Right field is a mess for the Red Sox

04/28/2015 BOSTON, MA Shane Victorino (cq) watched from the dugout during a game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park in Boston. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
Right field has been a mess for the Red Sox this year, and Shane Victorino deserves much of the blame. –The Boston Globe

The Red Sox starters can’t pitch. Batters can’t hit with runners in scoring position. But all of this obscures possibly the biggest hole in the Red Sox lineup: right field.

For a team that supposedly had a surplus of outfield talent entering the season, the Red Sox sure haven’t shown it.

Red Sox right fielders are 13-for-107, good for a .121 batting average — the team’s worst positional mark by more than 30 points. They have two doubles, one triple, one home run and seven RBIs, all of them the worst positional numbers on the team or close to it. The Red Sox have tried several band-aids to no avail, and if they hope to get anywhere, they’ll have to fix this issue.

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The Perpetrators

Shane Victorino (5-for-35, .143/.286/.171, three runs, two RBIs as right fielder)

The Flyin’ Hawaiian has been decidedly grounded this season, posting this woeful line as Boston’s most frequent right field starter (12 games). The two-time All-Star was placed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring on April 25, opening the door for a fill-in to perform, but none have answered the call. He is expected to be activated by the Red Sox on May 11, though there’s no guarantee he returns to form after a poor, injury-hampered performance in 2014.

Daniel Nava (3-for-25, .120/.233/.120, one run, four RBIs)

With 10 appearances in right field, Daniel Nava has seen the second-most time at the position on the team, and he’s managed to play even worse than Victorino. The super utility player’s performance overall (6-for-44, .136/.235/.159) is only slightly better than his play in right.

Brock Holt (3-for-22, .136/.240/.273, two runs)

The Red Sox’ other super utility player has been strong in 68 plate appearances overall (19 hits, .317/.388/.450) but pitiful in right — though his slashes there are best on the team despite their being well south of the Mendoza Line.

Allen Craig (2-for-21, .095/.136/.238, one run, one RBI, one homer)

The recently demoted Allen Craig had been a disaster in right field for the club, though he is the lone member of the right field corps to clear the fences this season. As the second piece netted in the John Lackey trade last season alongside Joe Kelly, the Red Sox have to be feeling buyer’s remorse here.

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Jackie Bradley Jr. (0-for-4)

The Red Sox once-promising outfield prospect made his return to the big league cub Sunday alongside Craig’s demotion, going hitless in four at-bats. Given the sample size, it’s far too early to make a judgment on Bradley’s production from the spot — and a mere double would make him the team’s MVP there.

The Fixes

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Given his recent promotion, it seems Bradley is getting the first crack at righting the ship. The 25-year-old had been a dynamo in Triple-A this season (.343/.393/.465) in 107 plate appearances before his callup, but the Red Sox have seen this before. Bradley was something of a surprise Opening Day inclusion in 2013 after a scorching spring, but struggled in 107 plate appearances, hitting just .189 with three homers. The Sox tapped Bradley often last season due to injuries to Victorino and poor play from Grady Sizemore, but the struggles continued.

Coming into this season, Bradley boasted a .196 batting average in 530 plate appearances. Bradley posted a career-best 14 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A this season after strikeouts doomed him in his first chances in Boston, so there’s some reason to hope for better results going forward.

Rusney Castillo

Boston’s biggest hope for a rebound in right field is Cuban import Rusney Castillo, who was strong in a small sample size (12 hits in 40 PA, .333/.400/.528) last season after inking a seven-year, $72.5 million contract. Given his salary and pedigree, many expected him to be the Red Sox’ starting right fielder on opening day, but injuries derailed his spring training and led to his starting the season in Pawtucket.

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Castillo got off to a hot start for the PawSox, but hit the DL after his third game with Pawtucket. He slumped in his immediate return from injury on April 29, but has six hits and a steal over his last five games. Castillo profiles as a speedy bat with plus power and was always a strong performer in the Cuban leagues, so he should get his chance sooner rather than later.

Given Nava’s and Holt’s roles as utility players, the most likely candidate for a turnaround among the perps is Victorino. He was an integral part of the Red Sox 2013 World Series run after several productive seasons in Philadelphia. Now, 34 and hampered by injuries, it’s clear Victorino has lost a step, but he’s probably a better hitter than he’s shown so far.

In the 2013 World Series, the best position player not named David Ortiz was Craig, then with the St. Louis Cardinals. The first-baseman/outfielder hit .375/.412/.438 in the series after a .315/,373/.457 line for the year, his first as an All-Star. As a 28-year-old, he had emerged as one of the league’s best; as a 30-year-old, he’s back in Triple-A.

In what would typically be his prime, Craig is now one of the worst hitters in baseball. Some blame is owed to a foot injury he sustained in late 2013 that derailed his offseason, but Craig reportedly entered this past preseason healthy. The results are puzzling, and the Sox have to hope he can correct it in Triple-A.

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