Early Innings: Grading the Red Sox infield
Friday’s game against the Tampa Bays Rays was the 54th of the 2014 MLB season, which is exactly one-third of the way through the 162-game schedule. The campaign has had its share of highs, lows and head-scratchers so far. The BSI team will look back on the first two months by evaluating the team’s performance, position-by-position.
Previously: outfield, starting pitchers
Mike Napoli – Fresh off a big season for the World Champion Red Sox, Napoli started off the year hot. He had five home runs in the month of April, however his total is currently five as we enter June. The month of May was not very kind to him. He has landed on the DL with a finger injury, and one would have to believe that the finger really hurt his production in the last few weeks prior to making the move to shelf him.
Mike Carp – The DL stint for Napoli finally led to some playing time for Carp at first base. Unfortunately, he too has found himself on the DL with a broken foot that will take him off the field for quite some time. With only 70 at-bats on the season so far, he hit a measly .214 with six RBI.
Dustin Pedroia – “The Laser Show” got off to a slow start this year. Dustin had only three RBI through his first 20 games. His batting average was as low as .231 in the middle of April, but he has recently turned things around and is up to .272. He has only struck out 29 times in 224 at-bats. His fielding is always solid. Not to mention the fact that his leadership remains as one of the more important intangibles for the boys on Yawkey Way.
Xander Bogaerts – One of the more talked about storylines coming into 2014 was the Red Sox turning to a “youth movement” of sorts, and of course Bogaerts was the leader of that pack. He is batting .296 with 13 RBI. Although he only has three home runs on the year, he seems to have recently found his stroke. The bull’s eye for Xander is clearly on his fielding, where he leads the team with six errors. He seemed to be lacking confidence in the field, which many feared would only take a hit with Boston’s decision to sign Stephen Drew to take over the shortstop role, moving Bogaerts over to third. Since the Drew signing, Bogaerts has been playing an all-around better game.
Will Middlebrooks – One of the more frustrating situations for the Red Sox has been the injury issues for Mr. Middlebrooks. He just can’t seem to stay on the field. He still hasn’t been able to find the power that so many scouts once claimed he had. With his current DL status and the signing of Stephen Drew, many believe we could possibly have seen the last of Will in a Red Sox uniform.
Brock Holt – The current flavor of the week! Holt has been on absolute fire as of late. He had a short stint in the month of April in which he was fair, but this latest batch of games since returning to the big club have been huge. He is a doubles machine and is now batting .337 with 11 RBI. With Drew returning to the lineup this week, the Red Sox are searching for positions to stick Holt in order to keep his flaming bat in the lineup. He has recently started playing first base with the injuries to Napoli and Carp. His versatility could prove to be quite valuable in the coming months.
Jonathan Herrera – What is there to say about Jonathan Herrera? He is your basic utility man – nothing more, nothing less.
(Yes, I left off Ryan Roberts and Ryan Lavarnway – not because I am biased against “Ryan’s”, but because their contributions were not significant enough to matter for this exercise).
Overall Grade: C+
The infield crew has been unpredictable and inconsistent so far. Signs are pointing to things getting better for this bunch with Pedroia, Holt and Bogaerts heating up. It will be very interesting to watch how these dynamics change with the addition of Stephen Drew to the lineup. While one would have to think the overall defense of this group would have to improve, could changing things so drastically actually hurt the club?