My post yesterday about how the Yankees' will deal with the loss of Curtis Granderson for the first month of the season, got me thinking about how the Red Sox would deal with a major injury to a position player. This came up quite a bit last season with almost every starter hitting the DL at some point and the team did not have the depth to make up for it. In this post I'm going to take a look at how the team would deal with a starting position player going down for a significant amount of time.
Unlike most teams in the Major Leagues, catcher is actually a spot where the Sox have some depth. The Sox will look to open the season with a Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross platoon, with some Mike Napoli mixed in on occasion. The Sox also have prospect Ryan Lavarnway waiting in the wings. Although Lavarnway didn't hit well during his Major League stint last season, most believe he will eventually make a big impact in the majors. Should Salty or Moss go down for a significant portion of the season, the Sox would more than likely look to Lavarnway to fill the hole and possibly never give it up.
The Sox are going to look to newly acquired Mike Napoli to do the bulk of the work at first base this season, but having only played 133 career games at the position and having a balky hip, they'd be wise to plan for a trip to the DL for the former Ranger. The three options the team are looking at in camp are former Mariner Mike Carp, 36 year old journeyman Lyle Overbay, and last year's International League MVP Mauro Gomez. The man most people see as the alternative the Sox would go with is Mike Carp who has been basically replacement level in parts of 4 season with the M's. However, I think the Sox would be more wise to go with Mauro Gomez whom Fangraphs' Steamer system rated as the second best player in the league without a starting position. At 28, Gomez is far from an up and coming prospect, but his numbers in the International League (and his cup of coffee with the big club) indicate that Dominican may be a late-bloomer who could become an above average power threat.
Perhaps the biggest possible injury that could happen to the Sox this season would be losing former MVP Dustin Pedroia. Although no team in the majors really has much depth at second, most teams also don't depend on their second basemen as much as the Sox do. The two best candidate in camp right now are 4A utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco and Brock Holt who was acquired from the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan deal. Although Ciriaco started off hot when getting the call up to the big club last season, he tailed off, and his minor league numbers would lead you to believe that he would not be a suitable long term solution. Brock Holt, however, is an intriguing young man who has opened some eyes in spring training. Holt had a cup of coffee with the Pirates last year in which he neither distinguished, nor embarrassed himself. If the Sox are looking for steady replacement level play than Ciriaco will be their man, but if they're looking for the higher upside play, it'd be Holt.
At the starting shortstop position this year the Sox will look to Stephen Drew to bounce back to form after missing parts of the last couple of seasons with a broken ankle. Drew was a very productive player when healthy back in his Diamondback days, but having not played a full season in three years, the Sox will be holding they're breath that they get a full one out of him this year. The Sox will no doubt look to the same Ciriaco/Holt duo they have waiting in the wings at second, but should Drew go down for the season at some point and the Sox are in contention, they may make the bold move of calling up Baseball America's number 8 prospect in the country Xander Bogaerts. Although teams usually are not keen on calling up 20 year olds, the success of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and to a lesser extent Manny Machado, may make teams in the thick of a playoff race rethink that philosophy. I don't think is a particularly likely scenario, but if the Sox are in the thick of a pennant race and Bogaerts continues to rake in the minors, fans may be clamoring to see him with or without a Drew injury.
The Red Sox hope to get a full season out of last season's breakout performer Will Middlebrooks, and they do not have much depth to help out if he doesn't play out the string. The most likely fill in would be the aforementioned Ciriaco, with Holt never having played third base in his professional career. As I mentioned before Ciriaco would be a replacement level fill-in, so a long term injury to Middlebrooks would probably cause the club to do some hard thinking. Xander Bogaerts projects to play third for the Dutch WBC team, so if the Sox are in contention and Middlebrooks goes down (or is ineffective) the Sox could look to plug-in Bogaerts at third, much like the Orioles did last year with Machado.
The Red Sox will start the season with big free agent signing Shane Victorino in right, talented but oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury in center, and clown prince of outfielders Jonny Gomes in left. The Sox will look to break camp with a combination of the aforementioned Mike Carp, fan favorite Daniel Nava, and hater of doors Ryan Sweeney as their backup options. Although anyone of them could prove a capable replacement level short term fill-in, a long term injury could cause the Sox to call up Baseball America's 31 overall prospect in the country Jackie Bradley. The Sox already have long term designs on sticking Bradley in center if Ellsbury walks after this season, so another devastating injury to Ells could cause the Sox to speed up the process. A big injury to one of the other two outfielders may cause the Sox to shift alignments and stick Bradley in center and Ellsbury in left, as Bradley is considered to have one of the best gloves in minor league ball. Entering his age 23 season, Bradley is probably closer to big league ready than Bogaerts, so the team would likely see it as less of a developmental risk to call up Bradley this season.