Welcome to the Red Sox Review series. It’s a fairly standard feature in which we will review the year that was for every player who made a decently large impact on the Red Sox this year. How do I come up with that definition? Completely arbitrarily, of course! The list of players I’m using can be seen here, and if I am missing anyone please let me know in the comments. Anyway, for the players who are included we will look at the positives of their 2017, the negatives, review their One Big Question from the preseason and look ahead to what’s on the table for 2018. Today, we discuss Deven Marrero.
On the surface, it was something of a typical year for Marrero, who once again showed off his biggest strengths while also reminding us of all of his flaws. There was one difference in 2017, though, and that was simply how much we saw of him. The former first round pick played far more often than he ever had in the majors, playing in 71 games and picking up 188 plate appearances on the year. The production in that time wasn’t always great, but as far as his career goes, simply getting that much experience in major-league clubhouses and against major-league pitching has to be a positive.
As far as his on-field performance goes, there were really only two positives in his 2017. The first came at the plate, where he’s never really had much success. His overall numbers this past year still weren’t great, but he was really effective against left-handed pitching. In fact, before the Red Sox acquired Eduardo Nuñez the plan was to platoon Rafael Devers and Deven Marrero at the hot corner. The infielder ended up hitting .291/.344/.600 against southpaws for a wRC+ of 141. We’ve never really seen him hit like this in any situation, and the power in particular is staggering. Of course, it should be noted that this production came in only 61 plate appearances. We can’t take away from him what he actually did, but I wouldn’t bet on it moving forward.
What I would bet on, however, is his glove. While he’s never really turned into the kind of hitter that you’d want as an everyday player, his defense is phenomenal all over the infield. He showed that off once again in 2017, filling in wherever he was needed and flashing the leather at every spot. The most important position was almost certainly third base. He was called up when the hot corner was in complete disarray, and while the offensive struggles at the position got most of the headlines, the Red Sox were also playing atrocious defense at third base. Marrero was obviously inconsistent on offense, but it’s hard to overstate how much his glove stabilized the infield as a whole and made the team simply look more competent.
The final positive is one that I can’t really quantify or even be specific about. Marrero, though, is one of the most beloved members of the clubhouse, particularly among the younger players. This is coming just from watching how players act in the dugout and following them on social media. Obviously, the fact that he is good friends with many players on the team isn’t reason enough to keep him around, but all things being equal it’s a positive. He and Mookie in particular are fun to watch together.
Marrero had some strong points in his year, but generally speaking this was not a great year for Marrero, at least in terms of his hitting. He did extremely well in his small sample against left-handed pitching, but he was atrocious against righties. In 127 plate appearances against righties, he hit just .172/.218/.207. That’s a wRC+ of 7. Seven! That led to him posting a mark of just 51 overall on the year. For as strong as his glove is — and it’s good enough that he’ll get plenty more chances in this league — the bat is just not close to being major-league ready despite his defensive abilities.
It should also be mentioned that, while he spent the most time he ever has in the majors, the majority of his year was still spent in Triple-A. For the second straight year, he wasn’t all that impressive against minor-league pitching. The fact that he still can’t hit pitching in Triple-A, despite having spent portions of the last four years in Pawtucket, is troublesome. He wasn’t quite as bad as he was in 2016 when he posted an OPS of just .487, but he still only OPS’d .626 in 2017. That’s just not good enough for someone who wants to be a consistent major leaguer when you consider his age and experience.
The biggest issue for Marrero at the plate is that he just can’t make contact. He’s always been a high-strikeout player, but that took another leap in 2017 when he was set down in 32 percent of his plate appearances in the majors. He’s now struck out in just about 33 percent of his PAs over his major-league career. To make matters worse, his Triple-A strikeout rate of 26 percent was easily his worst mark from any point in his minor-league career.
The Big Question
In which direction will Deven Marrero’s career move this year?
As I wrote in this preseason post, this was a big year for Marrero, as it was his final year with a minor-league option. He needed to make a statement to guarantee he had a major-league future. He didn’t do that, but I also don’t think he took a step back, either. His glove was incredibly valuable, and the Red Sox will take that into account. Furthermore, while his offense was bad on the whole, there were more flashes of potential in 2017 than ever before. He likely didn’t take a step in either direction, leaving him as a confusing player.
Looking ahead to 2018
Speaking of which, I have no idea how the Red Sox will approach Marrero in 2018. At least, I didn’t before Dustin Pedroia’s injury. With Pedroia on the shelf to start the year, there’s a much more clear path to a roster spot for Marrero to start the year as long as the Red Sox stick to their word and stay in the organization for second base help. At this point, I’d suspect Marrero and Brock Holt will split time at second base. I’m no more excited about that than you, to be clear. This is why, even if Marrero does start the year in the majors, I’d probably bet on him finishing the year elsewhere with Tzu-Wei Lin and/or Marco Hernandez overtaking him on the depth chart.