The Red Sox have a pair of veterans heading to Fort Myers vying for a spot at first base. Who has the advantage heading into spring training?
Both Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland were important to the success of the Red Sox in 2018. Moreland was the rock at first all season while Pearce was a trade window addition that earned his spot. Both stake their claim to first base and with good reason.
Pearce will be remembered more for what he did with his bat during his time in Boston. Whether it was crushing balls out of Yankee Stadium or silencing the Dodger Stadium crowd. It seemed like Pearce was automatic when it came to big game moments in 2018.
But besides his big bat, he was also clutch as clutch gets in the field. I lost count of how many times he has to stretch to save a throw to first. His ability to be where he needed to while always getting the out was masterful.
Mitch Moreland is no slouch in the field either. He was one of the most consistent first basemen in the MLB last season. And much like Pearce, he can come up big at the plate when the pressure is on. This upcoming season will be the final on Moreland’s current deal with the Red Sox. At 33 years of age and heading into his 10th season, Mitch brings a big veteran presence to a very young squad.
Both men will be playing for their careers in 2019 as they aren’t getting any younger and will be free agents when the season ends. So with urgency for both men to give everything they have not only on the field but at the plate, who will come out on top?
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At the plate in 2018 Pearce edged out Moreland with a .284 BA to Mitch’s .245. Not a great difference and we have to keep in mind that Mitch had close to double the at-bats that Pearce did. Moreland took the fight in the RBI/HR round as he finished with 68 RBI/15 HR to Pearce’s line of 42/11.
Much like the batting average battle, there’s not much separation between the two first basemen in this area. Pearce did far better in the strikeout round though as he only whiffed 41 times in 2018 to Moreland’s 102. Even with the larger number of at-bats by Mitch, that’s a staggering difference, well over double.
So the offensive battle between the two is pretty tight as we’ve seen, now let’s head to the field and see where the pair stack up. Both Pearce and Moreland walked away from 2018 with .995 fielding percentages. Not bad by any means at all and once again proving the strength that the Red Sox have at first base.
Neither man walked away from last season unscathed though, Pearce had a single error and Moreland had a pair. Still, though, that’s some impressive stuff as they’re playing one of the hardest positions in the game. Looking over the defense stats and the only conclusion that I can up with is that both are pretty damn good with the glove. With either anchoring, the infield the Red Sox will have a great chance at success.
So we’ve looked at some offensive and defensive stats to try and separate these two veterans and yet we’re still where we began. Going over everything on the stat sheet and just the emotion from the postseason, I have made my decision. If I was Alex Cora, I would have Steve Pearce be the starting first baseman on Opening Day.
I think what Pearce represents not only as a veteran leader on a notably younger team but as a guy who just loves the game, he’s who I want out there every night. I would like to see Moreland get his reps though and get some semi-regular playing time. The advantage that Cora has is the versatility that Pearce offers him as far as the lineup is concerned. He can not only play first but each spot in the outfield as well as come off the bench.
It’s a long season and we in no way can predict where the cards may fall. As of now, I would choose Pearce over Moreland but a couple weeks of Spring Training could change my mind. I think the Red Sox have an envious problem in that they have several players that can be plugged in anywhere and be successful. Today officially kicks off the new season and it’s time for the Red Sox to defend their crown.