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Don’t forget about Marco Hernandez

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He may be the best option to fill in for Dustin Pedroia

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The early parts of this offseason for both the Red Sox and the league as a whole have been a total snooze fest. Nothing has happened, and nothing has really changed with the Red Sox since their season ended in early November. One major change that did happen, however, came right after the season ended when Dustin Pedroia opted to have surgery on his injured knee. Although he is expected to return at some point in the middle of 2018, the team will at the very least be without their regular second baseman for a couple of months, if not longer. The good news is they have plenty of options to hold them over. Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero both possess well above-average gloves and showed some offensive flashes (albeit with some inconsistency) in the majors last year. Brock Holt has held down fill-in everyday roles throughout his major-league career, and there’s some hope that the head injuries were the main reason he suffered from a down year in 2017. Esteban Quiroz was just signed out of Mexico, and while we know very little about him there’s some intrigue with his skill set. There’s also a multitude of veteran free agent options who could come in cheaply and fill in admirably.

Amid all of those possibilities, though, it is the opinion of this writer that Boston’s best fill-in option at the keystone position is Marco Hernandez, who’s 2017 ended far too early due to a shoulder injury. He should be healthy for spring training, though, and there is no reason he wouldn’t be right in the thick of the competition to take over at second base.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

For those who have forgotten about Hernandez, and that wouldn’t be too surprising given the seemingly millions of infielders (remember Chase d’Arnaud?) that played for Boston in 2017, here is a little recap of how he got to Boston. Hernandez was traded to the Red Sox in the winter prior to the 2015 season to complete the midseason deal that sent Felix Doubront to Chicago. He spent his first year with the Red Sox organization splitting time between Portland and Pawtucket, impressing his way to a .783 OPS while playing solid defense at both middle infield spots. In the next season, he started the year in Pawtucket while also getting his first major-league call-up, and once again he impressed. That led us to 2017, when he was expected to play a relatively large role on the major-league bench before the shoulder injury ended his season in early-May.

I’ve always been high on Hernandez, and while we don’t know how he’ll come back from his injury, he deserves the chance to show he can be the same guy. He’s never going to be a superstar at the plate, but he’s the type of hitter who can contribute a lot more than Marrero or Lin. Although there’s not much power in the lefty’s bat, he has strong hand-eye skills that leads to a ton of line drives. He has the type of skill set that can lead to a high batting average on balls in play, and while he won’t hit many balls over the fence he can split the gaps and knock enough doubles and triples to keep his overall power at a respectable level. He’s also not going to draw a lot of walks, but he makes enough contact to cancel that out. Overall, it’s a below-average overall profile at the plate, but it’s close enough to average (I’d estimate a 95-ish wRC+) for a utility infielder who starts when needed.

On the defensive side, he’s not a Gold Glove caliber player, but he’s far from a liability either. There’s nothing really flashy about his play in the infield and he’s not someone you’d feel comfortable playing everyday at shortstop, but he has solid range and an average arm that can play all over the infield. He’ll get to all of the balls he should and make a few marginal plays. There are better internal options on this side of the ball, but his average defense is certainly enough to justify the rest of what he brings to the table.

There really aren’t any perfect answers for how the Red Sox can fill the hole at second base to start the year. Every option has their pros and their cons, but in my mind the best version of Hernandez beats out the best version of any of the other competitors. His bat is much better than any of the other internal options, and while it’s not as proven as the free agents it has at least as much upside. His defense falls short of that of Marrero and Lin, but his advantage with the bat makes up for that. Holt would be the only player with some argument to go head-to-head at the plate, but Hernandez has more upside at this point and his defense is more trustworthy in my eyes. There’s no reason for Alex Cora and the Red Sox to hand the job to anyone at this point, of course, but Marco Hernandez should be the leader in the clubhouse at this point very early in the offseason.