Ryan Roberts' Red Sox career could be over soon

Jonathan Daniel

Ryan Roberts was brought in to provide some infield insurance in the wake of Will Middlebrooks' absence, but it hasn't gone well, and his time here could be over soon.

It's April 18th, and with the Red Sox sitting on a 7-9 record, things obviously haven't gone as planned. Because of the early misfortunates, some conclusions have been jumped to prematurely, using a sample entirely too small to panic about players or units. Everyone knows the samples are too small, but it's hard to avoid being troubled this early in the season, especially when its been as frustrating as this year has been, especially for the offense. I'm guilty of this too. For me, the man guy I'm already worrying about is the newest member of the offense, Ryan Roberts. It just doesn't appear that he will be sticking around for the long-haul in 2014.

Roberts, otherwise known as Tat Man, was brought in for a little bit of infield insurance when Will Middlebrooks was put on the disabled list with a calf strain. The Red Sox were hopeful that a veteran with third base experience, who also happened to platoon well with Jonathan Herrera, would be a better option than anything they had in the organization. Thus far, that theory has been proven to be horribly wrong. Roberts -- who failed to make the Cubs' roster out of spring training -- only has 22 plate appearances with Boston, but has done little to encourage faith in his abilities. After last night's 0-3 performance, he now has two hits (both singles), and is sporting a .105/.227/.105 line. The numbers aren't as important as how he's looked in that time, though. The 33-year-old has a 32 percent strikeout rate right now, which doesn't really work for a hitter without much power. When Mike Napoli strikes out that much, it's fine because he'll make up for it with home runs and walks. That's not happening with Roberts.

20140316_kkt_sv7_093Will Brock Holt take Roberts' roster space before Middlebrooks returns? Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Because of those extreme offensive struggles, it's looking like it's a question of when rather than if when it comes to him eventually being designated for assignment. Even when he was brought in, it seemed like he may not be around after Middlebrooks came back, but now it could be sooner. The reason for this: one Brock Holt. The former Pirates farmhand -- who came over in the Joel Hanrahan deal -- was in a battle with Herrera for the utility man spot in spring training, but predictably lost that battle. Since the AAA season started for Pawtucket, though, he's done everything he can to make the front office second-guess that decision. He's played in 10 games so far and accrued 47 plate appearances, and has torn the cover off the ball to the tune of a .415/.489/.610 (209 wRC+) batting line. Most impressively, he's struck out in just a shade over four percent of his at bats. On top of that, Holt can play all around the diamond, though he's best suited for the middle infield spots. While his numbers at AAA can't be trusted all that much, he does possess considerably more upside than Roberts. In fact, Steamer projects Holt for a 98 wRC+, compared to a 94 mark for Roberts the rest of the way. (ZiPS projects Roberts for a 89 wRC+).

There's also the matter of fit with this roster, which Ryan Roberts just doesn't seem to have. When Will Middlebrooks returns, he will presumably take back the everyday third baseman role. Roberts wouldn't even be able to platoon with him, since they're both right-handed. At that point, the Red Sox would need someone who can play a little bit of everywhere in the infield. That doesn't describe Roberts, who has played all of three innings in his career at shortstop. Unless there are frequent at bats to be had at third or second base, he just doesn't really make sense here.

Considering his poor defensive fit in Boston, it's more of a matter of when Roberts will be designated for assignment than if. Since he's only gotten 22 plate appearances, there's certainly a case to be made to give him more of a chance to prove himself before giving up on him, especially while they wait for Middlebrooks to make his return. However, their everyday third baseman's recovery has been slowed by a flu, and at a certain point they are wasting their time with an inferior player. With the way he's hitting in AAA, it's more than likely that Brock Holt has more upside than Roberts, and is worth a shot in the short-term, and could be given another opportunity to wrestle the utility job away from Herrera.

Whatever route they decide to go, it seems like Roberts' days on the 40-man roster are numbered. Maybe he'll stick around in Pawtucket and earn his way back here at some point. Looking at the situation right now, though, it appears we're approaching Ryan Roberts' last game in a Boston uniform.

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