1. Hanley Ramirez’ transition to first base
Before last season, when Ramirez signed in Boston ($88M over four years), it was decided that he would move to left field, a position he had never played before. He was never a great fielder, but he was trying a new position, which should have raised more red flags than it did. How much damage could he do in the tiny left field of Fenway Park? It turned out, the answer was a lot. His defensive runs saved was -19, or worse than the average left fielder by a wide margin. When he struggled at the plate after a hot start and a wrist injury, his defensive shortcomings were more glaring. After Mike Napoli was traded last season, there was an opening at first base.
Considering last year’s disaster in left field, there were few pundits who thought Ramirez would be able to play first base adequately. So far, he is proving the skeptics wrong. He came in to camp trimmer than last season when he tried to bulk up to hit with more power. This year he seemed to focus on agility and that is what he has shown at first base, making all the plays one would expect. He put in the time this Spring, with coach Brian Butterfield, and it is paying dividends.
Of course, this is still only Spring Training so he hasn’t really proved that he can do it when the games count. When you have someone making diving plays, like a seasoned first baseman, you can’t help but be optimistic, though. If there wasn’t pessimism that it can work, it wouldn’t be Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox would be pleased if Hanley was just adequate, because they really don’t have any more places for him on the field. When David Ortiz retires after this year, the Red Sox can slot him in to the DH spot, but for this year, first base has to be Hanley’s.