With Spring Training right around the corner, what can we expect from the bench for the 2016 Boston Red Sox?
All of Red Sox Nation is excited for the upcoming season. Who wouldn’t be? You have a nice young outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, and Rusney Castillo. The middle infield will always be productive when we have Xander Bogaerts being the captain of the infield and Dustin Pedroia at second base. At catcher, Blake Swihart looks to bring his strong second half of the 2015 season into 2016. And how can we forget about Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez playing the corners of the infield. You never know, the two drama queens might put their egos aside and have turnaround seasons (I tried not to laugh when I typed that).
With the starting 9 looking strong, what can we expect from the bench. During the dog days of August, you may see a handful of players head to the DL with some sort of injury. It is always important to have a strong bench if you play baseball in October.
When you think of the Red Sox bench, the first person that comes to mind has to be All-Star utility man, Brock Holt. Like always, people didn’t expect much from him when 2015 season was underway. But after having a slash line of .292/.379/.412 in the first half of the season, Holt, like he has done his whole career, proved people wrong and earned a trip to Cincinnati where he was the lone player representing the Boston Red Sox in the All-Star game. Holt has some character to say the least. His golden locks flowing down his neck instantly made him a fan favorite. His ability to play every position except for catcher and pitcher made him so valuable day in and day out. Now that Holt has made a name for himself, don’t be surprised if we start talking about him as part of the starting 9 when the season gets going.
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The next player on the bench is newly acquired outfielder, Chris Young. You can say that Young can have the same role as Jonny Gomes did in the 2o13 which was being a great pinch-hitter who crushing lefties. But the big word that describes Young is “inconsistent”. In 2015 when Young played 140 games for the New York Yankees, he had a slash line of .327/.397/.575 against lefties, which makes you think he is going to be an instant threat at the plate. But then when he hit .182/.246/.339 against righties last season, you may scratch your head as to why the Red Sox are giving him $6.5 million a year to be a back up. It’s definitely a long stretch to compare Young with Gomes simply because Young seems quicker and more versatile, being able to play all 3 positions in the outfield. But if Young were to continue raking lefties next year and boost his numbers against righties, he may be the diamond in the rough this offseason.
The third guy on the bench is a personal favorite of mine mainly because of his nickname he got from last season. Travis “The Mayor of Ding Dong City” Shaw who got the call up late into the 2015 season, proved he deserved to be the mayor after hitting 13 ding dongs in just 65 games. Shaw, who is primarily a first baseman, can also show he can be a utility player by having some time at third base and potentially the outfield. With the season being down the drain by mid-Auguest, Shaw was playing like he was contending for a championship. In August, Shaw hit .310/.365/.621 and suddenly became the Red Sox everyday first baseman. With Ramirez being the new experiment at first base in 2016, Shaw will be the next man up, for now. Don’t be surprised if Hanley is a bust or gets hurt and then Shaw becomes the everyday guy he was at the end of last season.
Last but not least, you have 2 players fighting for the back up position at catcher. Those 2 players are veteran Ryan Hanigan and Christian Vazquez, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery. With Vazquez not having an exact date on returning, Hanigan is, for now, the back up heading into Spring Training. But with Vazquez being close to 100%, it’s going to be dog fight for that back up spot. Hanigan, who was on the DL for a chunk of the 2015 season, had a great veteran presence for the team when he was healthy. Although his offensive production wasn’t the best, he is still a great guy to have behind the plate calling a game. With Vazquez, you can say the same thing. In 2014, he became the everyday catcher late in the season when the Sox were in the basement of the A.L. East. Like Hanigan, Vazquez was a defensive wizard and could possibly have one of the best arms behind the plate in the league. With the 2015 season ending early for Vazquez, you can go all in with him being more motivated than ever before and wanting to get that recognition as one of the best young catchers in the league.
With a seemingly strong bench for the upcoming season, you could be seeing these certain role players playing more than you think. If a drastic injury just so happens to one of starters, don’t be worried because this bench can fill in perfectly fine.