The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster continues with a look at second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
What can the Boston Red Sox expect from Dustin Pedroia in 2016? That’s one of the biggest questions facing this franchise as we approach a new season.
Pedroia bounced back from a down year with a .291/.356/.441 slash line that was much more in line with what we are accustomed to seeing from the veteran second baseman. His .797 OPS was actually higher than what he produced in 2013 when he helped lead the Red Sox to another championship and finished 7th in MVP voting.
With the hand and thumb injuries that plagued him at the plate the previous year behind him, Pedroia was able to rediscover some pop in his bat. His 12 home runs were the most he had hit since 2012, despite that he only recorded 425 plate appearances.
Therein lies the rub. At this stage of his career, Pedroia has struggled to stay healthy. Last season it was a nagging hamstring injury that limited him to 93 games. He missed about three weeks after injuring his hamstring in late June, but pushed himself a bit too quickly to get back on the field in order to help salvage the sinking ship that the season was becoming. Pedroia played only six games in July, managing only 1 hit in 22 at-bats, before going back on the disabled list on July 25. The Red Sox would later explain that there wasn’t a specific moment where Pedroia re-aggravated the injury, but the pain had started to build back up as he continued to play, which likely was the result of returning too soon. Pedroia would not be seen on the field again until September.
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By the time spring training rolls around we will presumably see Pedroia healthy and ready to go, but will that last? At 32 years old it’s not going to get any easier to avoid those nagging injuries, especially for a second baseman that plays the game as hard as Pedroia does.
Another concern is his drastic decline defensively. Known as one of the premiere defensive second basemen in the game, Pedroia shockingly cost the Red Sox with -3 defensive runs saved last season, the first time he produced a negative number in that category since he became a regular in the big leagues. He also committed 6 errors, tied for the second most of his career, despite missing nearly half the season. It’s possible that his defensive numbers could have taken a hit by attempting to play through the hamstring injury, as well as from the rust he inevitably had to shake off following his lengthy absence. After all, he won a Gold Glove the year before while saving +17 runs. However, in addition to what the stats say, the eye test also showed he may have lost a step. He should bounce back to being an above-average defensive player, but the days of his glove being among the elite may be behind us.
Even with the dip in his defensive stats and all that missed time, Pedroia was still worth 2.0 WAR last season. If he manages to play anywhere near a full season with even a slight improvement defensively then he could easily double that this year. A 4.0 WAR would be a bit below his former All-Star level, but it’s easily enough to make him worth his modest contract.
The Red Sox have made a lot of improvements to this roster over the winter, but getting this team back to contention partially hinges on Pedroia staying on the field and performing at the level we know he’s capable of.