I’m writing this, he’s probably learning how to throw a curveball. Next
March: We have no idea who the real Will Middlebrooks is yet. Is he the youngster who played Kevin Youkilis out of town by batting .288 with an .835 OPS as a rookie, or the kid who hit .227 with a .696 OPS as a sophomore before getting benched in the playoffs? One thing is clear, though, and that’s his power. The 25-year-old has 32 home runs and 103 RBI in 615 regular season at-bats, and he’s been bashing the ball this spring with four homers and a .341 average in 16 games. The Red Sox, at least in part, opted not to re-sign Stephen Drew because they have confidence Middlebrooks can avoid his annual trip down I-95 in 2014. I expect they’ll be rewarded by that decision.
Midpoint: There’s a joke in here somewhere, but it’s undoubtedly cruel. Couldn’t have been more off on this one. Middlebrooks has stunk and he can’t stay healthy. When he has, he’s hit .197 with a .629 OPS and only two homers in 21 games for Boston. That fact coupled with multiple trips to the disabled list for a right calf strain and a fractured index finger (from which he’s yet to return since May 17 and was just recently shut down entirely) resulted in the return of Drew. Now, the Red Sox are hoping to get him healthy and maybe even turn him into an outfielder with the infield full and the offense miserable from left to right.
Second-Half: Middlebrooks was once a trade chip, perhaps worthy of centerpiece status to the right organization (hello, Miami). It could be that he’d be more appealing as an outfielder with pop, but he’s early in the possible transition and no longer has a home in the Red Sox infield in 2013. Next year could bring a reboot of the previous plan with Drew gone, Bogaerts at short, and Middlebrooks at third, but that may not happen without Garin Cecchini challenging him for time. In the meantime, here’s hoping he can find his health, his stroke, and his outfielder’s mitt in the coming months – but don’t be surprised if you don’t see him on the big league roster before September call-ups. Next
March: Napoli was stout in the ALCS versus the Tigers and delivered some big hits against the Cardinals in the World Series after a solid first season in Boston, his healthiest in eight years. At 32, the Sox know exactly what they have in the slugger. He’ll have plenty of highs and plenty of lows, all the while mashing homers and striking out a frustrating amount. The track record continued this spring and won’t change this season, and that’s just fine.
Midpoint: A finger sprain knocked the first baseman out of commission for a couple of weeks but, other than that, he’s basically been, ya know, Mike Napoli. The numbers (.279/.394/.465) are pretty consistent with his 2013 totals (.259/.360/.482), though the power stroke and RBI are a bit down. He’s been on fire since returning from the DL, batting .319 with five homers, nine RBI, and a .972 OPS in 20 games in June.
Second-Half: If the Red Sox are in contention for a playoff spot, Napoli will have a big September. It will probably happen either way; it’s his trademark. Before then, there will be the usual ups and downs, strikeouts and long-balls, and maybe a goofy moment or two caught on camera. How do you say “What an idiot” in Japanese? Next
March: It’s a bit odd to say after an All-Star and Gold Glove-winning season in which the de facto captain hit .301 with nine homers and 84 RBI over a career-high 160 games – while finishing seventh in the AL MVP voting, by the way – but Pedroia should be better in 2014. A thumb injury on Opening Day last year cost the star second baseman most of the pop in his swing, but that left hand was surgically repaired in the offseason and he’s hitting well this spring with a .298 average, a long-ball, and four doubles in 16 contests. There’s no reason not to expect Pedroia to come close to doubling last year’s home run production on the way to more MVP consideration.
Midpoint: What is there to say? Forget MVP consideration. Pedroia has been healthy, but the numbers continue to regress. He is still a doubles machine (23) but the four-time All-Star has only a single home run for each trip to the Midsummer Classic, 30 RBI, and his slash line of .275/.345/.383 all represent career-worst’s. To his credit, he’s not making excuses – but he’s certainly stumped for answers.
Second-Half: As my colleague Tony Massarotti wrote recently, Pedroia is on the books for a good long while at high dollars and the team’s hands are tied. The workhorse second baseman has to figure something out, easy as that is to say. Pedroia is a better second-half hitter (.306 vs. 295) in his career and his best months are July and August (both .319), so it’s fair to expect the veteran to hit his stride. The biggest concern here is the lack of home run power, which may result in single-digit dongs in consecutive years after five straight seasons in double-figures. He’s only 30, which is too soon to lose his stroke. Back to the beginning
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