This is my first post here at OTM. Go easy on me. I just wanted to talk to about the future of the Red Sox at first and third base.
I'm sure some of us have been a bit worried about the issues for the depth (or lack thereof) at these two positions. Mike Napoli has proved his worth this year at 1B with a line of .262/.341/.486 with 7 HR and 36 RBI. He has definitely been adequate on defense as well, and he will be an important cog in the middle of the lineup if this team wants to stay a contender. However, he is only on a one-year deal after the original 3-year deal was nixed because of a recurring hip injury. I know many of us would like the Sox to resign him, but what if he leaves?
Some free agent possibilities are Justin Morneau, Mark Reynolds, Corey Hart, Casey Kotchman, Adam Lind, Kendrys Morales, and Michael Morse. Some of those guys will re-sign with their respective teams, and some other guys aren't as desriable as Napoli. So if Napoli leaves after this season, we could once again have no adequate first baseman for a while. The only listed 1B prospect the Red Sox have is Travis Shaw who is 23, and has a very slim chance of ever making the big leagues. I will be very worried if the Sox lose Napoli, because they would be banking on the fact that they get someone like Morneau. Right now, first base is fine. Let's just hope Napoli doesn't get hurt, or it could spell trouble.
Now, the third base dilemma. Well, it's a dilemma if you want to call it that. Right now, we have Middlebrooks at Third, Drew at Short, and Napoli at First. However, there are some top notch prospects in Xander Bogaerts and Jose Iglesias pushing for spots. Drew is most likely gone after this year, so that leaves shortstop open. If you want to accomodate both prospects (if they are ready next year- - which they might not be), you will have to let Napoli walk. I still think Bogaerts won't be ready next year, so letting Napoli go might not be so smart. Bogaerts and Iglesias are both Shortstops, and Middlebrooks is a Third Baseman. So why leave First Base open? Because many people believe Bogaerts will eventually move to 3rd. If Iglesias can hit at least a bit, he will stay at short. He is an absolute magician on defense, and there's no way you can move him. If Bogaerts is all that he is hyped up to be, you can't move him. That leaves Middlebrrooks and Xander at Third, however Middlbebrooks can likely be shifted to First Base. Sure, it's not easy switching positions, but Napoli and Nava have done fine this year. I don't think it's ideal having 2/4 infielders playing off-positons, but in order to maximize value, they might have to keep it like that. An infield with Middlebrooks, Pedroia, Iglesias, and Bogaerts looks very solid.
There is also the chance that maybe Iglesias can't hit, and Bogaerts just becomes a bust. Then we're leaving shortstop open for a prospect like Devin Marrero, or signing someone else. Middlebrooks would stay at third, but I'm not sure we can have 100% confidence in him or our depth their just yet. I love Middlbebrooks. But, besides hitting homers, he hasn't been doing well with a paltry average of .201. Disregarding Bogaerts, the only prospects the Sox have at third are Garrin Cecchini, Michael Almanzar, and Kolbrin Vitek. If Middlebrooks can lower his strikeout rates, and hit for a better average, we won't be having this discussion. Plus, I think Middlebrooks can turn it around. But we've seen players fall flat on their faces before. Not one of those prospects are ML-ready, with Bogaerts being the closest but still a year or two away. With WMB on the DL right now, our 3B depth is already being tested. Iglesias is playing third because of how thin we are in that position. Our depth is a shortstop playing third (Iglesias), and a utility man who is way too impatient (Ciriaco). As our bullpen has shown, depth is essential for survival. That's why we need Middlebrooks to produce and stay healthy, as well as having some prospects develop well.
For next year, I can see things shaping up like this: Napoli at First, Pedroia at Second, Iglesias at Short, and WMB at Third.
For, let's say, in 2016, I can see the infield like this: WMB at first, Pedroia at Second, Iglesias at Short, Bogaerts at Third.
Depth at first and third is an issue for this team that is always plagued by injuries. By producing and staying healthy, this discussion almost becomes irrelevant execpt for the intriguing way the infield will change with guys potentially moving positions.
Thanks for reading!