Welcome to our 2021 Boston Red Sox in Review series. This is, as you can probably guess, where we will be reviewing all of the players who made at least a modest impact on the Red Sox in 2021. Every week day we’ll be deep diving into one player, describing the season in a sentence, looking at the positives from the year as well as negatives, looking back at our one big question from our season preview and looking ahead to the 2022 season. Today we start things off by talking about Christian Arroyo.
2021 in one sentence
Christian Arroyo enjoyed a career year in his first full season with the Red Sox, though he did so while only playing in 57 games.
Claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Guardians in August of 2020, Arroyo beat out Michael Chavis for one of the final spots on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster and made his 2021 debut against the Orioles on April 4.
When healthy, Arroyo proved quite capable of making an impact for the Red Sox at the plate and defensively at second base. The 26-year-old slashed .262/.324/.445 (106 wRC+) on the year to go along with 12 doubles, six home runs, 25 RBI, 22 runs scored, one stolen base, eight walks, and 44 strikeouts over 181 plate appearances.
Looking at those numbers more closely, the right-handed hitting Arroyo absolutely raked against left-handed pitching this season by producing a .329/.356/.529 slash line with a 137 wRC+. With runners in scoring position, Arroyo batted .256/.319/.558 with a 132 wRC+ while collecting 22 of his 25 RBI.
Of the six home runs Arroyo hit this season to set a new career high in that category, five either gave the Red Sox the lead or tied the game against their opponent, with the most memorable of those likely being the pinch-hit, go-ahead grand slam he crushed off A.J. Minter in the seventh inning of a 10-8 win over the Braves in Atlanta on June 16.
At second base, Arroyo has shown that he can be a plus defender in the infield. This year alone, he put up five defensive runs saved, an ultimate zone rating of 2.2, an ultimate zone rating of 7.8 per 150 games, and was worth one out above average at the position.
Among the 38 major-league second basemen who logged at least 350 innings at that position this season, Arroyo – who himself played 387 innings there – ranked ninth in defensive runs saved, eighth in ultimate zone rating, and first in ultimate zone rating per 150 games.
While Arroyo was impactful when he was on the field, the second baseman began to have issues staying on the field when he first suffered a left-hand contusion after getting hit by a pitch there on May 5. Later placed on the 10-day injured list on May 9, Arroyo would not return to the Red Sox until May 25 but ran into more trouble less than a month later in Kansas City.
There, in the fifth inning of a 7-3 loss to the Royals on June 20, Arroyo collided – and bumped knees — with center fielder Enrique Hernández as the two were pursuing a fly ball. Arroyo was removed from the game and was once again placed on the 10-day injured list with a right knee contusion a few days later.
After going through the rehab process and another brief stint with Triple-A Worcester, Arroyo was activated from the IL on July 5, though he wound wind up right back there two weeks later after a somewhat freak injury in the Bronx.
You see, the Red Sox needed to get top outfield prospect Jarren Duran some playing time following his promotion to the majors, and they did so by moving Hernandez off center field and back to second base, resulting in less opportunities for Arroyo.
Wanting his bat in the lineup, Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Co. opted to try Arroyo out at first base, and he got his first professional start at that position against the Yankees on July 18. In the third inning of that contest, though, Arroyo – attempting to complete a 6-4-3 double play, stretched out with his left leg to receive the throw from Hernandez and wound up landing on the ground after doing a split.
As he got back up on his feet, Arroyo was clearly in some pain and was promptly replaced at first base by Bobby Dalbec. He was diagnosed with a left hamstring strain late that night and was subsequently placed on the injured list yet again the following day.
From that point forward, Arroyo played in a grand total of seven big-league games for the Red Sox through the conclusion of the regular season. He came back from his hamstring strain in late August, was placed on the COVID-19 related injured list after being identified as a close contact of Hernandez’s and tested positive for COVID-19 himself on Aug. 29.
In the midst of a COVID outbreak within the clubhouse, the Red Sox signed an old friend in Jose Iglesias to address their lack of infield depth. Iglesias, a natural shortstop, shifted over to second base in Arroyo’s place and flourished there. As a result, Arroyo appeared in just four of Boston’s final 10 games after coming off the virus-related IL on September 21. He did however retain his everyday spot at second base for the club’s postseason run since Iglesias was ineligible for the playoffs.
So, in total, Arroyo spent time on the injured list on four separate occasions this season, which limited him to 57 games — only 10 of which came after the All-Star break.
The Big Question
There were 23 different position players who registered at least one plate appearance for the Red Sox this season. Among those 23, Arroyo was pretty middle of the pack in regards to several offensive metrics. He ranked 20th on the team in walk percentage (4.4%), 10th in strikeout percentage (24.3%), 12th in isolated power (.183), 13th in weighted on-base average (.332), 13th in weighted runs created plus (106), and eighth in fWAR (1.2), per FanGraphs.
That being said, his 106 wRC+ came in a relatively small sample size, but it at least shows that Arroyo was a slightly above average hitter this season.
2022 and Beyond
Heading into 2022, Arroyo is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $1.1 million in his first season of arbitration eligibility. Arroyo, who turns 27 in May, will presumably head into spring training as one of the favorites to win Boston’s everyday second base job to start the 2022 campaign.
Of course, there are several layers to this offseason (the CBA expiring, roster moves, free agency, etc.) that could alter the way the Red Sox view Arroyo moving forward, but I ultimately view him as a legitimate big-league infielder so long as he stays healthy. I would not mind if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Cora felt this way about Arroyo as well.