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2017 Red Sox positional preview: The Outfield

Looking at the organization’s outfield outlook heading into the season.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

In this final week before the regular season finally begins, we’ll be taking a look at the organization as a whole by position groups. This will include the starters, the bench players, the immediate depth, the high-level prospects and the low-level prospects. By my arbitrary definition, the high-level prospects include those in Double- or Triple-A, and low-level prospects including everyone else. Today, we’ll look at the outfielders.

The Starters

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts

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Sorry, I just passed out for a minute. This outfield is ridiculously fun. Jackie Bradley is arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game, and if he’s not he’s at least in the tippity top tier. Mookie Betts is in that tier as well, which was made evident by his winning of the Platinum Glove in 2016. Andrew Benintendi isn’t quite that good defensively, but he’d still be an above-average center fielder. Except, he’s the left fielder. The Red Sox have three legitimately good-to-great center fielders populating their entire outfield. That alone is impressive. Then, you add in the fact that they are all good hitters and baby you got a stew goin’. Betts is a legitimate MVP candidate who can do it all at the plate. Bradley will have his cold streaks but there’s a good chance they’ll be outweighed by extreme hot streaks. Benintendi has a small track record but a huge hit tool to outweigh it. This starting outfield is *kisses fingers like a chef*.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Pittsburgh Pirates Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Bench

Chris Young

Lost in the (perfectly acceptable) admiration for the starters is the fact that the Red Sox have an extremely capable backup in Chris Young, too. He was brought in to be a platoon player who can mash left-handed pitchers, and he certainly proved that he can do that last year. Even better, he outperformed everyone’s expectations against right-handed pitchers as well. Given the lack of depth behind him, that could certainly come in handy if there’s an injury to one of the starters in 2017. Oh, and he also has some experience in center field. You don’t really want to play him there at this point, but he’s at least a fine left fielder. There is also Brock Holt, who was included in the infield preview. He’s likely the second line of defense in terms of outfield depth. He’s not a great defensive outfielder, but he’s certainly passable.

The Immediate Depth

Steve Selsky, Bryce Brentz?

For as much major-league talent the Red Sox have in the outfield, there isn’t a whole lot of help in the high minors if an injury or two occur. Steve Selsky, who was claimed off waivers from the Reds in January, is the first line of defense. He never made much of an impression as a prospect and his a miniscule major-league track record, but there is some reason for optimism. First and foremost, he’s had a hell of a spring and has made an impression on John Farrell. That’s gotta count for something. Beyond that, he can draw a walk and might have a little pop in that bat. You don’t want to count on him as an everyday option, but he’s a fine fifth or sixth outfielder. We hope. Bryce Brentz is included here because he’s still on the roster. He has a question mark because he’s out of options and I still think he’ll be claimed by someone whenever he is designated for assignment. If not, he’ll line up behind Selsky as the break-in-case-of-emergency option.

The High-Level Prospects

uhhhhhhhh...Danny Mars

So, uh, the line of impressive young outfielders in the Red Sox system might hit a snag in the next couple of years. They really lack a high-level prospect ready to take the mantle as the next depth piece with the potential to be a starter in the coming years. The guy I’m most excited about is Danny Mars, which says more about the lack of options than anything else. He is going to play in Portland this year and has a solid hit tool to go along with good speed and plenty of athleticism. He can handle center field and despite his lack of power he can have a major-league future as long as he can keep displaying a solid hit tool as he rises through the ranks.

The Low-Level Prospects

Tate Matheny, Kyri Washington, Lorenzo Cedrola, Yoan Aybar, Tyler Hill

The Red Sox have a lot of solid outfield prospects at the lower levels, though none of them possess huge ceilings. Tate Matheny, for example, probably can’t be more than a bench piece but has a relatively high floor for someone in High-A with that low of a ceiling. The bat needs to come around, but he has the polish and the defensive skills to be play a role. Kyri Washington, who will also likely start the year in Salem, is a little more exciting. He’s nothing to write home about defensively, but there is real potential with the bat. Specifically, there is power potential. That’s always fun. Lorenzo Cedrola and Yoan Aybar are probably my two favorite players in this group, though they are a ways away from making good on any potential they may have. Both are athletic guys who show range in the outfield and fly on the bases. Neither show big power but have a long way to go in their development. Sox Prospects projects Cedrola to start the year in Greenville with Aybar starting in Lowell. Finally, Tyler Hill was the scout-the-statline darling from last year. He obliterated New York Penn League competition in his time with the Spinners despite not producing the best scouting reports. The upcoming year will be his first full season and figures to be a huge test for his future potential.