The cool thing about spring training is that it brings about real baseball activities, real baseball news and, mostly importantly, real(ish) baseball games. Unfortunately, the start of camp also brings about the worst part of baseball, injuries. The luckiest teams will get out of spring unscathed, but the sad reality is that some injuries are probable in spring and inevitable once the season starts. This is why the best teams in the league have an enviable amount of depth.
Fortunately for the 2015 Red Sox, they seem to have solid backup plans at most spots on the diamond. If a starting pitcher goes down, they can call upon Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Steven Wright or Roenis Elias. If a reliever goes down, Matt Barnes, Noe Ramirez, Pat Light and Heath Hembree will be available. Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez will be biding their time in Pawtucket’s infield. In the outfield, however, they are really weak outside of their major-league roster.
At the start of the winter, the outfield depth appeared to be weak even on the major-league roster. Dave Dombrowski noticed that, of course, and addressed it early by signing Chris Young to a two-year deal. It gave the team a much-needed fourth outfielder who can step in if/when Rusney Castillo or Jackie Bradley struggle and/or need a day off. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to find a strong fifth and sixth outfielder who is willing to sign a minor-league deal, which leads to signings like Ryan Lamarre and Brennan Boesch.
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All of this brings us to the key question: What happens when an outfielder gets hurt? Obviously, there’s a chance that this isn’t an issue, especially with the starting trio of Castillo, Bradley and Mookie Betts being relatively young. Still, there’s a decent chance at least one of them will serve a stint on the disabled list, and the team needs to be prepared for that situation. Chris Young will slide into the necessary lineup slot, but who becomes the new backup?
Boesch and Lamarre are both going to be options, assuming they are still around once the regular season begins. Of course, they are both incredibly unexciting with the former combining for a 23 OPS+ in limited time the last two years and the latter posting a -56 OPS+ in his 26 career major-league plate appearances. Players have come out of nowhere to contribute before, but it’s nothing to plan on.
Bryce Brentz is another minor-league option to be called up, but he too inspires little confidence. For one thing, he can only play corners and should really be limited to left field. Of course, all of Boston’s major-league outfielders can play center and right in a pinch, so that’s not a major issue. What is a major issue, however, is that he has yet to show he can be a reliable major-league player. I’ve mentioned Henry Ramos and Andrew Benintendi as potential depth options this season, but at this point that’s hardly something that can be counted on.
To put it lightly, the obvious options are less than ideal. In the event of a major injury, the Red Sox are going to have to be a little more creative to get by. This is where it comes in handy to have the most versatile player in the sport on your side. Although Brock Holt is probably better served as infield depth, he has proven that he can handle himself in the outfield, giving the team a much-needed boost in that department. The defense wouldn’t suffer too much either, at least if you trust the metrics. Both UZR and DRS rate Holt as a plus defensive player in the outfield.
Not only is Holt better than the other outfield options waiting in the minors, the infielders who could be called up to take Holt’s spot on the bench are better as well. As things stand now, the Red Sox have two solid utility players waiting for a major-league opportunity. Deven Marrero is a former first round pick who has gotten a cup of coffee. His bat didn't play very well, but he has a plus glove and too much offense isn’t expected from infield depth. Marco Hernandez will also start the year in Pawtucket, and he’s a similar player to Marrero. The glove isn’t quite as good, but there’s reason to believe he can be more successful at the plate, making the two a relative wash.
Even Sean Coyle could play his way back into the organization’s favor and earn a call-up at some point. Whichever one would be brought up to fill the empty roster spot will be preferable to Lamarre, Boesch and Brentz.
Obviously, the Red Sox would be in trouble if injuries started piling up in the infield and the outfield, but the same could be said for just about every team in the league. With that being said, they seem to be in a worse position in the outfield than your typical playoff hopeful. They’ll hope that it never becomes an issue, but there’s a decent chance an injury will happen. Having Brock Holt around makes that concern a lot more manageable.