2013 Red Sox Preview: Infield

The infield for the Sox is, surprise, in a bit of flux.

Dustin Pedroia is clearly one of the cornerstones of the team, both because he consistently produces, and because he’s a vocal mouthpiece. It works because he plays his balls off and produces, and it works because he runs his mouth like nobody’s business.

None of the other spots in the infield are really stable.

Mike Napoli was supposed to provide some stability at a position where the organization doesn’t have a lot of depth but the hip condition pretty much killed that. The impression I get is that he can go along without symptoms for a long time, but someday his hip is simply going to degrade too much, too quickly, for the Sox to make him a long term commitment. If he’s still the Sox first baseman in 2015, it is likely he is on a third one year contract.

That makes finding depth at the position one of the organizations priorities for 2013. The folks in the minors aren’t terribly exciting. If you look at Baseball Americas top 30, you don’t find a first baseman until you get to #23 Travis Shaw who played a month at AA Portland with results that were uninspiring. If either Middlebrooks or Bogaerts own the position, perhaps Garin Cecchini moves over to first, but he hasn’t played above Hi-A Salem and that’s a long ways away.

Xander Bogaerts is really the one driving the action. If he projects to stick at short for several years–and at this point the consensus seems to be that he does–then he’s going to own that position. That leaves Jose Iglesias without a position, almost entirely. It would be incredibly difficult for someone with Iglesias’ hitting history to develop enough ability in that area to make up for the gulf between him and Bogaerts in terms of total package. I rather suspect that Iglesias would make a phenomenal utility infielder. He clearly has the defensive chops at short, and the transition to second probably wouldn’t be particularly difficult. In addition, he seems to have enough speed and base stealing chops to be used in that role off the bench.

Still, for this year, it will be Will Middlebrooks at third, coming off a 2012 where his slugging surged and he cemented his spot on the big club in the short term, he is also coming off a hand injury. Hand injuries tend to linger so my expectations for him are rather tepid. Still, there are not a lot of immediately available options and he’ll likely be his own best replacement.

At short, Stephen Drew is here on a one year make-good contract, and I don’t think there is a person in baseball who thinks he’s here longer than that. He’s trying to make good from two relatively sub par seasons that his supporters will suggest is due to injury. If they’re right, he’s going to be more than adequate. If they’re wrong, it just hastens the day when we’ll see Iglesias or Bogaerts.

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