Almost halfway through the season, the Red Sox have been unable to get production out of second base. One thing is clear: it is time for the Eduardo Núñez experiment to end. After signing a $4 million dollar deal this offseason, he’s been abysmal on offense, with an OPS of .631 and a wRC+ of 67, and has been just as poor on defense, with -0.8 defensive WAR. Overall, he’s contributed -1.1 bWAR, which shows that any replacement level player would have produced more for the Red Sox. Fortunately, the Red Sox have multiple internal options to stop the bleeding.
4. Marco Hernandez
Marco does not have much experience in the majors, so it is not very clear what he brings to the table. He was a solid hitter in Portland and Pawtucket but is viewed as more of a utility man. However, he had a second shoulder surgery this February, and has no timetable for a return. He would likely be the ideal option to get a real chance for this team and could have potentially changed the shape of the infield and the bench this season, but it’s not clear that he’s going to be able to return this season. If he can recover, he could be as good as a late-season trade acquisition. In fact, one could make the argument he’d be better than many.
3. Tzu-Wei Lin
Nicknamed the ‘Tzunami’, Lin also does not have a lot of major league experience, having logged just 102 at-bats, but is a terrific defender. Lin should definitely get consideration due to his ability to produce on defense, but his offense is not projected to be significantly better than what Núñez has produced thus far. Despite this, I would like to see him given a second stint in the majors at some point this year. For one thing, it’s hard to imagine him being worse than Núñez at the plate. Additionally, we know he has the potential to at least settle in at a level relatively close to league-average. The ceiling isn’t as high at the plate, but with a steadier approach at the plate and a better glove, his floor is certainly higher.
2. Dustin Pedroia
Pedey is obviously a fan-favorite and the most proven option at second base, but his knee injury is still derailing him. After the 6-2 loss against the Twins, Manager Alex Cora stated he does not know when Pedroia will be back, but believes he will contribute at some point this season. Dustin can produce offensively and defensively, but it is important to not rush him back and accept the situation as a waiting game; knee injuries like this can linger and cause future issues. The injury is the only thing keeping him from the top of this list.
1. Brock Holt
Holt is definitely the best (healthy) option over Núñez at this point in the season. He’s been hitting the ball well, with a .796 OPS and a wRC+ of 116, and has been solid on defense, with almost 2 defensive runs saved. Holt has also been extremely efficient, contributing 0.9 bWAR in just 42 games this season. There’s always been some fluctuation in Holt’s game and he is prone to falling off as the season goes on. There’s also always a chance that he falls off as he is exposed to a greater role. That being said, he’s been playing well and has the best combination of 2018 production, major-league track record and health of anyone in this group. For the time being, he needs to be seeing the most time at second base.
Despite all of this, Cora has significantly favored Núñez, who has started 52 games at second base this season. Holt has just 17 starts at second, which seems like bizarre usage after comparing his production to Núñez’. It remains to be seen whether Núñez can turn his season around or Cora turns to a combination of Lin/Holt, though the good news is that Holt seems to be getting the call more and more of late.