2021 Red Sox preview: Can infield depth emerge behind team's two best players?




 

Tomase: Do the Red Sox have enough infield talent behind Devers, Bogaerts? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Below are capsule previews of the Red Sox infield, which will be integrating a new second baseman, giving a rookie first baseman a chance to shine, and relying on two stalwarts who should rank among the best in the game at their respective positions.

(Note: Ages are as of opening day, while projected stats are courtesy Baseball-Reference and Tom Tango.)

Bobby Dalbec, 1B

Age: 25

Bats: Right

Outlook: The power certainly looked real last season, when Dalbec slammed eight homers in only 92 plate appearances, a 56-homer pace over a full season. While that's pushing the boundaries of plausibility, there's no reason Dalbec can't hit 25-plus homers while playing above-average defense at first. His playing time will be largely determined by his contact rates. If he strikes out 40 percent of the time, he shouldn't expect regular at-bats.

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Best case: Dalbec ups his walks, drops his strikeouts, and hits the ball out to all parts of the park.

Worst case: Opponents tie him up with fastballs and he's exposed a la Michael Chavis.

Projected stats: .249 batting average, 16 home runs, 45 RBIs, .807 OPS

Enrique Hernandez, 2B

Age: 29

Bats: Right

Outlook: The Red Sox made Hernandez one of their marquee acquisitions of the winter by signing him to a two-year, $14 million deal. The versatile jackknife has played everywhere except catcher during his seven-year career, but the Red Sox acquired him to be their primary second baseman. He brings a championship pedigree from the Dodgers, where he was considered a heart-and-soul kind of player. He'll move around the field as a fixture in the lineup even when he's not starting at second.

Best case: Hernandez hits leadoff, exhibits some power, and does all the little things to become a fan favorite.

Worst case: He continues the downward trend of 2019 and 2020 by hitting in the .220s.

Projected stats: .239-17-57-.734

Rafael Devers, 3B

Age: 24

Bats: Left

Outlook: It's time for Devers to make the leap to superstar. He certainly has it in him. Two years after leading the AL in doubles (54) and total bases (359) en route to a 12th-place MVP finish, Devers has the talent to be an All-Star. It would help if he could avoid a third straight slow start, which last year's 60-game schedule left him no time to overcome. When Devers is locked in, he hammers pitches in every part of the strike and even some parts out of it. He has a chance to be an elite hitter.

Best case: Devers starts strong and never lets off the gas, blasting 40 homers while hitting over .300.

Worst case: He becomes a defensive liability at third, which carries over to the plate, where a lack of discipline makes him one-dimensional.

Projected stats: .277-27-95-.833

Xander Bogaerts, SS

Age: 28

Bats: Right

Outlook: Talk about a huge year. Bogaerts has a chance to opt out after the 2022 season, which means the Red Sox are on the clock to convince him to stay in Boston. Bogaerts arrived at spring training looking even more muscular. As it is, he's one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball, capable of posting .320-30-120 numbers and earning MVP consideration. A homegrown superstar in an organization that has said goodbye to at least one of those in the last year, Bogaerts is the total package of talent, effort, leadership, and accountability.

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Best case: Bogaerts keeps on trucking to another 30-homer season and plays solid enough defense to win over the metrics that dislike his glove.

Worst case: He looks sluggish in the field and his added bulk makes him less athletic and more station-to-station.

Projected stats: .287-25-89-.871

Michael Chavis, 1B/2B

Age: 25

Bats: Right

Outlook: Not even the ability to play all four infield positions and the outfield can guarantee Chavis a roster spot. With the Red Sox considering a three-man bench, Chavis could be the odd man out on opening day. Regardless, we should see him at some point, and the pressure will be on. After a dynamic debut in 2019, he fell on hard times when opponents realized they could neutralize his power with high fastballs. It's pretty simple: if Chavis learns to hit them, his power absolutely plays. If he doesn't, he should prepare to wear a WOO across his chest in Central Mass.

Best case: Chavis handles high fastballs while continuing to punish anything that hangs, carving out a utility role.

Worst case: The strikeouts pile like so many yanked weeds and the Red Sox bury him in Triple-A.

Projected stats: .243-18-62-.737

Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS

Age: 25

Bats: Right

Outlook: If you're noticing a trend, the Red Sox are valuing versatility. Arroyo, with his experience at second, third, and shortstop, provides it. A former top-75 prospect with the Giants, he hit .240 in 14 games last year. He showed enough at the end of last season -- particularly defensively -- to make himself the best internal candidate to start at second, at least until the Red Sox acquired Hernandez. A right-handed hitter, Arroyo has hit over .300 at six different stops in the minors, but injuries have kept him from doing much in the big leagues.  

Best case: Arroyo makes the team and plays against lefties.

Worst case: He's outplayed by Chavis and lost on waivers, because he's out of options.

Projected stats: .242-10-35-.731

Jonathan Arauz, 2B/3B/SS

Age: 22

Bats: Switch

Outlook: As a Rule 5 pick, Arauz had to spend the entire 2020 season in the big leagues or be offered back to the Astros. Given the state of the Red Sox roster last year, that wasn't difficult. A year later, the infield depth has improved, however, and Arauz has options, which means he's likely to open the season at Triple-A Worcester. The switch hitter hit .250 with a home run in limited at-bats last year, at least demonstrating that he's not overwhelmed by big league pitching, but he's likely to be the victim of a numbers game this spring.

Best case: Arauz has a monster spring and forces himself onto the roster.

Worst case: The infield stays healthy and he spends the year in Triple A.

Projected stats: .253-9-38-.737

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