Alex Verdugo's Red Sox replacement making surprising push for AL Rookie of the Year

MLB Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
MLB Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays / VIEW press/GettyImages

The Boston Red Sox's new-look outfield has brought next-level production on both sides of the ball. Jarren Duran moved to center field and has played elite defense, Tyler O'Neill has mashed himself into Home Run Derby contention, and rookie right fielder Wilyer Abreu has done a bit of both.

Abreu didn't get consistent playing time at the beginning of the season — he sat for the entirety of the first two games in favor of O'Neill and only got a few at-bats in the few following series. The young outfielder quickly proved that he deserves an everyday spot in the lineup.

Abreu flashed stellar defense first. He's made run and game-saving plays in one of the toughest right fields in the league, and others on a routine basis. His defense looked particularly on point during Boston's May 20-22 series against the Rays. Abreu robbed Yandy Díaz of a double and he stole another from Richie Palacios with an excellent read of a hard-hit ball off the right field wall later that same game.

The 24-year-old's multiple home run robberies and RBI at the right time have kept his squad in games. Abreu's arm strength ranks in the 97th percentile in MLB and he's logged two outs above average and seven defensive runs saved just over a quarter of the way through the season. He has been consistently clutch for the Red Sox, and his offense and defense always seem to shine at the right times.

Red Sox outfielder Wilyer Abreu is building a good case for Rookie of the Year consideration

Abreu is slashing .270/.350/.475 with an .825 OPS and 20 RBI. He leads all rookies in extra-base hits with 12 doubles, a triple and five homers this season. The only AL rookie with more home runs than Abreu is Colton Cowser, one of the other best candidates for the award.

Abreu's quality defense and consistent offense have softened the blow of losing Alex Verdugo. He's been a key piece of Boston's outfield transformation — what was one of the worst outfields last season, which featured Duran, Verdugo and Masataka Yoshida has become one of the best both offensively and defensively.

The Red Sox acquired Abreu via trade with the Astros in 2022. For two months of Christian Vázquez's services, Boston got their hands on an excellent defender and gutsy bat. Although many Sox fans were sad to see Vázquez go, there's no denying Abreu's skills.

Abreu's case for Rookie of the Year will build by the day if he continues his current level of play. The Sox's outfield could be in the conversation for one of the best in MLB, and some of its better performances are headlined by the 24-year-old right fielder.

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