Spring Training is right around the corner, and the Red Sox have just sent out invites. Over the next couple weeks, I’ll take a look at every position and who Alex Cora and Dave Dombrowski are bringing down to Fort Myers. Today, we’ll take a look at second base.
Dustin Pedroia’s streak of 11 consecutive Opening Day starts is in jeopardy in 2018. After having knee surgery back in October, Pedroia could miss the first few weeks of the season. While the star second baseman is undoubtedly the everyday starter when healthy, the Red Sox will go into Spring Training looking to find their starting second baseman for the first few weeks of the season.
Eduardo Nunez gave the Sox a nice spark when they brought him in from San Francisco last July. However, Nunez is still unsigned, and it seems safe to say that if Dombrowski wanted him back, he would be back by now. Therefore, I’ll assume that Nunez won’t be back in 2018.
Utility men Brock Holt, Tzu-Wei Lin, Marco Hernandez and Deven Marrero are all on the 40-man roster, so they have already locked up their invites and are all options for a second baseman replacement.
While Lin enjoyed a nice stretch last summer, he is probably going to start Spring Training in a distant third in the race for the starting job. He hit a solid .297 with an OPS of .760 across his 12 games in the month of July last year, but his 56 career at-bats are far behind Marrero’s 236.
Lin also has very limited power, failing to hit a home run in 2017. Experience is not on Lin’s side, and he is probably the worst fielder of the four utility men, but he could find a spot on the 25-man roster to start the season if he performs well in March.
Hernandez is in a situation similar to Lin, but he does have slightly more experience and success at the major league level. In his 109 at-bats in the big leagues, he has hit a solid .284, but his .628 OPS is lackluster. He can be lumped in with Lin as utility guys with minimal power and a decent chance to make the Opening Day roster with a solid performance in Florida.
That leaves the starting spot to either Holt or Marrero. The easy choice would seem to be Holt, considering he has 91 career starts at second base, compared to Marrero’s nine. However, Holt is coming off a year in which he hit .200. The career utility man also has a less than impressive .246 average since being named an All-Star in July of 2015.
Marrero had a disappointing .211 average last year, but his four home runs are more than Holt’s zero. Even though Holt is a plus fielder, Marrero’s calling card as he came up through the farm system was his great fielding ability. While Holt became a fan favorite after his first couple of years in Boston, with a new manager in town, Holt may not be given the benefit of the doubt.
If it were up to me, Holt and Marerro would be fighting for the starting spot this Spring Training, and I assume Cora will be doing just that.
When it comes to non-roster invitees, there wasn’t too much depth in the farm system for Dombrowski to turn to.
25-year-old second baseman Chad De La Guerra got the invite earlier this week. The Grand Canyon University alum is ranked 28th in the system by SoxProspects.com. He has already had a couple of moderately successful years in the minors, and the Sox sent him to play in the Arizona Fall League last year, which shows they do plan on developing him. Considering he becomes Rule 5 Draft eligible after this season, Dombrowski probably chose to bring him to Spring Training to see if he’s worth protecting come December.
The final non-roster invitee at second base is Ivan De Jesus Jr., who is the only surviving piece of the return package from the Gonzalez-Beckett-Crawford deal with the Dodgers in 2012.
De Jesus played eight games in Boston that year, failing to get on base once. He was traded to the Pirates for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt that December, and after bouncing around in a few different minor league systems for two years, he became a part-time starter for the Cincinnati Reds. After finding moderate success there, he spent last year in the Brewers farm system and was re-signed by the Red Sox on Jan. 16. Now he’s 30 years old and essentially washed up, and I don’t really understand why Dombrowski brought him back over younger guys who need reps.
Looking at players who didn’t get the invite, it’s easiest to start with the highest ranked second base prospect in the Sox’ system, Brett Netzer.
Last year’s third-round pick spent the 2017 season with the rookie league Lowell Spinners and low-A Greenville Drive. Netzer had a .351 career batting average in his career at UNC-Charlotte, and his .317 average in Lowell last year showed that he had potential. The fact that he is already 21 is probably the reason he didn’t get the call, but with three years of D-I college baseball and a year of minor league play under his belt, I think he had the talent and experience to warrant an invite over a guy like De Jesus.
Kervin Suarez is an international free agent signed from Venezuela back in 2015, but he’s just 19 and hasn’t exactly impressed statistically in his first two seasons in America. He may have a bright future, but he’s got a long road ahead of him. Dombrowski was definitely right not to bring him down for Spring Training.