In 2012, the Red Sox signed 17-year-old Tzu-Wei Lin from Taiwan. He spent numerous years in the minors as a marginal prospect before seeing an uptick in power in 2017.
Lin appeared in parts of 2017 and 2018, but never really carved out a significant role. In 2017, he was behind Deven Marrero on the depth chart, who got the majority of the backup utility infielder innings. In 2018, Marrero was gone, but the Red Sox super utility man Brock Holt was back and healthy, making it difficult for Lin to find innings again.
In 2019, Red Sox longtime second baseman Dustin Pedroia is supposed to be healthy and starting at second, with Eduardo Nunez and Holt backing him up, which would seemingly make it difficult for Lin to find innings. However, this is not the case. At this point, it is really difficult to rely on Pedroia to stay healthy all season, and Nunez has dealt with his own injury issues the past two seasons. In addition to this, Nunez’s production really fell off last season, and there is a chance Lin is just a better player. If Pedroia does manage to stay healthy, it is also likely he sees a limit in innings to keep him fresh, considering how little he has played over the last two years.
Stats wise, it is hard to judge Lin. As a prospect, he was considered to have a ceiling of a slightly above average hitter with a solid glove around the field. However, he showed some encouraging signs in limited time in 2018. In just 73 plate appearances, he had a hard contact percentage of over 40% which is very good. If his defense is as advertised, then he could be more than the Red Sox could have hoped for.
No matter how this plays out, it seems the departure of Ian Kinsler opens a spot up for Lin somewhere on the roster, where he will have a much bigger role than the last two years. He also has played some center field in the minors, and he could help out there. There is a lot to like with Lin, he is cheap, under control for a while, and is a solid player. Watch out for him this season.