Last weekend’s mailbag had one of my favorite questions, from Michael, and so I’m stealing it for the staff roundtable this week as well. The question was: If you could take any position player on the team, and magically maximize one attribute about them (power, contact, speed, plate discipline, fielding), which player modification would help the roster the most? I did, for what it’s worth, alter it a bit to allow for pitchers to be included.
The modification I would make would be to increase Bryan Mata’s control of his pitches. It may be unimportant for 2021 due to news of his UCL injury, but Mata still represents one of the future rotation members and that makes this valid for me.
The only thing keeping Mata from being a mid-rotation arm or better (besides his health which I suppose I can’t choose as an attribute) is his control of his pitches. He has always walked too many guys, like Darwinzon Hernandez. Like Hernandez, he is filthy when he can locate. If it has to be a 2021 player, Darwinzon Hernandez for the same reasons as above.
I would take Xander Bogaerts and magically maximize his fielding. Bogaerts is already an absolute star and one of the best shortstops in the league in spite of his awful defense. Since 2018, he ranks 2nd among all shortstops in fWAR, behind only Francisco Lindor (who he trails by just 0.4 fWAR). However, using Defensive Runs Saved in the same time frame, Bogaerts is quite literally the worst defensive shortstop in all of baseball. He’s one of the best shortstops in the league, despite being the worst defender, at least by this measure. Amazing. Could you imagine how far Xander could separate himself if he added top-tier defense to his repertoire?
Michael Chavis’s approach at the plate, and in particular, his approach to that pesky fastball. This would cut his strikeout rate, increase his walk rate and increase his homers a lot too. Chavis with something like a 20 percent strikeout rate and 10 percent walk rate and 30-plus homer bat would just be delightful in this lineup. And whether he would lock down first or second base with his newfound production, it’s a position the Red Sox wouldn’t have to worry about for a while. Plus, what’s more fun than a massive Chavis dinger?
If this magical baseball genie lets me grant one skill to a Red Sox player I’m maxing out J.D. Martinez’s fielding ability. I’ll impose a limit on myself to not make him a gold glove shortstop or capable of JBJ-esque superman dives to catch anything and everything in center field. But if his maximum defense is being more than capable of left or right? I’ll take it! I’m still fond of David Ortiz and the DH, but on the current roster it would help if Martinez could handle the field a little bit more as the team is short on outfielders and Duran doesn’t seem to be ready for a big league job just yet. And even then, the more the merrier.
Th Red Sox lineup is pretty stacked, so if I could magically maximize one attribute it would be improving Nick Pivetta’s command. He has always had a home run problem. Sure, maybe some of it had to do with Citizens Bank Park, but most of it was his doing. His barrel rate shot up from six percent in 2017 to 10 percent in the shortened 2020 season. He has slightly changed his arm slot and has performed well this spring with five innings, four strikeouts and only one homer.
(Ed. Note: Jake slightly misread the question, but it still works.)
If I could give one player on the Red Sox roster a tool from another player it would be to add Connor Seabold’s changeup to Tanner Houck’s repertoire. Houck has been struggling to find a really strong third offering and if had Seabold’s changeup I believe it could go a long way in transforming him into a rotation stalwart. His slider and fastball combination is already excellent and having feel for another pitch would make him one of the better prospects in the game.
It is very generous of Matt to share this question with us because it’s a great podcast question. You open up Roster Resource, start naming guys, and 30 minutes later down the rabbit hole your podcast is halfway done.
There are a bunch of ways you could go with this thought exercise. You could take an already excellent player like Xander Bogaerts and max out his weakness (his defense) and turn him into one of the elite players in baseball. Or you could take a pitcher with nasty stuff like Garrett Richards and gift him perfect health and theoretically max out his innings.
But I think the best way to maximize this present we’ve been given is to find an offensive player with monstrous secondary tools but is missing the ability to hit. Not only is the hit tool the most valuable tool in all of baseball, but a high-end hit tool helps players that have it tap into their power. If you give Hunter Renfroe or Bobby Dalbec high-end 80 hit tools they immediately become MVP candidates. Bobby Dalbec would become Miguel Cabrera and Hunter Renfoe would be something akin to prime Bryce Harper. Those jumps are bigger than if you were to give Xander or Rafael Devers 80-grade defense. Giving a well rounded player like Alex Verdugo an 80 tool would definitely propel them to a higher tier, but no other players on the team have as big of a disparity between their power and hit tools as Dalbec and Renfroe. Given that Dalbec is younger and under control for longer, he’ll be the recipient of this demon magic.
This is so open-ended that I’m sure this answer is wrong, but I’ll take Rafael Devers maximizing his defense. If he could be a plus defender at the hot corner he’d immediately become an MVP candidate, but absent our magical talent maximizing ray, it will be that much harder not just on him, but Sox pitchers. He’s not *bad* at defense but he could really be a lot better, so I point the maximizer in the direction of his glove.
I already answered this. Click the link at the top of the page. Did I choose this question partially so it would be one less thing for me to do this morning? Who’s to say?