Red Sox Round Table: Five questions to consider during spring training
By Sean Penney
Will Pablo Sandoval keep the starting third base job all season?
Sean: Yes, but only by default. I’m not expecting a big bounce-back season from the Panda, but he should at least be serviceable. Red Sox third basemen collectively hit .242 with a .686 OPS last season, yet the team still had the best offense in baseball despite the black hole at third. A healthy Sandoval should at least be able to do better than that.
Daniel: Unfortunately, yes. Even if Sandoval is bad, he’s likely to remain the starting third baseman for the majority of the year. As much as management likes to play up the level of competition for the job, there just isn’t enough depth at the position. If he plays like the -2.2 WAR player he’s been in his first two seasons with the Red Sox, he’s not going to be at third for long. But luckily for Sandoval, he just needs to be replacement level to maintain the job. Neither Farrell nor the front office will want to waste Holt’s versatility by tying him to third and let’s be real, Josh Rutledge is not a starting player. Rafael Devers represents a glimmer of hope in the minors, but he’s more likely to be an impact player in 2018. Third base could wind up being a serious albatross for the Sox this year.
Rick: Sandoval will stay. I worry about his defense since it was a disaster in 2015. If he returns to 2014 form on offense and defense then the Red Sox are all set. At 30 years old, I find it hard to think he is finished as a player.
David: As it looks right now, there’s no reason I would say he can’t keep the job. I’m interested to see what he can do during spring training games.
Mike: It is hard to see Pablo not keeping the third base job for the 2017 season. His only real competition was Travis Shaw, who was dealt to Milwaukee to acquire Tyler Thornburg. While the Panda should factor into playing over 130+ games at 3B, there is a longshot that he loses the job. If Devers has a phenomenal season in Portland, he might dethrone Sandoval with a September call-up.
Chris: I think he will, but I don’t think it will necessarily be because he’s playing well. If you look at the way the Red Sox lineup is constructed now, they should be getting above average to exceptional offensive production from every spot besides third base and catcher. Those are the only “weak spots” if you will. I think he literally has to hit his weight (255 lbs. as of last year) to stay in the lineup. The beauty of Brock Holt is that you can plug him into almost every position on any given day. If he becomes the starting third baseman, then his value goes way down. Also, I wouldn’t rush Devers up because you don’t need to. That leaves Marco Hernandez, Josh Rutledge, and Deven Marrero, and I’d much rather go with the established veteran in this case.