Something incredible happened this season: All Red Sox fans finally agreed on a subject! Hanley Ramirez is easily one of the worst defensive players this team has ever seen. But rejoice Red Sox fans, as it was reported yesterday Hanley will no longer be the team’s left fielder for the 2016 season; we might even see him take first base in this year. The move came out as obvious, since he has been the worst defensive player of the season with -19 runs saved and with Mike Napoli gone, Allen Craig still in Pawtucket and Travis Shaw likely having a fluke year, first base is an open position; at least for now.
At the beginning of the season, David Ortiz had one of his slowest season starts and made most of us doubt of his ability to return next season. With Hanley being a decent hitter at the time, he presented a case to be the team’s next DH, but Big Papi eventually caught up and is now in the middle of his 500 career home runs quest. Hanley showed that he obviously can’t play left field and first base seems like an acceptable position for him, but what does it mean in long term?
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With John Farrell diagnosed with lymphoma, Ben Cherington out as GM and Dave Dombrowski taking over as President of Baseball Operations, there are some things we have to take into consideration. When Cherington was still here, Jackie Bradley Jr. was as an excellent trade piece with superb defensive skills and the offensive performance of Mario Mendoza. But with Dombroswki calling the shots now the idea of Bradley Jr. being traded seems out of the picture, since the 69-year old President tried to trade for him at some point. Bottom line is that with Hanley out of the outfield and Dombrowski liking Bradley Jr., we can say that the 2014 Gold Glove finalist has a secure spot as an outfielder the next season. Let’s hope that his offense can at least be half as good as his defense.
Now let’s take a look at one of the acquisitions the Red Sox made last year, Rusney Castillo. The Cuban outfielder debuted last season and impressed us with his offensive skills when he posted a .333 batting average over the small sample size of ten games. He began this season in Triple-A and was called up later in the season, but it turned out to be a temporal disappointment. He was sent down to Pawtucket after a month in the Majors, but was called up again in late July and has been impressive since then. Castillo had a .230 BA when he was sent down in June and managed to boost his average to .305 since his call up. It seems that he is finally living up to the hype he created last year and with a contract that runs through 2020, we can say that Castillo will likely be an outfielder next season.
And talking about hype, let’s take a look at Mookie Betts who has been the Red Sox main center fielder this season. Mookie has been the star of several webgems with spectacular catches in the outfield. As most of the hitters that are now posting decent numbers, Mookie struggled at the beginning of the season but after some time he began to be an acceptable offensive player. Let’s not forget that he is not a natural outfielder like Castillo or Bradley Jr.; unlike Hanley, Betts is a transformed infielder that turned out to be an excellent player in the outfield. He is now one of the best defensive players of the game and will likely be with the Red Sox for years to come. Thanks to his excellent defensive and offensive skills, Mookie has a secured spot as the outfielder for next season. The Red Sox found the perfect replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in an even better version.
I think it’s fair to say that we all agree that an outfield composed by Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will not bring complains from the fans.
Besides setting the outfield, Hanley moving to first will impact others players too, but not in the same way as it will do to outfielders. Since his call up, Travis Shaw has gone 4-4 three times and holds a .305 batting average with six home runs. The talent he is showing right now is not the same that he demonstrated in Triple-A, where he was barely an acceptable player. His .249 batting average in Pawtucket never suggested that he was going to be the hitting machine he has been since his call-up, but he is a formidable replacement for Mike Napoli. However, I don’t think he’s going to stay the same. The kid is on fire right now, but the odds that he will be the same next season are slim since as I mentioned before, he has never shown any sign of being the player he is right now. I’m sure he is going to be back at Triple-A next season after Spring Training, if he doesn’t get traded to a team that actually believes that he’s that good. It’s also the same scenario with Allen Craig, he has to earn his way back to the Majors and he is not even close right now. Before worrying about Shaw and Craig’s situation with the Red Sox, they first have to prove that they are consistent players that can take over at first base.