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OTM Mailbag: Evaluating the outfield

Our final mailbag before the regular season kicks off

San Diego Padres v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome back to our final preseason mailbag of 2021. The Red Sox have, as of this writing, only three more spring games on their docket before we turn our attention to actual baseball games that count toward the standings. In the meantime, for this week we have questions on the outfield, the Andrew Benintendi trade return, and more.

Julian via email asks:

How many games should I expect Franchy Cordero to play this year? Where would you set the over/under for his batting average?

If we’re being honest, this is something of an impossible question. It’s kind of impossible to predict game totals for anyone, but it’s particularly difficult for someone like Cordero because there are issues on two fronts. For one thing, he has been susceptible to injuries throughout his career. He’s suffered through all different kinds of ailments, but the one consistency is that he has not been able to play consistently. And now it’s looking like he may miss the start of this season — though things do appear to be trending up in that regard — after a delayed start to camp due to a positive COVID test.

So, nobody can predict injuries, but if you’re looking for players to expect missed time from, Cordero is on that list. The other part of the equation here is whether or not he’ll be in any kind of a platoon. Cordero is a left-handed hitter, and he has always had some trouble against left-handed pitching. In an ideal world, he and Hunter Renfroe could form some sort of platoon, but it doesn’t appear that is the plan, at least for now. Still, I think Cordero will sit against most lefties, whether that’s for Renfroe or Marwin Gonzalez, or Kiké Hernández, or whoever else may be filling in. Putting it all together, I’d say I’m looking for 90-100 games from him.

And then for the batting average, this also is dependent some on what kind of playing time he gets. If he never has to face a lefty, the expectations for his rate stats certainly go up. That said, Cordero is never going to be a high batting average kind of hitter. He’s a power hitter who swings and misses too much to ever flirt with a .300 average. Looking at the projections, it appears the midpoint for his batting average is around .240, and I think I’ll take the under on that. But again, at the end of the season batting average is not really what I’ll be looking at first to judge how his season went. He can hit .235 and still have had a good season if the power and speed are there.

Atlanta Braves v Boston Red Sox Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Matt via Twitters asks:

What’s the best-case scenario for the outfield this year?

This is an interesting one, and I’ll answer it in two ways. First, we’ll just look at the guys on the roster right now. Alex Verdugo is obviously the highest-ceiling player in this outfield. This is certainly not my expectation, but in an everything-goes-right type of season I can see him being about a six-win player. And then over on the corners, if we’re talking best-case scenario you’re probably looking for 3.0-3.5 win seasons for Hunter Renfroe and Cordero. Then you can throw in a win, maybe a win and a half for the times Gonzalez and Hernández fill in out there. You put that all together and you’re looking at, say, 13 wins for the outfield.

That’s a very rough estimate, and of course far from what I’m actually expecting, but I can see a path to it if I squint hard enough. For whatever it’s worth, that would be a shade better than the 2019 Red Sox outfield and would have tied them for fourth among all major-league outfield groups by fWAR in 2019.

But I actually don’t think that’s the best-case scenario for the outfield. Instead, I think the best-case involves all of those players playing to that level on a rate basis, but with Jarren Duran getting in there relatively early as well. I do think the claim that he needs to work on his defense is actually a valid one and not the Kris Bryant-esque service time claim, but if he can develop into a starting center fielder by June for this team, and he doesn’t suffer too many hiccups in his big league debut, that’s the best-case scenario. In the short-term, it’d allow Verdugo to go back to right field and it would allow for that Renfroe/Cordero platoon in left.

Again, we’re talking best-case so we can be optimistic. The reality is that, even as someone who is relatively high on Duran, there is likely to be some hiccups along the way. But if we’re looking for a best-case scenario, that is it. It helps the team this year, and obviously goes a long way toward clarifying the future of this outfield as well.

Tyler via email asks:

I was curious what you think will happen to Michael Chavis. He seems to not have a spot for the foreseeable future with guys like Christian Arroyo and Bobby Dalbec now and later Jeter Downs and Triston Casas. Do you think the Red Sox will wait it out and see if he plays great in the minors or do you think we might trade him? Personally I could see us doing what we did with Nick Longhi by trading Chavis for a ton of international pool money.

Well, for one thing I certainly wouldn’t trade Chavis for international pool money. International pool money is not nothing, but Chavis should have more value than Nick Longhi did even after the former’s brutal 2020 campaign. As for the other points, they’re all valid. I’m not sure Arroyo poses an insurmountable roadblock in the short-term, as neither really has a track record that would suggest that. Hell, there’s a universe in which Dalbec just can’t make contact and Chavis kills it in Worcester and we’re wondering if they should swap places in June or July. I’m not expecting that and I think Dalbec is the better hitter, but it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility.

All that being said, I think it’s pretty clear right now the most likely positive outcome with Chavis in Boston has him as their top bench player down the road. He can play multiple positions, filling in at first, second, third and left field. We know the bat has a high ceiling, but also a low floor. Ultimately, however, I do think he ends up as part of a trade, perhaps this summer but probably more likely next winter.

Jeff via email asks:

What’s a player that you think the Red Sox should realistically (so like 10-15 prospect range) get from the Mets as the player to be named later, or that you think the Red Sox might get?

These kinds of questions continue to come up so I figure every month or so I’ll answer one. We’re still probably not going to hear anything about this trade for a bit. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s June so they can see whoever they’re thinking about in real game action, since the minor-league schedule doesn’t start until May. They may be okay with spring action in April, though. I’m probably looking at someone like Junior Santos. He’s an extremely tall (listed at 6’8) pitching prospect who throws a big fastball. There’s some reliever risk here, but the fact is the Red Sox aren’t going to get a stud prospect. But Santos is only 19 and has some upside. I’d be looking more at those names than some lower-ceiling, higher-floor type players.

Julian via email asks:

Between Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and David Price, which former Red Sox player making his post-Boston debut is most likely to leave us with regret?

This one seems pretty simple to me, though I will say there will be moments of regrets for each this year. For Bradley, it will be every time we see him in highlight reels wearing a Brewers uniform. For Price, he’s pitching on the best team in baseball so he’ll have a chance to fill the Red Sox with regret in October. But Benintendi seems like the best bet here. The Red Sox sold relatively low on him, and he always looked like a big change-of-scenery candidate. He has the biggest chance of these three to put together a long, successful career post-Red Sox.


Thanks again for all of your questions. And again, if I didn’t get to yours look out for it in a future edition of the mailbag or on the podcast. We always appreciate more questions, so please if you have any you can either ask me on Twitter @OverTheMonster, you can leave a comment on our Facebook page, you can drop a comment down below on this post, or you can send it via email to otmmailbag@gmail.com.