The obvious weak point in the infield alignment is third base. The Red Sox finished at the bottom of the American League offensive charts with an fWAR of a miserly 0.8. With 19 home runs and 89 RBI from the collective at the third sack, the power outage was noticeable.
Boston attempted to plug the gap after Travis Shaw’s game vanished at the end of May and went into a parallel universe populated by non-hitters. The Red Sox brought in just about anyone to get a jolt from that position and nothing really worked.
The rest of the infield is about as solid as it gets with bat and glove as even Hanley Ramirez showed some nifty glove work. Hanley’s real contribution is hitting and 30 home runs and a career-high 111 RBI give testimony to that. Toss in Dustin Pedroia being the best defender in the league at second and his 200+ hits says clearly that Pedey is back.
Xander Bogaerts put on the power, upping his home runs from seven in 2015 to 21 in 2016. Bogaerts made the All-Star team and was well over .300 when he went into a prolonged slippage. Will that be continued? I think not.
So what about third?
The 300-pound gorilla or third baseman is returning. If Pablo Sandoval has lost weight and refined his game now that he is past 30-years-old that very issue of who’s on third would be solved. The baseball jury will certainly be out on that one until late spring.
The minor league system is loaded with baseball’s top prospect – Yoan Moncada – in the wings and possibly a season away. Another prized prospect is Rafael Devers, who is usually mentioned by opposing GM’s when trades are mentioned. Sam Travis missed most of 2016 and will be watched at Pawtucket. Travis is a line drive machine who could play first or DH in the near future.
A watchful eye: Pedroia’s age and durability. Was 2016 a mirage? Ditto for Ramirez. Was 2016 the real Hanley?
Prediction: Sandoval returns to .290.