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Positional Breakdown: Right Field

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A look at the position where, well, you know what happened this winter.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Over the next eleven days, we are going to take a look at the Red Sox depth chart to break down each position both in the short-term and the long-term. We’ll look at projected starters, bench pieces, depth options, top prospects, sleeper prospects, other prospects, where the starter fits in the division in terms of projected fWAR using FanGraphs’ Depth Chart system and an overall view. Today we move over to right field.

Starter

Alex Verdugo

The Red Sox lost a generational talent at this position over the winter, which obviously puts a cloud over the spot for the time being. Looking past that, however, they did get a starter back at the same spot, albeit one who was allegedly present for a heinous act. On the field, Verdugo is no longer a prospect but is young enough that his value in terms of control is close enough to the same. He reminds me a lot of Benintendi at the plate, or at least their realistic upsides are about the same. There isn’t a complete lack of power in the bat and a move to Fenway could help the extra-base ability if not the overall home run totals, but overall we’re probably looking for something around league-average power outputs.

Beyond that, however, Verdugo has a very good hit tool and can get on base, making him a good fit for the top of the lineup. While this profile is certainly good enough to start in most major-league lineups and Verdugo could easy develop into an All-Star type of player, I am a little concerned about both corner outfield spots having this kind of profile. In isolation the Red Sox are set up here well talent-wise, though we have to be sure to focus on what lies ahead, not what came before.

Bench

Kevin Pillar, J.D. Martinez, Yairo Muñoz, Tzu-Wei Lin

This is the same group as left field, and it should function roughly the same. Pillar had been slated to start the year as the everyday right fielder as Verdugo was going to miss most or all of April, but given the best-case scenario of a delayed start to the year, the latter should be ready, pushing the former to the bench. As I mentioned yesterday with the center fielders (link below), Pillar will play pretty much every day against lefties, but with all three projected starters hitting from the left side of the dish he may be in different spots for each start. Along those same lines, don’t be surprised to see a good chunk of games in which Pillar is in center and Martinez is in a corner when a southpaw is starting for the other side. I’m not wild about Martinez playing too much in right, particularly at Fenway, but it will happen. It’s just a matter of how often. Muñoz and/or Lin would serve more as emergency roles, hopefully only needing to make a handful of outfield starts over a full season.

Boston Red Sox v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Depth

Marcus Wilson, César Puello, Rusney Castillo

This is the same trio I talked about in the left field post, so I’ll link that here and move along.

Top Prospect

Nick Decker

I linked the left field post above and there I said that there aren’t really left field prospects because most are just failed center fielders. The same is sort of true for right fielders, though not quite to the same extent. Decker is mostly a true right fielder at this point, though he was drafted as a center fielder and has played there sparingly (three games, to be exact) as a pro.

The 2018 second round pick got off to a slightly delayed start after being limited to just one game in his first summer due to injury, and was already a little behind developmentally coming from a cold weather region in New Jersey. So, there’s a little bit of lead time and projection required for the 20-year-old, but he has big-time power and good defense along with an arm that should play in right field, even at spacious Fenway. The question here is whether or not he will make enough contact to tap into his power consistently enough. He put up good power numbers in Lowell last year with a .224 Isolated Power (SLG - AVG), but also struck out nearly 30 percent of the time. The upside is there for a future starter, but it’s far from a sure thing at this point.

Sleeper Prospect

Tyler Esplin

The top prospect out in right wasn’t a terribly difficult decision, but things got a little harder as I moved down the system a little bit. In left field I chose Tyler Dearden, and I’m going with his corner outfield mate for the last couple years and his likely mate if there’s baseball in 2020, as well as fellow Tyler, Tyler Esplin. Like Dearden, Esplin was a later round pick in 2017, though in the seventh round it wasn’t quite the same kind of drop. He got $250,000 coming out of IMG Academy and has some potential but is a long way off. Still only entering his age-20 season, he’s moved up one level at a time and continuing that pattern would put him in Salem for the coming year. The defense isn’t great, though he has the arm for right field, and it will be the bat that carries him if he is to make it to the highest level. Esplin can hit for power and has shown a ton of patience, but needs to refine his hit tool if he’s going to be more than an up-and-down kind of bat.

Other Prospects

  • Marcus Wilson has been mentioned as depth for all three outfield spots, but right is arguably his most likely spot if he’s to play everyday. Recently added to the 40-man, he needs to make more contact but he has the athleticism and the power to be a very good bench piece in the near future.
  • Giancarlos Santana got almost half a million dollars in the 2018 July 2 class and could be a future top of the order type of hitter if things break exactly right, though his DSL debut in 2019 was rough.
  • Leon Paulino was a late-round pick last year and the Lawrence native is raw but plays very good defense in the outfield and has some pop.

AL East Projections

  1. Aaron Judge, NYY (4.9 fWAR)
  2. Alex Verdugo, BOS (2.4 fWAR)
  3. Hunter Renfroe, TB (1.4 fWAR)
  4. Teoscar Hernandez, TOR (0.8 fWAR)
  5. DJ Stewart, BAL (0.4 fWAR)

There was absolutely no doubt that Judge would be at the top of the list, and he’d certainly have an argument for being at the top of the list if we were simply ranking every position player in the division. Durability could be the only thing holding him back right now as he seems to get banged up every couple months. That said, while it can be hard to overlook the strikeouts he is a phenomenal player with otherworldly power, top-notch patience and very underrated defense in right. It’s a race for second here, and Verdugo gets the nod. I would take him over the other names here on talent alone to be sure, especially because I’m not particularly high on Renfroe being much more than an average hitter, but it should be mentioned that platoons are factored in for these others’ WAR totals as well.

Parting Thoughts

As I said before, it’s hard to overlook the MVP-sized hole in this position, but ignoring that the Red Sox do have a very good replacement that is ready to step in and can be a consistent three or four win player for the next five years or so. That’s not quite as exciting, but it’s more than many other teams have.