State of the Outfield

rusney castillo

The Red Sox outfield has seen many different players since they won the World Series in 2013 with a trio of Johnny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Shane Victorino. Boston was able to maintain its corner outfielders and still had Daniel Nava as a backup, but Ellsbury left in the offseason. After his departure, the plan in center field was to give Jackie Bradley Jr. the starting job with Grady Sizemore seeing much playing time as well . Both struggled out of the gate, and Shane Victorino wasn’t able to stay healthy. Thus, as the season developed, the team quickly learned that he outfield was not producing any offense and had quickly become the team’s weakest link. At the trade deadline in July, the Red Sox made a flurry of moves adding depth to a offensively barren outfield that then consisted of Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava, and Johnny Gomes. Gomes ended up being traded along with Jon Lester for Cuban powerhouse Yoenis Cespedes and in a separate deal Boston landed Allen Craig, who despite having down numbers this year had consistently posted 3 straight seasons hitting over .300. Soon after, Boston followed up with these trades by adding another Cuban outfielder, signing Rusney Castillo to a 7 year deal worth 72.5 million.

The Red Sox now have what can be seen as “good” problem on their hands for the 2015 season with their surplus of outfielders. The current projection is that Cespedes will play left, Castillo will play center and Victorino, if ready by the start of the season, will play right. That leaves Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Mookie Betts out of the picture. Brock Holt will likely be used in a similar super utility role that he has filled this year, but for the four other outfielders they could find themselves in the middle of trade rumors in the offseason. Each these players have something unique to offer, which will make them valuable somewhere. Allen Craig has the ability to play both first base and outfield, but with Mike Napoli in the picture, Craig will see most of his time in the outfield. He is struggling for the first time in his career this year, but in years past he has shown that he can hit, especially with runners in scoring position hitting .454 in 2013. Although he doesn’t have the ideal power that most teams would like from a first basemen or corner outfield, his ability to drive in runs makes him a middle of the lineup threat. The Red Sox should end up holding on to him because in the likelihood that either Ortiz, Napoli or Victorino go down with an injury, Craig can fill that spot with ease thanks to his versatility. Daniel Nava also has versatility that makes him useful at first base or outfield. His value was highest last year after his breakout season in which he hit .303 in 134 games playing a key role in the Red Sox playoff push. Mookie Betts has played surprisingly well since his call from Pawtucket (.288 in 34 games) to the point where it seems that he has earned himself a roster spot and maybe even a starting spot for next year. As of right now the only way Betts will start is if Victorino is not ready by the start of the season, which there is a chance although he insists that he will be back for opening day. With one year remaining in his contract, it could make more sense for the Red Sox to test Victorino’s value and commit to Betts. The final outfielder is the least likely to secure a spot in next years lineup. Jackie Bradley Jr. was given the opportunity to replace Ellsbury as the next cornerstone centerfielder and although he played very well defensively, Bradley looked overwhelmed against major league pitching hitting .214 in 114 games.

It is an understatement to say that the Red Sox will have a busy offseason. The front office has decide who they want to stay and go from their outfield group and as the season plays out the aforementioned players are going through an extended tryout of sorts. As of right now, it appears that Victorino, and Bradley Jr. could be on the trading block due to the emergence of Betts, who will be 22 on Opening Day in 2015. There will likely be a spring training battle between Daniel Nava and Allen Craig, both of whom play first base and corner outfield, for a utility role getting many at bats. Nevertheless, when the Red Sox take the field April 6th in Philadelphia, they should trot out a starting outfield of Cespedes in left, Castillo in center, and Betts in right with both Nava and Craig securing spots on the bench. At this point, Victorino should still be on the disabled list, recovering from back surgery and Bradley will be in AAA Pawtucket. Of course, any of these players could be subject to a trade for a big name player (Stanton?), but until then the 7 outfielders will be competing against each other for the 3 desired starting spots.


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Oliver Green

Oliver Green is a J.D Candidate at New York University School of Law and SEO Law Fellow. He is a first-year representative at NYU's Sports Law Association.

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