Red Sox infield for September and their playoff roster chances
By Jacob Anes
The Boston Red Sox will use the month of September to narrow down their choices of infielders to take with them into the postseason.
With September call ups likely finished, the Boston Red Sox know who they have to choose from in September. With a large division lead, Alex Cora will be able to play around and see what infielders he has and what they have to offer.
Cora will also have to decide who he wants on his playoff roster.
Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez
Despite starting the season as the clear starter, early struggles and a broken finger have derailed Vazquez’ season. While he was injured, pitchers began to excel with Leon behind the plate and Swihart proved he can make an impact with his bat. In addition to the value offensively, Swihart has improved defensively as well, although Vazquez and Leon are still far better there.
Playoff roster chances: Leon and Swihart are near locks, while Vazquez will have to prove it is more worthwhile carrying a third catcher rather than another infielder. His competition is Brandon Phillips and Rafael Devers.
Mitch Moreland, Steve Pearce, Sam Travis
When the Red Sox signed Moreland to a 2-year deal, most people were a little surprised. However, he has given the Red Sox a solid year, posting a .776 OPS and ultimately made the Red Sox able to let go of Hanley Ramirez. He will continue to start against right handed pitchers while Pearce will get starts against left handed pitchers. When the Red Sox acquired Pearce, they got him to do just that. He has excelled in that role so far. Travis was a second round pick in 2014 and has struggled to find a place in the MLB. He will likely get some pinch hit chances and play in blowouts and games that have no meaning.
Playoff roster chances: Moreland and Pearce are locks, Travis has virtually no chance.
Ian Kinsler, Brock Holt, Tzu-Wei Lin
After acquiring Kinsler, Dave Dombrowski was very quick to make it clear that he was the everyday second baseman. He is a huge defensive upgrade over the rest and has had a solid bat this year. He had an extremely slow start, but he has a .944 OPS in the second half. Holt, finally healthy, has returned to what he normally is, a decent utility guy who can play anywhere. He will probably get a few more starts in September. Lin, a former international signing, was relatively unknown until his breakout in AA last season. He provides the Red Sox with solid infield defense and not much else. He will likely get some innings during blowouts and during the final week, assuming the Red Sox clinch the AL East soon.
Playoff roster chances: Kinsler is a lock, Holt is a near lock, and Lin it is extremely unlikely Lin makes the roster.
This one is pretty simple. Bogaerts is having a phenomenal year, boasting an .880 OPS, and is the only person on the roster who is primarily shortstop. Lin and Holt will likely get some innings here to give Bogaerts some rest. However, Bogaerts will continue to play the majority of innings at shortstop down the stretch.
Playoff roster chances: Bogaerts is a lock and barring an injury will start every postseason game at shortstop.
Eduardo Nunez, Rafael Devers, Brandon Phillips
This is where it gets tricky for Alex Cora. When the season began, Devers was the unquestioned starter at third and the Red Sox were looking to him to provide another big bat in the lineup. However, Devers started slow and injuries and consistency have plagued him since. He has just an 86 wRC+ (100 is league average), a 24.8% strikeout rate, and a 7.6% walk rate.
While he was injured, Nunez picked it up just enough to likely take the starting job for now. The Red Sox signed Phillips in June and he showed enough to be the final September call up. He made an immediate impact, launching a go ahead 2 run home run with 2 outs in the 9th in his first game. Despite being a second baseman for most of his career, he will likely see the majority of his reps at third, with second being held down by Kinsler. If he can prove to be a solid option he could really make a difference down the stretch and in the playoffs. He has also reportedly started working out at first.
Playoff roster chances: Nunez is a lock, while Devers and Phillips will being competing with each other and Vazquez. A strong September could go a long way for both of them.