Dissecting the Red Sox Roster: Batters

Well, this took me a little longer than I expected, but oh well. Continuing in the player-by-player breakdown of who we had in 2009 and what they are to the team in 2010, I give you the batters.

Brian Anderson: Let's start things off easy, shall we? Brian Anderson really brought nothing to this team in 2009. Sure, he had that one really good game against Cleveland when nothing mattered, and his 1.028 OPS is pretty to look at if you ignore how many ABs it took. But he's not a major league player. If he's willing to be stuffed back in the minor leagues, maybe he comes back as very mediocre insurance. But if not, the Sox should have no qualms with dumping the failed prospect.

 

Rocco Baldelli: Rocco wasn't all that bad as far as a bench bat is concerned. He had a very low OBP, but brought a little pop to the lineup when he was slotted in and finished with a mid-700s OPS. He even played a good center field in limited innings, if his UZR came in below average in the outfield over the year. Ultimately, though, Rocco does not bring any solid reliability to the bench. He's got obvious injury risks, and if you can't rely on a guy to come off the bench and give you a solid AB regardless of how often he plays is not necessarily the guy you want. Unless his price is very low, I expect the Sox will let him walk in favor of someone more reliable.

 

Jason Bay: Now here's where things get interesting. Let's look at the facts: Jason Bay was a fantastic offensive producer for the Red Sox. He lead American League outfielders in numerous offensive statistics, and was a great middle-of-the-order guy every month but July. Now, it's tempting to just say "sign him"—and I think the Red Sox ultimately will. But I'm not sure that's going to be a good idea. For a team where the goal has long been to exploit the unexploited market and avoid overpaying based on name and hype, Jason Bay seems like exactly the wrong sort of signing: a guy with big numbers where people often look (RBI, HR, and yes, OBP, SLG, and wOBA) but crap numbers where they do not (UZR). If Bay wants to sign with us, he'd better understand that he will have to DH when we ask him to DH.

 

J.D. Drew: Seriously, for those of you Drew-haters—and I know a few still linger—ask yourselves if you're not a bit too caught up in his 2007 numbers. Last year he was a top-10 outfielder by wOBA, top-3 by OPS. And unlike his similarly offensively gifted outfielder Jason Bay, Drew is a very solid defensive outfielder as well, worth 9.7 runs above replacement, good for 6th amongst major league right fielders. Is he costly? Yes, but he's a ridiculously good player and worth every penny in '08 and '09. I'm not saying we should resign him after his contract runs out in 2 years, but until then he's an integral part of this team that's probably being underutilized batting 8th every other game.

 

Jacoby Ellsbury: There's not a lot left to be said about Jacoby Ellsbury that hasn't already been said here. A seemingly great defensive outfielder due to speed and the occasional flashy dive or leap, Ellsbury's abilities do not hold up well under scrutiny. Bad jumps and poor routes lead him to being one of the worst defensive center fielders by UZR, and offensively the problems are the same as usual: OBP, OBP, OBP. As a leadoff hitter, that number should be higher than it is, though he's made improvements, it's questionable whether that's due to improving skills or a higher BABIP this year. The K% and BB% are moving slowly in the right direction, but to stay in CF he's going to have to improve his defense, and if he wants to make it in left, he's going to need to improve his bat way more than he has so far.

 

Joey Gathright: He's a good guy to have in the system, but he's not one you want for the long haul. He's not got a bat to be worth a spot on the bench except when you're in the postseason and can expect to be playing your starters every single game and might just need that one key SB. Otherwise, hes' a roster spot best used on a solid all-around player.

 

Alex Gonzalez: There's gotta be a little bit of emotion involved in the decision making process for those who want to bring the more diminutive A-Gon back. The Red Sox hadn't had a guy let them feel safe on a ball hit to the SS hole for a while, and Gonzalez gave them that for a short time. Add in a few clutch hits, a surprising number of homers, and replacing a combination of Julio Lugo, Nick Green, and Brian Woodward and I'm surprised we haven't had statues going up left and right. But looking at Gonzo's case rationally, he's not at all worth the $6 million option on his contract, and he's probably not a great player to keep on. First off, even his .316 OBP this year with the Sox was very nearly a career high. He is, undoubtedly, a black hole in the lineup. And in the field, while he's good, he's not great and he's not likely to get any better as he gets older. This guy is not a solution to the long-term problem, he is a short-term stopgap who kept Sox fans from tearing out their hair. In his short time with the Sox, Jed Lowrie has shown no signs of driving Sox fans insane with fielding errors, and has the potential to swing a big bat. Pair him with another possible solution (*cough*JJ Hardy*cough*) and see who emerges.

 

Nick Green: As fun as it was to watch Nick Green go on his early-season hot streak and show remarkable range at short, he's unlikely to reproduce either next year, and so is probably minor-league depth at best for this team.

 

Casey Kotchman: Another player who just doesn't have a great future with the Sox. There's likely at least one team in the league likely to give him a starting job at first, and he never seemed to get his bat going even to his usual levels as a bench player. While he's got a great glove at first, that's just not the greatest use of a bench spot, especially if we can employ a late-inning defensive unit with Jed at 3rd, Youk at 1st, and hopefully a good defensive backup/platoon SS. Send him on his way and see if we can't get some value for him.

 

George Kottaras: Bad bat, mediocre defensive catcher, and with Mark Wagner throwing out guys left and right and flashing a bat again, he may well have missed his window with the Sox. Sorry, Kott.

 

Mike Lowell: To say Mike has been disappointing since signing his contract in the 2007-2008 offseason would probably be an understatement. .274/.338/.461 and .290/.337/.474 are not lines worth $12 million, especially not when paired with defense befitting a cripple. However, there's reason to be encouraged. Even with limited starts, Lowell put up pretty good numbers in July and August before disappearing in September, and started to show signs of being the old defensive Lowell as the season came to a close. The ability to be the old Mike Lowell is still there, and hopefully with more consistent playing time (with Martinez taking over at catcher, Youk will be staying at first a lot more) and a healed hip, Mike could flash us some of the old magic in what will almost certainly be his last year with the Red Sox.

 

Jed Lowrie: If the wrist is healthy, he should be our starting shortstop. The defense is there, the offense should by all accounts be there with a well-repaired wrist—there's no evidence of significant discrepancies in his L/R splits in the minors. I still think he's our shortstop of the future.

 

Victor Martinez: I'll admit that I got this guy wrong. He came into Fenway and produced. But that doesn't change that he's not an impressive defensive catcher, which is the position he's going to have to fill more often than not next year. Hopefully, his position splits fall more in line with his pre-'09 numbers instead of his clearly first base heavy ones from last year. Otherwise, while he won't be Varitek bad, the upgrade isn't going to be as big as we expect.

 

David Ortiz: Perhaps the biggest single question mark on the Red Sox going into 2010 is Big Papi. Obviously, he is on the decline. Obviously, he's not due for a big contract in 2011 if any at all. And obviously, so long as he doesn't somehow find his way into pin stripes, he's due to go down as one of the all-time Sox if only for his contributions in '07 and especially '04. But next year anything could happen. While Ortiz ended the season with an OPS of .794, he put up a 1.062 OPS in June, .845 in July, .825 in August, and .947 in September. But when that's being so strongly offset by the slow starts he's had for the last few years, it's hard to justify keeping him consistently at DH. Papi needs to figure out what it is that's making him start slow (not exactly the sign of an aging guy who would tend to break down over the course of the season) over the offseason, and FIX IT. More prep, less prep, I don't know, but if he fixes it, the Sox could pull a huge weapon out of nowhere.

Or he could just continue to disappear.

 

Dustin Pedroia: Not much to this one. He's our guy at second base for the foreseeable future. Huge defense, great on base capabilities, and with the ability to show a little sneaky pop. After putting up an MVP season in 2008, Pedroia seemed to regress a little in 2009, but I wouldn't expect that to continue at all. In fact, I'd expect him to get better in a lot of ways. After BABIPs of .334 and .336 in '07 and '08, Petey posted a .300 in '09. He had a little bit of a GB/FB shift, and maybe swung for the fences a bit too much when he had only a couple dingers midway through the year. If Petey can get back to playing his game, he could easily jump back over the .850 OPS mark.

 

Jason Varitek: As much as I love the captain for all he's done, it's time to call it quits. Tek is not currently worth a roster spot. He doesn't have the offense to be a full-time catcher, or the defense to be a backup. Plus his presence will likely just make it harder to get the pitchers in synch with Martinez and whoever ends up backing him up next season. If he insists on picking up the player's option, pay him his 3 million and cut him loose. I hope he ends up as a coach with us someday, but there's just no justification to waste a spot on him.

 

Chris Woodward: A guy with no redeeming qualities. Awful defense, awful offense...Don't even stick him in Pawtucket, just cut him.

 

Kevin Youkilis: After the dramatic improvement between '07 and '08, Sox fans would've been completely justified in wondering if this late-blooming Youk was for real. .843 OPS is acceptable at 3rd, or 1st with great defense. .959 OPS with great defense at the corners? That's MVP stuff. .312/.390/.569 became .305/.413/.548, and Sox fans were reassured. Kevin Youkilis is THE middle-of-the-lineup guy for the Red Sox. He may not his tons of homers, but he's going to produce. Youk's extension was clearly a good buy now.

By the way, did anyone else realize he had 7 steals last year? Go figure. Nice little tidbit to end the article on.

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