Red Sox bench will be critical to their success this season

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Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports /

Ryan Hanigan

Hanigan is going to be the primary backup to starting catcher, Blake Swihart.  It remains unclear how much Hanigan will play or when, i.e. if he will be the personal catcher for one of the Red Sox starting pitchers.  What is known though is the importance he will play this season.  In addition to his continued mentorship of the second-year catcher, he is going to be asked to start at least 20-30 games and maybe more depending on Swihart’s health.  The Red Sox are likely confident in his abilities to step in and start, if necessary, given his 27-24 record last year as the starting catcher.

Overall, Hanigan finished the 2015 season batting .247 with 2 HRs and 16 RBIs.  He was much better at Fenway Park too, as he batted .310 at home, but .162 on the road.  Another important thing to know about Hanigan has to do with the clutch factor.  In Boston, the most successful players are the ones that relish pressure and the big at-bat.  Hanigan is that guy, which should give the Red Sox confidence of his ability to pinch hit in the late innings or be called upon in the case of an extended stay on the disabled list for Swihart.  In 2015, Hanigan batted .273 in high leverage situations.  He also hit .268 with men on base, which is fairly productive for a catcher, let alone a backup.

Unless someone in the starting rotation prefers throwing to Hanigan, he will likely spell Swihart against lefties.  Last season, while Swihart hit .225 against left-handers, Hanigan hit an impressive .364.  Therefore, expect to see a lot of Hanigan’s spot starts coming against left-handed pitching.  There is also the chance Swihart suffers an injury or runs into a physical wall during his first full season at the Major League Level.  Given that risk, it is important the Red Sox have someone capable backing him up and that is Hanigan.

Conclusion

During a 162-game season, teams experience injuries.  Oftentimes, it is the organization who has the depth to deal with the injuries, plug the hole the starter leaves and still win ballgames that separates the bad from the good and the good from the great.  That is even more true when you have a starting lineup nearly full of players who are either without a significant track record of performance or coming off an injury-shortened season, such as the Red Sox, which is why the importance of the fact their bench includes a 2015 all-star, a player nine straight double-digit HR-seasons, a player who hit 13 HRs in only 65 games last season and a veteran game-caller who hits lefties at a plus-.300 clip.

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The Red Sox bench may be just as important as their starting lineup this season and that may not be a bad thing.