Shameless promotion: If you missed part 1 of Spring Fever, my ongoing breakdown of the 2015 Red Sox, here it is. Read up, son.
The Sox could have their growing pains at catcher and a pitching core that might struggle. The Sox’s rotation might wake up every morning in a bed that’s too small, drive their daughter to a school that’s too expensive, and then go to work to a job for which they do too little.
But the infield?
Well I like the infield.
Don’t know if that reference from The Office made sense, but all I’m trying to say is that this infield could be the best in the MLB. No joke. It’s the Sox’s Pretzel Day (roll credits!).
All four of the positions are solid and, for the most part, feature some of the league’s elite. Just dissect the 3-6 positions and you’ll see why this team is one of the frontrunners to contend for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Mike Napoli is back at first again for the Sox, and I’m expecting a pretty productive year from him, one that’s more reflective of his 2013 season and not as much as last year’s. He hit just a few points under .250 and failed to hit 20 bombs for the first time since his 2007 season, in which he only played in 75 games. He played 119 last year, but expect him to play in more if he’s healthy. He’ll hit 25 homers this year and, honestly, might have a chance to drive in about 90 runs. He’ll probably be batting in that 4, 5, 6, or shit, maybe even 7 spot, and the rest of the lineup will have a great tendency to get on base for him. It’s scary to think that a guy of his caliber might be as low as SEVENTH in the lineup; offense on offense on offense. Expect a big year out of Nap Nation. Obligatory drunk Napoli shirtless picture.
Dustin Pedroia, while not in his 2008 MVP form, is still at least a top 3 second baseman in the MLB. I’d argue that he’s the best; he’s waaaaaaay better defensively than Robinson Canó, and I’d give him the edge over Jason Kipnis. People don’t give him enough credit for being one of the best contact hitters in the infield today; while he dropped off from hitting over .300 in 2013, he managed to do well in a league that quickly became pitching-dominant in 2014. Like Nap, he’ll thrive in 2015 with an improved lineup; Brock Holt and Daniel Nava are certainly not the greatest guys to have around you. He’s the ideal #2 hitter because he can get on base like no other.
So we’ve got a new (panda’s) friend in Boston, Pablo Sandoval. A guy who averages just under .300, he provides not only some much-needed offense from the hot corner (s/o to Will Middlebrooks) but also a pretty steady glove hand. Also, anytime you can add an experienced and clutch player who has proven himself in big time situations, that can’t hurt. I loved this signing since day 1. It’s hard finding someone good at the hot corner in this MLB, and lucky for us, Sandoval is one of the best there. To add, if we decide to dump Napoli in the future, we can throw Panda at first to provide room for our new Cuban third baseman, 19-year-old and mega prospect Yoan Moncada. But for now, just throw Pablo in the 5 or 6 spot in the lineup, sit back, relax, and watch the production pay in dividends.
So the first three guys are, generally, similar in terms of a résumé. Nap, Pedey, and Panda have all shown that they can get it done. But Xander Bogaerts? Not so much. People started getting aggravated with his production, or lack thereof, but I stood by him; what do you want from a guy who’s just starting to figure it out? He’ll be an incredible shortstop in time, but he had some hard knocks in his first full season. But so far, a few days into spring training, X is givin’ it to ya.
He had 4 RBIs against the Mets, which included a 3 run dinger to left. He’s looking like he’s on the upswing, and with a loaded offense, he should thrive. My only complaint with Xander, though, is his fielding. He had 20 errors last year, 10 at third and 10 at short stop, yuck. But hey, he’s young and now that he looks like a permanent fixture at short, his fielding will only improve. *DMX voice* WHAAAT?!?!?!
The 2015 Sox have some HUGE firepower, which is due in part to this unreal infield. It should be fun to watch them do their thing; they now have guys to support each other in the lineup and their ceiling of possibilities is high.
I’m inking with excitement!