It has been a frustrating first half of the season for Red Sox fans. With the team still below .500 and trailing in the AL East and Wild Card races, the next couple of weeks will have a major impact on the state of the franchise through the end of the 2014 season and beyond. The BoSox Injection staff looks back at the first half of the season: from the young guys taking their first hacks, to the veterans who may have overextended their welcome.
Heading into 2014, the Red Sox infield looked to be solid and a positive for the defending World Champs. Red Sox fans were excited to see a mix of veteran, household names and younger prospects with a ton of hype surrounding them. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly worked out the way it was intended.
After injuries plagued Will Middlebrooks early on in the season, the Sox brass made a drastic decision that altered the present and future for a variety of players – they signed Stephen Drew to a one year, 10 million dollar deal that has been arguably just shy of a complete failure. For the purpose of this exercise, I have limited the targeted players to those that are listed as the “Infield” on the Red Sox roster as of today.
Mike Napoli – The bearded wonder hasn’t had quite the same impact that he had a year ago in his first season in Boston, but he has started to come around as of late. He missed a chunk of time in the first half of 2014 with a finger injury which certainly hurt his stats, but on a team that has a severe lack of power, the Red Sox really need more out of him. He has only 11 HR and 35 RBI as of now with a slugging percentage of .445. Though he has recently improved is average to .274, he is in danger of having one of his worst seasons in terms of power at the plate. (Grade: C)
Dustin Pedroia – Pedey came into 2014 fresh off a decent season in 2013 and a year removed from signing a seven-year contract extension that effectively means he’ll retire in Boston. This was reason to rejoice a year ago, however now Sox fans aren’t so sure about that deal going forward. Pedroia seems to be stuck in neutral, just really never getting anything going at the plate. Just about every significant offensive stat is down this year. Is it complacency after signing that deal and winning another World Series, or could it be an injury? His fielding has not dropped off however, and he remains one of the better defensive second baseman in the league. (Grade: C-)
Stephen Drew – What is there to say about JD’s brother Stephen? He’s become the punch line to a joke, or perhaps even a pariah on sports radio. He’s become the epitome of a team struggling to stay alive and find an identity, as well as a front office struggling to find answers. His fielding remains stellar and from all reports, he is very well-liked in the clubhouse, but his offense has been nothing short of atrocious. Bottom line – it was a bad signing and one the Sox probably regret. (Grade: F)
Xander Bogaerts – It’s been a difficult first full season with the big club for the popular phenom hailing from Aruba. He’s had his ups and downs and is certainly learning to deal with adversity. He has shown flashes of brilliance and promise, as well as some impressive power, but he’s recently gone through quite the slump, if you can even call it that. It’s probably beyond a slump at this point. His defense also remains questionable with a brutal 14 errors on the year, by far the team leader. If he is to live up to the hype, which he has plenty of time to do, he definitely has to be better going forward. (Grade: C-)
Brock Holt – Holt has easily become the best story of the season so far for Boston. His ability to literally play every position except for pitcher or catcher has been astonishing, as well as the Red Sox willingness to let him do so! There have been games in the first half in which he has been the only threat the Red Sox have at the plate. With 64 games played for the Red Sox, he’s leading the team with a .326 average and has 3 home runs, 22 RBI and 18 doubles. He has an uncanny ability to make contact and use the whole park, and he will undoubtedly be a key to the Red Sox making any kind of run in the second half. (Grade: A)
Mike Carp – Carp has only played in 39 games so far this year, but has been a serviceable in-game replacement and bench player. His name repeatedly comes up in trade rumors and I don’t think many Sox fans would be surprised to see him dealt before the deadline. (Grade: C)
On the whole, the Red Sox infield has underperformed so far in 2014 and has been a big contributing factor to the offensive struggles of the team as a whole. No one can ever truly quantify the damage bringing Drew back really caused the team of course, but one has to think it did more bad than good. Sure, their defense has been good and maybe kept them alive in some games despite Bogaerts’ blunders, but they need more from all of these guys at plate … and they need it now.
OVERALL GRADE: C