The perfect Red Sox outfield


The perfect Red Sox outfield is not going to exist for 88 million reasons. There is, however, an alignment that provides the optimum defense – a pitchers best friend – with speed, OBP and a reasonable offensive production.

Shane Victorino in right field, Rusney Castillo in center field and Mookie Betts in left field. The fourth addition would be super defensive whiz, Jackie Bradley.

Victorino needs no description of what he brings both in ability and the important veteran clubhouse presence. Victorino has a career slash of .277/.341/.431 with some very respectable gap power figures. Four Gold Gloves and the innate ability to play the demanding right field at Fenway brings back memories of Dwight Evans.

Rusney Castillo is a favorite to capture a Rookie of The Year Award. A rookie status that is a questionable designation with seasoned veterans of international play and the dynamic Cuban league players such as Castillo. Castillo managed to bag a 72.5M contract and is certainly expected to approach the rarefied atmosphere of fellow Cuban Jose Abreau.

Sep 27, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Rusney Castillo (38) hits an RBI single during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Castillo’s question mark is not the glove, but the bat. The short sample shows a .333 average and two home runs and six RBI in a 10 game spread. Project that over 162 games and that power jumps to 32/97. Tack on his speed and you have a five tool talent.

Mookie Betts was not an outfielder until he was handed a glove and pointed out to center field since Dustin Pedroia had locked down second base for the big club. Perfect he is not, but surprisingly adaptable he is. The arm is adequate for left field and the ability to close quarters on those gap hits is there. There is no doubt with this observer that the athletic Betts will adapt rather well and be considered an above average defensive player.

In 52 games Betts slashed .291/.368/.444 and showed the plate discipline and speed one expects of a lead-off hitter. A position in the lineup Betts is expected to play for most of what hopes to be an extensive MLB career.

Mar 13, 2015; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Mookie Betts (50) slides into third base on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter David Ortiz (not pictured) in the first inning against the New York Yankees at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jackie Bradley is a remarkable defensive player. Even those who raved about that portion of his game underestimated his skill. Defensively Bradley has no weakness. His arm is strong and accurate and his ability to read the ball is exceptional. Where Bradley fails or is it flays is with the bat. A Mendoza Line bat says it all. Where Bradley’s importance lies is in the seventh inning on as a stellar defensive addition.

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This will not be the outfield as the signing of Hanley Ramirez means left field is his. I have no doubt Hanley, like Betts, will transition well to the outfield since most infielders do and a few, such as Kevin Youkilis, do not.

The shifting of the outfield dynamics will be one of the featured stories of spring training. Injuries, slumps and a sudden lights out performance can alter the outfield scheme. Then comes the possibility of player movement.

Victorino is on the last year of his contract and the Red Sox have to be thinking the possibility of trade if Victorino demonstrates a physical recovery from 2014. Daniel Nava and Allen Craig are in the mix and their placement on the team can change dramatically with an injury or trade opportunity. Even Ramirez failure to adapt to left field could toss things asunder.

As the spring training schedule gets deeper into March the picture may become clearer with the shifting sands of a stocked outfield.

***Statistics via baseball-reference