By the end of the 2015 MLB season, the Boston Red Sox thought they had their outfield all figured out for the future. If this is it for the Red Sox, they might be in trouble.
Last year, they finished off their season with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo manning their three outfield spots. Betts heated up as progressed while Bradley Jr. and Castillo hit well after the All-Star break after struggling at the top level earlier in the season.
Those two months sold the Red Sox on Bradley and Castillo despite their obvious flaws as players. And this offseason, the only addition they made to the outfield was Chris Young, a right-handed hitter with some pop against left-handed pitching. Against righties, on the other hand, he hit just .182 in 165 at-bats last season.
Castillo posted a .566 OPS against right-handed pitching last season. FanGraphs calls an OPS lower than .570 “awful”. and had his share of mental lapses in the outfield and yet, he is expected to play left field regularly for the team this upcoming season. Fenway Park is not an easy place to play left field either because of the Green Monster. Just ask Hanley Ramirez about it.
While Bradley might be a top tier defender, a Gold Glove contender, the center fielder’s bat still has to come into question. Outside of last August, he is a lifetime .195 hitter in 621 MLB career at-bats. But in August, there might not have been a better hitter in baseball — so perhaps that was a glimpse of what he is truly capable of doing.
Of their three starters, Betts, who is projected to take the right field job in April, is the only one fans should feel truly confident in to perform every day. And that is because he did last year.
Betts hit .291 with an .820 OPS, smacking 18 home runs while stealing 21 bases in 145 games. He finished 19th in MVP voting, higher than anyone else on the team.
Outside of those four, super utility man Brock Holt played 35 games in the outfield last season. The 2015 All-Star known for his versatility has not recorded in error in 79 career games on the lawn.
Corner infielder Travis Shaw made three starts in left field for the PawSox this past season and made one appearance at the position at the big league level — for three innings. He might not be a viable longterm option. But at least he will serve as depth.
Bryce Brentz is their only other outfielder on the 40-man roster. The right-handed power bat missed the final three months of the season last year, injuring himself in AAA Pawtucket.
2013 National League All-Star Allen Craig, a first baseman and corner outfielder, is still in the Red Sox system. But he is not on the 40-man roster and has struggled since a Lisfranc injury he suffered in September 2013. In 59 games over the last two seasons for Boston, Craig is a .139 hitter.
The Red Sox also signed outfielder Ryan LaMarre to a Minor League deal with a spring training invite. The right-handed bat went 2-for-25 (.080 batting average) for the Cincinnati Reds in 2015.