Christian Arroyo’s hot streak is cementing his role with the Red Sox

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 01: Christian Arroyo #39 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on August 01, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 01: Christian Arroyo #39 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Boston Red Sox at Minute Maid Park on August 01, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

Christian Arroyo has been on fire since returning to the Red Sox lineup

The Boston Red Sox are limping their way through a sluggish second half, but Christian Arroyo is picking up steam.

The versatile infielder has been one of the few bright spots during a stretch in which the season is slowly slipping away. With a postseason run looking more unlikely by the day and Bostonians beginning to look towards next year, a strong finish by Arroyo would carve out a role for him in the team’s future.

Arroyo was ice-cold to begin the season, hitting a pitiful .186 with a .456 OPS in 43 at-bats in April. By the end of May, his batting average was stuck at the Mendoza Line and his .575 OPS would have been his lowest since his abbreviated debut season in 2017.

Boston’s thin outfield depth also led to Arroyo being tested in right field, a position he had never played before and one that is particularly challenging to learn in the quirky dimensions of Fenway Park. The experiment proved to be a disaster with Arroyo producing -5 defensive runs saved in only 17 appearances in right field. Struggling to learn a new position on the fly undoubtedly contributed to his early-season slump at the plate.

Returning to a more consistent infield role helped Arroyo settle in at the plate. A three-hit performance on June 24 in Cleveland, which included a game-winning home run, was by far his best performance of the season to that point. Arroyo would collect at least one hit in four of his next six games before landing on the Injured List with a left groin strain.

Since returning to the lineup on July 30, Arroyo hasn’t missed a beat. In nine games since he was activated, Arroyo is 15-for-34 (.441) with a home run, three doubles, and a triple.

While he’s been piling up hits, it has been mostly empty production. Despite collecting at least one hit in seven of his first eight games since returning from injury, including four multi-hit games, Arroyo didn’t record an RBI during that stretch. He scored a run in five of those eight games but the Sox lost four of them. That changed Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves, though, as Arroyo’s two-run homer in the second inning briefly gave the Red Sox a lead. He added an RBI double that tied the game in the fourth. Boston ended up losing in extra-innings but Arroyo’s bat helped keep them in the game.

His scorching streak over his last nine games has raised Arroyo’s batting average from a meager .224 to a career-high .273. His .754 OPS is the second-highest of his career, trailing only the .769 OPS he produced last season. Arroyo’s 8.5 Barrel% is a career-high and his 42.6 Hard Hit% is his highest since 2018 (56.8%) when he only played in 20 games, per Baseball Savant.

While he rarely walks, producing only a 4.9 BB% this season and no free passes yet in August, Arroyo has cut his strikeout rate dramatically to a career-best 14.1 K%. Making quality contact on a more frequent basis points to sustainable success.

What is Arroyo’s future with the Red Sox?

Arroyo will be arbitration-eligible for the second time next year and won’t hit free agency until after the 2024 season. A strong finish will at least ensure that the Red Sox tender him a contract to keep him on the roster for next season.

While he’s historically been known for hitting lefties, Arroyo has been slightly better against right-handed pitching this season. His fairly even splits suggest he’s capable of handling pitchers who throw from either arm, allowing the Red Sox to plug him in based on defensive needs rather than making him a strict platoon player.

The outfield experiment has hopefully been put to rest but Arroyo provides value with his ability to play all over the infield. He’s been excellent while filling in at second base for the injured Trevor Story, producing 4 defensive runs saved in only 12 games at the position. He’s been at least average with 0 defensive runs saved in limited time at the other infield positions, so he can hold his own in those spots without being a liability; he’s only committed three errors in 33 games as an infielder.

His role will be determined based on how the Red Sox approach the offseason. The biggest question revolves around Xander Bogaerts, who is expected to opt-out of his contract after this season. While I might be in the minority, I still firmly believe the Sox will make an honest effort to re-sign Bogaerts.

If Boston retains their middle infield of Bogaerts and Story, Arroyo would be relegated to infield depth on the bench. He’d provide insurance in case Bogaerts, Story, or Rafael Devers misses time due to injury and could fill in whenever they need a breather. The potential departure of J.D. Martinez in free agency also opens the DH role, which could allow Boston to rotate players like Devers through that spot, opening more opportunities for Arroyo.

In the event that Bogaerts bolts in free agency, Boston seems unlikely to invest in a long-term deal for another shortstop. His leadership and what he means to the franchise makes him worth retaining but if they fail to hash out a deal with Bogaerts, the Sox might be content to wait for their exciting crop of infield prospects to develop.

If Arroyo shows some consistency down the stretch, he could be viewed as an acceptable placeholder for a year or two until Nick Yorke or Marcelo Mayer are ready for the big leagues; Jeter Downs, who debuted this summer, is also an option. Arroyo could cover second base on a regular basis with Story sliding back to shortstop. Boston would then redistribute the funds they planned to spend on Bogaerts to upgrading the outfield or pitching staff, though they already have a significant amount of money coming off the books when several large contracts expire this fall.

First base appears to be covered with the arrival of Eric Hosmer at the trade deadline and the expected emergence of prospect Triston Casas, but Arroyo’s experience at first base is very limited so he should be considered a break glass in case of emergency option at that position.

Unfortunately, a crowded infield and Arroyo’s success will further limit the playing time for Bobby Dalbec, who has been among the team’s biggest disappointments this season. Manager Alex Cora wants to get Dalbec some work at second base to potentially open another path to playing time, but if Arroyo keeps outproducing him at the plate, his steadier glove will take more opportunities away from Dalbec.

Arroyo’s hot streak won’t last forever but it’s an encouraging sign from a promising player who has lacked consistency throughout a career hindered by injuries and sporadic playing time. If he remains productive for the rest of this season, this could be the best year of his career. That should be enough to cement a role for him next season, which could expand based on how the Sox address the rest of their roster this winter.

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