Welcome back to our annual positional preview series, in which we take stock of where the Red Sox stand everywhere on the depth chart for each position. At every spot on the diamond, we will look at where Boston stands on the major-league roster while also looking at their top prospects at the position. We will also take compare how the Red Sox look at the position compared to the rest of the division. Today, we head to the outfield with a look in right.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
After the Red Sox traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers right before the lockout went into place for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects, the thought from myself and plenty of others was that they were going to look elsewhere for a replacement in right field. There is, technically, still time for that to happen, but two days before Opening Day it looks like Bradley is the guy.
Now, while this is certainly not a plan I will defend, I will at least give Bradley the credit he deserves in being an outstanding fit for Boston’s right field. We all saw for years how magnificently he navigated the strange center field at Fenway, so he should be able to quickly learn the right field angles, while his range and arm will play perfectly there.
Alas, it’s the offense that has us all so worried about his role on the team. Just like we know his defense, Red Sox fans are aware of Bradley’s offensive rollercoaster, boasting hot and cold streaks like few others in the league. But last season was cold in Milwaukee to a concerning degree for Bradley, as he finished the year with a 35 wRC+ and had legitimate claim to the worst hitter in baseball title. It’s hard to see him replicating that level of performance, but it’s also hard to see him being significantly above average as a starter. Instead, with his defense and the offense in the rest of the offense, if he can even get to an 85 wRC+ he should at least be passable. On the one hand, that’s lower than any mark he’s had with Boston since 2014. On the other hand, it’s a 50 point jump from last year.
Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Christian Arroyo
Perhaps as worrisome as the idea of Bradley playing every day is the depth on the major-league roster behind Bradley. I put Alex Verdugo here despite Alex Cora indicating that he’d be kept in left field consistently because, well, I don’t believe it. The other alternatives are J.D. Martinez, who is an aging DH with a history of back spasms, not to mention a history of well below-average defense, while Arroyo is an infielder with as many regular season outfield innings as me in his career. They can fake it here in the short-term, but this can’t be the plan all season, and I suspect it’s not.
Jarren Duran, Rob Refsnyder, Franchy Cordero
Instead, I suspect they probably hope Duran can force his way back up to the majors sooner than later, which would solve a whole lot of these outfield depth questions. That said, I don’t really see him playing here, as his arm is not an ideal fit for right field. If they need a right fielder from Worcester, it’d be either Refsnyder or Cordero, both of whom were reassigned to Triple-A on Monday. I’m personally more excited about Cordero as I see a higher ceiling there, but in fairness it’s also probably a lower floor.
Jimenez is probably more of a center fielder, but to spread players out we’re basing this at least somewhat on the Sox Prospects projected rosters, and they have Jimenez here in right. Wherever he’s playing, though, this is a big season. The Red Sox may have caught a break with him when the Rule 5 Draft was cancelled as he was a fascinating potential pick there given his ceiling compared to the lack of experience. But remaining in the Red Sox organization, he is coming off something of a down year in a season where many expected him to break out. The athleticism in the field and on the bases give him something of a floor, but he simply needs to make harder contact if he’s going to make good on his potential. He should spend most of this year at High-A Greenville.
Chacon received the team’s highest international bonus in 2019, receiving a $900,000 signing bonus out of Venezuela. He doesn’t have the upside as someone like Miguel Bleis, who received the highest bonus last year and also debuted last season at the DSL, but there’s a solid player here who is still flying under the radar. Chacon hit .311/.426/.384 last season in the DSL. He needs to grow into more power if he’s going to stick in the corner outfield, which is where he projects defensively, but the bat skills are there to be a good hitter as he moves up the ladder. He’ll likely hang back in extended spring training when full-season leagues start up, instead beginning his year this summer in the FCL.
Other Prospects of Note
- Eduardo Vaughan received the second highest bonus from the club in 2018, and should make his full-season debut this season. He’s got a lot of potential, but he’s still quite raw and has yet to put it together as a pro in affiliated ball.
- Devlin Granberg was Boston’s sixth round pick in 2018 and has hit well wherever the Red Sox have put him. There’s not much defensive value which really shrinks the ceiling here, but while he’s most likely just an organizational player there’s some chance of him latching on at some point as a bench bat.
This is probably the worst showing for the Red Sox on the offensive side of things, with Bradley just not stacking up even in a group that is relatively weak. Aaron Judge in New York was the clear number one here. Injuries are always a concern here, but when he’s on the field he’s one of the best in the game regardless of position. After that things got murkier. I’m a believe in Teoscar Hernández’ power, so I gave him the second spot despite being a step behind defensively. Conversely, Tampa’s Manuel Margot’s defense pushed him up to third, leaving Anthony Santander in Baltimore at four and Bradley in the fifth and last spot.
- Aaron Judge, NYY
- Teoscar Hernández, TOR
- Manuel Margot, TB
- Anthony Santander, BAL
- Jackie Bradley Jr., BOS