When you run a fangraphs.com sort of the career fWAR leaders (position players) of the Boston Red Sox you will see the familiar names at the top, but as you scroll further, some surprising names emerge.
My most underrated Red Sox player sits at #17 on that list and is largely a forgotten player for a few reasons. One may have to do with the fact that he started his career in the early 1990s, a time when the Red Sox were suffering from a lull in their success as a franchise. Another is that he was replaced at his position by a player that quickly earned cult-status in Boston - Nomar Garciaparra.
My most underrated Red Sox player is none other than John Valentin
Valentin came up in 1992 and posted a respectable 116 wRC+ across 212 PA. More importantly he gave the Sox faithful hope that they were looking at their SS of the future after numerous seasons of woeful SS performances. For 4 seasons (93-96) Valentin served as the primary SS for the Sox before ceding the position to Nomar and moving over to the hot corner.
As a 7-year starter for the Sox (93-99) Valentin posted 30.4 of his career 31.4 fWAR including 5 seasons of 4+ WAR and one incredible year (1995) of 8.2 fWAR which saw him finish in the Top 10 of the MVP voting and earn a Silver Slugger Award. The Seton Hall grad was always a tough out, posting a career 11.6 K% along with two seasons (95-96) of higher BB% than K%. He didn't just earn his keep with the bat either, but posted 7 straight seasons of positive Def Ratings including three seasons of 20+.
The sadness of John Valentin's career were injuries that took their toll and in 2000, the then 33 year old saw only 38 plate appearances and would see his career come to a very quick close two years later after his only stint with a club other than the Red Sox - the New York Mets.
How would we be looking at John Valentin if he had been able to stay healthy and finish his career in his late 30s with the Sox? We can only speculate.