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Offseason Preview: Outfield Breakdown

Will the outfield look different in 2020?

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

With the offseason really getting underway as free agents are eligible to sign with other teams, we are going to spend some time looking at where the Red Sox stand with each positional group. We’ll look at catchers, infielders, outfielders, starting pitchers and relief pitchers. For each group, we’ll highlight the current projected starters, the projected depth, the prospects, the free agents with an emphasis on those who best fit as well as some trade candidates. Then at the end I’ll pick what I think the most likely scenario is. Today we will go over the outfielders.

Starters

Left Field

Andrew Benintendi

In a normal offseason, Benintendi would probably be the most-discussed outfielder on the Red Sox. The other two guys basically are who they are on the field, but Benintendi is a fairly recent top prospect in baseball who has been good while showing signs of being more than that in the majors. We are still looking for that star turn — or at least something close to it — and if the outfield sees the overhaul this winter that some have speculated, the Red Sox will need that leap from Benny.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game who is inconsistent at best with the bat. Overall he is still about an average regular, which is solid but also not impossible to replace. With it being his final year in arbitration, Bradley is a very clear trade candidate this winter.

Mookie Betts

There’s nothing left to say about Betts. He is the second-best player in baseball. He might also be traded this winter. I hate it.

Depth

J.D. Martinez

It feels weird having Martinez in the depth section, but we don’t do a DH preview and he is not an outfielder. Martinez is effectively the fourth outfielder for now, though. Everyone is better off with him getting as little time as possible in the field, but he will be out there at times in 2020, assuming he is still on the roster. (He is also a trade candidate.) When he is not in the outfield, he will almost always be the DH in the middle of the lineup.

Sam Travis

Travis was also included in the infield preview. He emerged as a solid right-handed platoon bat and he is limited to left field as far as outfield capabilities go.

Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin was also included in the infield preview. He is primarily a middle infielder, but has gotten center field time for a few years now and while you certainly don’t want him there every day it’s fine in a pinch.

Prospects

The prospects below are listed in the order in which they are ranked on Sox Prospects.

Gilberto Jimenez

Jimenez wouldn’t be my choice for top outfield prospect in the system, but that’s mostly picking nits. The young outfielder is uber athletic and uses that speed on both sides of the ball. The bat is still raw, particularly as he learns to switch hit, as is his defense, but the speed helps mask some of those deficiencies. There’s a long way to go, but his first taste of Stateside ball was tremendous and provided a lot of optimism for his future.

Jarren Duran

Duran would be my choice for top outfield prospect in the system. Like Jimenez, he is extremely athletic whose speed is his top tool. The ceiling isn’t quite as high here, but the floor is higher given how much further along in the system he is. I like Duran’s hit tool more than a lot of people, but there’s a good chance for it to be at least average. He has a major-league future, and while I think it’s as a good starter he should at least carve out a bench role for a few years.

Nick Decker

Decker was the team’s second pick by the Red Sox in the 2018 draft. Coming from a cold-weather area in New Jersey he was even more raw than a typical high school pick, but the power was too intriguing to pass up. We saw the flaws in his first real taste of pro ball in Lowell last year but we also saw plenty of the intrigue. He’s limited to a corner outfield role.

Marcus Wilson

Wilson is the prospect here most likely to make it to the majors first. The former Diamondbacks prospect was acquired for Blake Swihart and while he struggled mightily immediately after the trade he turned it around for the second half. Wilson opened some eyes in Arizona this fall as well and should be among the top minor-league depth options heading into 2020.

Eduardo Lopez

Lopez was the team’s top international signee in the summer of 2018, and while he’s certainly not on the same level as some other top international signees in the past there’s plenty to like here. His hit tool is going to carry him if he does make a leap, and he has the instincts to make up for what is probably more like average athleticism in center field. He was solid but unspectacular in the DSL last summer.

Darel Belen

Belen was another international signee in the same class as Lopez, though months later. Belen played well in the DSL last summer, but it should be noted that he was 19 in a league where most of the top players are 17.

Bryan Gonzalez

Here we have yet another international signee from that same class, and Gonzalez was one of the best DSL hitters in the Red Sox system. There’s questions about the athleticism and he is obviously very raw being only 18, but the power was very intriguing.

Juan Chacon

Chacon was the top signee from the 2019 international class for the Red Sox. He hasn’t played a professional game yet, but the reports on him over the summer indicated he is an athletic-but-raw outfield prospect.

Free Agents

You can see the full list of free agents, which I will not list out here, on MLB Trade Rumors.

Best Fits

Shogo Akiyama, Aaron Altherr, Billy Hamilton, Gorkys Hernández, Juan Lagares, Kole Calhoun, Avisaíl García, Gerardo Parra

If you look at this list and think, “Hey, this kinda stinks!” you would not be wrong. This is not an inspiring group of outfielders on the market this year, particularly if you want to keep Mookie Betts and keep him in right field. That probably means Bradley is being traded, which means you need a new center fielder. Most of the center fielders here are much, much better suited for fourth outfielder roles. If on the off-chance they do keep all three of their current starting outfielders, there are a lot of good options for that fourth outfield role. The best move — assuming someone gets dealt and they look to free agency for a new face — would probably be to trade Bradley, move Betts to center field and sign a new right fielder.

Trade Targets

Adam Engel, CHW; Jake Marisnick, HOU; Brian Goodwin, LAA; Jake Cave, MIN; Mallex Smith, SEA; Delino DeShields Jr., TEX; Anthony Alford, TOR; Ender Inciarte, ATL; Albert Almora, CHC; Kiké Hernández, LAD; Roman Quinn, PHI; Starling Marte, PIT; Manuel Margot, SD; Kevin Pillar, SF; Michael Taylor, WAS

Again, this is not the most inspiring group of players but the Red Sox are in a position where they can’t really get good players here. They don’t have the prospects in their farm system to acquire good, young talent and they aren’t willing to spend the money to acquire real talent by taking on contracts. So, we’re left with...this. There are some good players here, with Smith and Alford being two I’m particularly intrigued by. They would have to take on some sort of buy-low risk in any deal, though.

Most Likely Scenario

I think the most likely scenario is that Betts stays in Boston for at least this season and Bradley is the outfielder who is traded away. That could very well be wishful thinking on my part, but that’s what I’m going with. I think they’ll look to replace Bradley in a trade for a lower-tier option listed above, and Almora could be that guy. Chicago has Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber and Tony Kemp on their major-league roster, so Almora could be expendable. He’s coming off a bad year, so there is clear risk involved here but prior to 2019 he showed Bradley-esque ability (albeit with lesser but still-good defense) for a smaller cost. That matters for the Red Sox right now whether we like it or not. I think they’d then add one of the free agents to give them a better fourth outfield option. I’ll say Aaron Altherr or Gorkys Hernández, but anyone of that caliber could be likely.