Appearing for the first time on BoSox Injection is the new weekly series called Red Sox Player Focus, where we will take a closer look at a player from the Boston Red Sox current roster.
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We know the wins and losses. We know who hits the home runs or makes the diving grab in the outfield. Yet, many fans don’t know the ins and outs that make up the player whom stands on that field and gives his blood, sweat, and peak years of his life to the club. Where does he excel? Where are his weaknesses? Where do we see him in the future? Is he being used appropriately?
Here’s your chance to have a say, as we turn our focus on to Alejandro De Aza.
The six-foot, 195-pound outfielder was born in Guaymate, La Romana, in the Dominican Republic. He is the 50th man to play for the Red Sox from that country.
De Aza’s journey to the big leagues seemed like a long one. He signed at the tender age of 17 with the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2001, but debuted for the Florida Marlins in April of 2007. That’s because Florida drafted him from the Dodgers in December of 2004, due to the rule 5 draft issues. In October 2009, De Aza was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. From there, he was traded in August 2014 to the Baltimore Orioles for two minor leaguers. On June 3rd of this year, De Aza finally made it to his current home in Boston, being traded for Joe Gunkel, another minor league player.
De Aza has had flourishes of brilliance as often as he has slumped. In the eight seasons that he has been in both major leagues, the majority being in the American League, De Aza has hit fairly well. His worst season was his first with the Marlins, hitting .229, and his best was in 2011 with the White Sox, where he hit .329. However, he has only played over 100 games in three seasons, from 2012-2014.
De Aza’s best productive year came in 2013, when he hit 17 home runs and 62 RBIs in 607 at-bats. He also stole 20 bases that season, before his numbers dropped the following year and he was subsequently traded.
At 31 years of age, De Aza shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, his numbers suggest that he’s almost as hot as his 2011 season.
After 30 games with the Orioles, hitting only .214, De Aza has hit .306 with the Red Sox, a team desperate for offensive production. In his last 15 games, he’s hit a slash line of .313/.365/.667, with three home runs and 13 RBIs. He hits almost everything with power, driving the ball into gaps, creating five doubles and five triples with the Red Sox.
Jul 7, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Alejandro De Aza (31) congratulates center fielder Mookie Betts (50) after defeating the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
With runners in scoring position, De Aza is someone to have at the plate, hitting a whopping .556 to answer the hero’s call. As of today, De Aza leads all outfielders in batting average, on-base percentage(.352), and slugging percentage (.588). He’s third in terms of RBIs (18), but he’s only played in 28 games for the Red Sox, while leaders Ramirez (43) and Mookie Betts (41) have played in 74 and 83 games, respectively. If De Aza played 83 games with Boston, keeping with the present trend, he would have hit 53 RBIs to lead the team in that category, too.
De Aza’s defensive skills, however, have also been a nice surprise for Boston.
ESPN published Red Sox manager John Farrell saying, “[De Aza’s impact] shows up more probably on the road, given that left field is restricted [at Fenway] … But the space when we’re in some of the symmetrical parks, we’ve gotten much more coverage. I think back to a couple of plays De Aza made in Toronto. It’s three guys at positions that have above-average range and any time you can take away outs in the outfield you’re not only recording the out but you’re probably taking away multiple bases in a given hit, and that’s a huge impact.”
De Aza’s future looks very bright in Boston, after languishing with other clubs.
Some of that is due to his birthplace. With David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez, and Alexi Ogando also from the Dominican Republic, De Aza must feel a bit at home, especially with Big Papi being such an influence in the clubhouse. It’s only natural to gravitate to the people with whom you have a connection.
Offensively, the outfield tandem of Ramirez, Betts, and De Aza looks to be Boston’s finest combination.
Defensively, however, De Aza’s great range makes him and Betts far superior to Ramirez looking more like Manny Ramirez every time he plays left field, especially in Fenway Park. De Aza’s arrival may force Farrell’s hand in moving Ramirez back into the infield, at least in a rotating fashion. If there were any concerns that Betts could not handle it alone, being still a young 22-year-old, De Aza’s veteran presence should put that to rest, making Ramirez’s veteran status mute. Now, Ramirez could spend some time playing possibly third base, first base, or the designated hitter role, as much of the struggles with Mike Napoli and the defensive shuffling has been well documented.
With all of this love, we must remember something: De Aza has played very well before he came to Boston. Consistency will be key. His one weakness has been strikeouts. Each time that De Aza has played over 100 games in a season, he has also had almost as many strikeouts. Some seasons, he hits enough to make up for it; some seasons, he doesn’t. In that same fabulous year in 2013, when everything else seemed to go right for De Aza, he also struck out 147 times in 153 games. It wasn’t terrible, but it also kept him at the .264 batting average. Those were outs without even hitting the ball. The following year, he struck out 119 times in 147 games with far less production to his credit.
If De Aza can keep himself hitting the ball for base hits, or at least moving the runners around the bases, like he has then he should be a starter for the rest of the season. He wasn’t even on the team to start the year, but De Aza may be the best thing that ever happened to the Red Sox in 2015.
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