Red Sox: Can Tzu-Wei Lin be the answer at second base?


The Boston Red Sox second base situation is in flux for two months until Dustin Pedroia returns.  Who fills in? I have my own choice in Tzu-Wei Lin.

Dustin Pedroia is gone for the first two months of the 2018 season. Pedroia was also gone for a very good portion of the second half of the 2017 season. So what do the Red Sox do? The obvious is signing Eduardo Nunez and that means the problem is solved, but there is an issue with this.

Nunez has a bad knee and will be a wealthy free agent. Both could put an end to Nunez to Boston. Brock Holt is also quite capable of filling in for a few months, a declining average and health issues may say different. Deven Marrero is quick of glove and slow of bat but could be considered. Will Josh Rutledge even be back and healthy?

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The Red Sox could also search the free agent list for a second baseman and they come in various levels of talent and cost. The hope is that the position will be just temporary and Pedroia will return to full health and no issues, but I have my selection.

Is Tzu-Wei Lin the Red Sox Rodney Dangerfield? Rodney had a pet phrase “I don’t get no respect” that he worked into his act at regular intervals. Lin is ranked 23rd on the latest MLB Prospect Watch and I imagine there is some type of intricate formula that places him so low. From what I saw of his brief appearance in Boston in 2017 my inclination would be a far higher ranking.

Lin is quick and versatile in the field with the field being of utmost importance. Lin was impressive with his defensive acumen in his 25 games with Boston splitting almost equal inning duty among second base (44), third base (57) and shortstop (55). Lin’s UZR/150 was 30.7, 10.7, and 17.7 looking at all three slots.

"Even when he wasn’t producing offensively, Lin controlled the strike zone well. He still does, and he also has become more selectively aggressive and tries to drive the ball on occasion. His plus speed remains his best tool, though it never has translated into much in the way of stolen bases. – MLB Prospect Watch"

Lin spent his minor league parts of 2017 in Portland and Pawtucket. With the PawSox, Lin dallied about the infield but also had 176.1 innings in center field. Despite only 66 plate appearances in Boston Lin still had a 0.4 fWAR. Where it may fall apart is his hitting. I have my doubts despite Lin’s .227 average with Pawtucket.

"A versatile defender, Lin has seen action at shortstop, second base, third base and center field. With his quickness, average arm and offensive profile, he’s best suited for the middle infield. He has given the Red Sox a lift at the hot corner and could have a future as a utilityman if he continues to hold his own at the plate. – MLB Prospect Watch"

With the parent club, Lin hit .268, but with little power. That is the left-handed hitting Lin’s professional history – minimal power. Lin did manage seven home runs in the minors last season and that exceeded (6) the total of the previous five seasons.

"Potential reserve utility player at the big-league level. Bat would likely be exposed in an everyday role, but defensive potential, versatility, and speed make him an attractive option in a bench role. Could serve as a backup at all infield positions except for first base and all three outfield positions. Doesn’t have much upside, but high floor. – Sox Prospects"

Two sets of numbers jump out when I look at the statistical Lin: 18.2% and 25.8% that represent Lin’s K% at Pawtucket and Boston. With Boston Lin did have a .385 BABIP and .270 BABIP with Pawtucket, so an increase in contact could show some improvement with average.

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John Farrell cautiously used Lin while he was with Boston to lessen any extended exposure for the 23-year-old. Judicious use will certainly not give a complete picture, but spring training may. If the Red Sox need defensive value at second and the infield, they may give Lin a look. From my exalted view, there is something about this kid’s intensity, occasional surprising punch, and his ability to give a tough at-bat.

I certainly am a Lin advocate, but also a realist who expects Lin to start the 2018 season with Pawtucket. But circumstances could change that such as a lights out spring training performance, a failure to sign the very talented Nunez, a poor spring/injury issue to Holt, Marrero still a tick above the Mendoza Line, and the Red Sox failure to comb MLB for a more experienced player.

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For two months Lin could be quite supportive in a role that limits his use at second base. Much like his new manager did as a player.