The Boston Red Sox entered 2015 with more options in right field than any team needs. Through more than a month, none of those options looks promising.
Coming into this season, the Boston Red Sox had too many outfielders on their roster and not enough time to play them all. The only position that was filled for certain was left field when they signed Hanley Ramirez to a four-year, $88 million contract. This left six players to try and fight for two starting jobs, and at the most three bench positions. A month into the season the options still remain, but none of them have played well enough to deserve to start every game.
The outfielders that the Red Sox had to deal with are: Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Daniel Nava and Jackie Bradley Jr. Mookie Betts won the center field starting position after a solid Spring Training and thanks to the fact that Rusney Castillo missed some time due to injury and the Red Sox wanted to make sure that he was fully healthy. Also, this would be Castillo’s first full season so they would like to get him a couple of at bats in the minor leagues.
Last season, the Red Sox were among the bottom in the league when it came to production from their right fielders. Even though Boston was in the middle of the league at the position with a .261 average, the 70 runs they scored were tied for 23rd in the league. That inability to produce led to the Red Sox making some of the big moves like signing Castillo to one of the biggest deals ever for a Cuban player as well as Ramirez to sure up one of the worst offensive outfields. So far this season, the right field production has not been good.
Boston has gotten the least production from their right fielders so far this season, as they have hit a combined .121 from that position. They are the only team in the majors that have not scored more than 10 runs from the right field position and only four of the 13 hits went for extra bases. Boston had the potential to have one of the better outfields in baseball, but it hasn’t gone as well as hoped for.
The main right fielder going into the season was Shane Victorino and that was most likely due to his contract. The Red Sox are paying Victorino $13 million this year and that is too much for someone to be sitting on the bench. Victorino has been out since the 22nd of April with a hamstring injury, but before that he was hitting a poor .143 with two home runs. On the plus side, 40 percent of his hits have been for extra bases…but he only has five hits this season. When Victorino went down, the Red Sox split time between Allen Craig and Daniel Nava.
The most surprising and unfortunate is Allen Craig, who one time had one of the brightest futures in the game. He was an All-Star in 2013, versatile as he moved from second base to first to right field and was a good postseason performer. After struggling to find playing time with the St. Louis Cardinals last year, he was traded to Boston for starter John Lackey. This season though, Craig has hit a horrible .135 in 52 at bats with 17 strikeouts. Craig was recently demoted to the minor leagues as he still had one minor league option left.
Daniel Nava has had a very up and down career with the Red Sox, as he hit a grand slam on the first pitch he saw in the Majors in 2010. In 2013, Nava had his best season yet when he hit .303 with 12 home runs and an OBP of close to .400. This season though, Nava is hitting .136 and that has led the team to make a decision. The outfield is now expected to be crowded once again as two more right fielders are joining the mix.
Going into their series in Oakland, manager John Farrell said that the right field duties will be split between recently-called-up Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Shane Victorino, who is set to come off the DL soon. Bradley is most likely the best defensive player in the Red Sox outfield, but has struggled at the plate as he hit under .200 last season. It remains to be seen how often Victorino will be able to play as the veteran has been dealing with a multitude of injuries over the past season and a half.
If there were two things that people knew about the Red Sox this season it was that the starting rotation has questions and they have too many outfielders. Nobody thought that both aspects of the team would be performing this poorly. With the starting pitching being so inconsistent, Boston needs their offense to pick up the slack and that means the right fielders. Rusney Castillo recently returned to the Triple-A lineup after hurting his shoulder so look for him to get the call if the right fielders keep struggling.
In the end, the Red Sox believed they’d have too many options to choose from in right field. Through a little more than a month, it would appear the option right now is “none of the above.” That’s a big problem in Boston, and one with no easy solution.