Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell shed’s some light on the role that new outfielder Chris Young will play in the upcoming season.
The Boston Red Sox appear to be set in the outfield with a trio that played well together down the stretch to close out last season, which left us to wonder what role Chris Young would play.
When the season opens in April we expect to see Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Rusney Castillo patrolling the outfield. This blossoming young trio threatens to become the league’s best defensive outfield alignment, while untapped potential still remains in their bats. With the upside that these three bring to the table, where does that leave Young?
"“(Young) signed here under the notion that he’s going to get every at-bat against left-handed pitching,” explained Farrell."
Putting Young’s bat in the lineup against lefties makes sense considering he smashed left-handed pitchers to the tune of a .327 average and .972 OPS last season. The problem is going to be who sits when Young plays, when all three of their starters hit over .300 against lefties last year. As did Brock Holt, who will be vying for playing time at virtually every position again this year.
Betts is an emerging superstar, so we can expect him to be in the lineup almost every day. Castillo hasn’t lived up to his potential yet, but we have to remember that he was rushed to the big leagues after taking two years off from playing baseball as he made his way out of Cuba. The Red Sox still expect more from him and are paying him too much to give up so soon by turning him into a platoon player. That leaves Bradley, the defensive wizard who finally started to show flashes of potential with his bat late last season, as the odd man out. While it will likely be Bradley sitting on the days that Young is in the lineup, Farrell warned that won’t always be the case.
"“To sit here in early January and say that every left-hander, Jackie’s not going to play, I wouldn’t go that far, because there might be some things that crop up, a day for Rusney, a day for Mookie might be advantageous, so we’ll take the best matchups and keep everybody involved,” said Farrell."
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The days of players chasing Cal Ripken‘s Iron Man streak are mostly gone, as no Red Sox hitter played in more than 156 games last season, with Betts leading all outfielders with 145. Guys need a day off once in a while over the course of a grueling 162 game season, so Farrell will naturally be able to find ways to keep Bradley on the field at the same time as Young in order to give someone else a break.
Injuries always threaten to derail a manager’s plans, but if anything were to happen to any of the starting outfielders, Young would be the next man up. The 32-year old is certainly capable of being an everyday player, having appeared in 140 games for the New York Yankees last season and having topped 100 games in every season of his career. However, he’s not an ideal option for full-time duty given his struggles against right-handed pitching. Young hit a brutal .182 with a .585 OPS against right-handers last season and he hasn’t fared much better against them over the course of his career (.224 average, .743 OPS). While Farrell did indicate he may give Young some at-bats against right-handed pitching to take advantage of his extreme pull power that seems tailor made for Fenway Park, he’ll need to pick his spots wisely. Young is best utilized in a platoon role, so if a starter were to be lost to injury then we should see Young remain on the bench against most righties, with Holt a candidate to take those at-bats.
We still have nearly three months to go before Opening Day and a lot can happen over the course of a long season. We’ll have to wait to see how it all shakes out, but for now it certainly seems that the plan is to utilize Young as more than the typical fourth outfielder.