Red Sox Spring Training: The case for keeping Deven Marrero on the 25-man roster

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Deven Marrero /

The Boston Red Sox have Deven Marrero on the 40-man roster, but will he survive spring training and follow to Boston? Marrero brings all important late inning defense and that will be essential in 2018.

When we begin with the discussion of a positional player the first and quite naturally the most relevant statistical information is how they performed offensively. This is usually followed by defensive information, personal minutia and what the player may have had for breakfast. Make it lengthy enough and anecdotal information can be added.

For Boston Red Sox infielder Deven Marrero, I have the first order of statistical information seared into my brain since it showed a nice uptick.  Marrero hit just .211 and that is certainly not going to make any baseball executive or fan click their ruby cleats together. Marrero also popped four home runs and had 27 RBI in 171 at-bats and 71 games. The average is an improvement from .198 in Pawtucket (AAA) in 2016. The power a pleasant surprise.

Marrero’s chances of starting at third, second or short on a continual basis are nil unless the starting players are placed in quarantine for a month or two.  In baseball 2018 you need some clout throughout the lineup and even traditional defense-first positions such as shortstop the bat becomes a premium. In another era, Xander Bogaerts’ 10 home runs and .273 average would be viewed as exceptional and not a regression.

Marrero is a former first-round pick, is 27-years-old, hits right-handed and is out of options – personal minutia requirements have been met. What does impress me, or did last season, was the numbers seven and three. Seven being bunt attempts and three being the success rate. This is what you do when your hitting portfolio is as sparse as a blizzard in the Gobi Desert. You do the little things.  That is a job survival for the bottom of the 25-man roster player.

What sets value for Marrero is a piece of leather that is attached to his left hand when he plays defense and from what I have seen this kid can play defense.  In 2017, it was mostly at third base (53 games). Then comes another number. Five, as in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at third.  For the metrics fans, the DRS was accompanied by a 15.8 UZR/150.That DRS is an accomplishment based on just 38 starts at third.

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Now I am not declaring Marrero is Brooks Robinson territory for patrolling the hot corner, but he is quick, can move well right and left (23 OOZ), has a strong and accurate arm and will lock down third late in a game. And late in the game means Rafael Devers.

Devers can hit and as a defensive player, I’ll say Devers can hit. You have Devers in protecting a lead and it is like driving your Harley in a rainstorm. You want a lead protected and that means defensive insurance and forget about the obnoxious and grating “Flo” as my policy is Marrero.

Marrero’s primary position is shortstop, but his MLB defensive stats are – thankfully – based on just 44 innings with a -31.1 UZR/150. However, seeing Marrero at Pawtucket and just reading the scouting reports through the years you see a consensus on just how capable Marrero is defensively – anywhere in the infield.

"Plus defender. Extremely athletic. Not flashy, makes it look easy. As fundamentally sound as they come. Great body control and is able to throw from all angles and on the run. Active lower half with agility, quick lateral movements, and soft hands. Plus range and first-step quickness and reactions. Future gold glove potential. – Sox Prospects"

If this was 50 years ago the likelihood is Marrero would be a regular somewhere in the MLB landscape. Oh, yes, there have always been good offensive shortstops and some who combined the defensive and offensive to make a total package.  I could go back to the dim history and mention Honus Wagner but being more of an I saw them guy is Mark Belanger who hit a career .228 in over 2,000 games. Belanger was a defensive cog for some great Orioles teams.

Marrero may be maturing late offensively and just now being able to utilize his speed and baseball intelligence to increase his value. I would expect no batting titles in Marrero’s foreseeable future, but I would expect an average that (hopefully) would go north of .240.  And this is where I go off the rails.

Next: Drew Pomeranz diagnosed with left flexir strain

If somehow, I could be guaranteed by some metrics visionary that Marrero would hit in the aforementioned range, he would be my shortstop. Yes – I value his defense that much.