Not counting 2020 for obvious reasons, baseball seasons are long. Almost excruciatingly long. With spring training getting started for realsies today for the Red Sox (in that official workouts begin in Fort Myers on Thursday) most of the focus is on how the active roster is going to look and perform. And to that end, the work on that front is mostly done. It seems as though they may be looking to grab another reliever, but other than that it would appear everything is set. Yesterday, we looked at what the Opening Day roster would look like if the season were to begin today with everyone who is currently healthy still healthy on that roster.
But to get back to the length of the season, teams need a whole lot more than 26 players to get through a 162-game grind. That is the case in any normal year, and it’s doubly the case in 2021 with injuries expected to be a bigger issue than ever coming off the shortened 2020 campaign. All of which is to say, the 26-man roster is important, but it’s also crucial to make sure all of your bases are covered — literally — down in Triple-A, because that depth will be needed in the bigs.
And so I figured after looking at the active roster yesterday, today we could take a gander at what is waiting in the wings. At a later date we’ll take a look more specifically at names they could target on the minor-league free agent market, but for now we’ll just look at where they may need that help. I’ll also mention that I’m only looking at players who could reasonably be expected to help in the first half, which means guys like Bryan Mata and Jeters Downs, who could get their debuts later in the year, won’t be included here.
Chris Hermann, Connor Wong, Ronaldo Hernández, Jhonny Pereda
This group is coming into the limelight a bit more right now with Kevin Plawecki hitting the COVID list to start camp. It’s not clear how serious the issue is with Plawecki, or even whether or not he’s tested positive or just was around someone who tested positive. Right now, we have no reason to assume he won’t be ready for the start of the season. On the other hand, we know COVID can have long-lasting effects with what Eduardo Rodriguez dealt with last year, and to a less serious extent the way guys like Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor never quite got their feet under them all summer. So again, for now we can assume Plawecki will be ready to go Opening Day, but it’s a reminder that they’ll need depth here as well.
And as far as this group goes, well, it’s not great. Hermann is the de facto third catcher to start the season, as he has some major-league experience. That said, he’s neither a very good hitter nor a very good defensive player. Wong and Hernández are on the 40-man as well, but the former only has a cup of coffee as high as Double-A while the latter has never played above High-A. Pereda is a defense-first catcher. So there are issues here, but at the same time you can’t just find good catchers to have at Triple-A. If they’re not already in the system, they’re getting major-league deals. So while having a bit more here would be great, that’s easier said than done. I think they can probably just hold their breath here and hope for the best.
Michael Chavis, Josh Ockimey, Chad De La Guerra, Yairo Muñoz
The Red Sox should be good here as well, I’d think. Chavis is certainly going to be disappointed if/when he starts the year at Triple-A, but it very well could be for the best. He is a guy who needs everyday at bats to get into a rhythm and he should get that at Worcester. With that being said, he’s almost certainly going to be the first position player to get the call early in the year barring a terrible spring performance, and he can obviously play both corner spots.
That versatility point also goes to De La Guerra and Muñoz. The latter is higher on the depth chart than the other two, but he’s also barely a corner infielder. He can play those spots for sure, but he’s more of a middle infielder and corner outfielder. De La Guerra, meanwhile, I think is the most underrated depth piece on this roster. Ockimey is also someone who I struggle with. I think he’s very good at what he can do, but with a Red Sox team that is expected to carry a three-man bench at least to start the year, a platoon, first base-only player is tough to carry. Still, if it makes sense he’s ready for the call up.
All in all, I think this group is probably set.
Michael Chavis, Jonathan Araúz, Yairo Muñoz, Chad De La Guerra
So this group kind of has to be thought of as two separate groups. Chavis, Muñoz and De La Guerra can all play second base, but you don’t really want any of them at shortstop on anything close to a consistent basis. So for second base, the team is set, especially when you also consider the major-league roster featuring Enrique Hernández, Marwin Gonzalez and Christian Arroyo.
At shortstop, though, Araúz is the only real option behind Bogaerts. Some of the other guys on the major-league roster above can fill in here and there, but this is the first position we’ve run across where we find an issue. If the Red Sox are indeed scouring the market looking for veterans who will sign minor-league deals, someone who can play shortstop should be near the top of that list.
Michael Chavis, Yairo Muñoz, Marcus Wilson, César Puello, Michael Gettys
Just like corner infield, the Red Sox should be largely set out on the corner outfield spots, especially because Hernández and Gonzalez above can be put into these positions. This is the reason they have been so hellbent on finding versatility on the position player side all winter, because it’s clearly valuable having so many of these players who can show up at all of these different spots. We can also throw J.D. Martinez into the mix here as well, though that is something that we hope only happens 20 or so times at most through the season.
The true outfielders here in the last three spots are, again, not ideal, but we’re talking about guys who are sixth, seventh on the depth chart. Wilson has some upside at least, and the others can hold their own if needed. This isn’t a position of need.
Marcus Wilson, César Puello, Jarren Duran
Here, the group is much shallower. If you’re looking at the major-league depth chart, you can throw either Hernández or Alex Verdugo here as well depending on who you have as your closest thing to an everyday starter. But this is a thin position, and somewhere they could have looked for major-league help. Unless they surprise us with a Jackie Bradley Jr. signing, though, that’s not happening.
And so they’re left in sort of a tough spot. Wilson and Puello were mentioned above, and honestly at first I was not planning on putting Duran here. It seems aggressive to think he could be up in the first half, but enough people seem to think it’s at least a possibility that I feel obligated to include him. I’m still skeptical though. All of that would seemingly point to needing to look for some help here, but it’s not quite that simple. Duran obviously needs to play in center field every day down in Worcester, and they already have Wilson relegated to the bench on the Sox Prospects roster projection. With injuries they could probably make room for a minor-league free agent, but it might be a tough sell since the best options are looking for clear paths to playing time. Either way, this isn’t quite as worrisome as the shortstop depth, but it’s not great either.
Tanner Houck, Ryan Weber, Connor Seabold, Daniel Gossett, Matt Hall, Stephen Gonsalves, Kyle Hart
This is not a great group. It’s not the Dodgers. But my goodness is it a marked improvement compared to what they were rolling with last season. And again, this does not include someone like Bryan Mata, who I think could be included for the second half. It also does not include Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock, who should start the year in the majors and are major parts of the picture here. So while the Red Sox still have their pitching issues in terms of top-end talent and major-league production, they actually look pretty well set in terms of depth, all things considered.
Josh Taylor, Phillips Valdez, Colten Brewer, Eduard Bazardo, Kevin McCarthy, Durbin Feltman, Zac Grotz, Caleb Simpson, Seth Blair
There will be other names here as the year goes on as well, because relievers pop up almost out of nowhere, and injuries will cause guys like Taylor and Valdez to be moved to the active roster projection. But all in all, this is the group to start the year. I think this is a solid enough group. Taylor and Valdez are major leaguers who are pushed off because they have options. McCarthy and Grotz provide some big-league experience. Bazardo and Feltman have some upside that could be realized in their first taste of organized ball since 2019.
All that said, there’s always room for more. Right now the aforementioned Sox Prospects projection looks a bit crowded with guys like Simpson and Blair relegated to Double-A, but again, injuries take care of that. So while I don’t see this as some sort of pressing need, I think there’s always room for more relief depth and if there’s a solid veteran who is available on a minor-league deal, by all means let them at least throw in camp and then go from there.
Ultimately, I think the biggest areas of need for the Red Sox in terms of their depth is up the middle at both shortstop and center field. They could also look for some more pitching depth as well, particularly for the bullpen, though that’s more of a luxury than a dire need. As I said at the top, we’ll go through more specific names at a later date, but for now that’s a broad overview of what they’re looking at as they get set to start organized workouts.