The Red Sox will have a center fielder when the season opens in 2015. Here is a list of potential candidates and the odds of them getting the job:
1. Mookie Betts (4-1): Betts is the latest hyped-to-the-skies, can’t-miss Red Sox prospect everybody loves. He is now playing center field in place of Jackie Bradley, who was hyped-to-the-skies and did miss.
Pros: He’s the wonderful Mookie Betts.
Cons: He’s not really a center fielder.
2. Jackie Bradley Jr. (7-1): Bradley is 24 and was an accomplished player in college and the minors. Writing him off would be a mistake. If Betts were part of a blockbuster trade, Bradley could return from the minors and reclaim the job and probably do it well.
Pros: He’s the best defensive center fielder in baseball.
Cons: He has yet to prove he can hit in the majors.
3. Rusney Castillo: (9-1): The Red Sox are attempting to sign the Cuban defector, and his best position is said to be center field. After missing out on other Cuban stars, the Red Sox would sign Ricky Ricardo at this point.
Pros: Scouts believe he’ll be a good player. Not a superstar, but a good solid player.
Cons: Gauging the effectiveness of Cuban free agents is tricky business.
4. Shane Victorino (15-1): He has not played center field since 15 games in 2013 and is coming off back surgery. But Victorino does have vast experience there.
Pros: Victorino is in fact capable of playing center field and if healthy is a productive offensive player.
Cons: Victorino will be 34 in November, is coming off major surgery, and moving him to a position requiring more running seems like a terrible idea.
5. Yoenis Cespedes (20-1): He has played center field 75 times in the majors, so throw him in the mix. But he’s a corner outfielder as far as the Sox are concerned.
Pros: Cespedes seems to like playing center and could probably do the job.
Cons: The Sox would seem to have plenty of better options.
6. The Mystery Player (25-1): Given all their trade chips, the Red Sox could make a move and obtain a notable center fielder via trade. That player should not be Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier, by the way.
Pros: Hey, look who the Red Sox got!
Cons: There’s probably a reason he was traded.
. . .
A few other Red Sox notes and observations:
■ Cespedes has played only seven games at Fenway Park since the trade with Oakland. But he has not looked particularly comfortable playing the wall in left field. Given his speed and strong arm, right field could make a lot more sense.
The Red Sox initially planned to shift Cespedes to right field when they acquired him and play Allen Craig in left. That changed when Craig went on the disabled list after one game and Cespedes told the coaches he was more comfortable in left. The change, if it comes, will be in spring training.
■ Speaking of Cespedes, many were surprised the Athletics would trade him, even for Jon Lester. What does Oakland GM Billy Beane know? It’s the rare Athletics player (Nick Swisher, Carlos Gonzalez) who played well after Beane traded him. Consider the plights of Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey, and Mark Mulder, among others.
■ The Miami Marlins are 62-62 and 3½ games out in the National League wild card race. The Marlins were 62-100 last season.
The odds are against them making the playoffs, but haven’t they made enough improvement to want to keep Giancarlo Stanton and continue pushing forward next season? The NL East is fairly ripe for the taking.
Stanton signed for $6.5 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration. He’ll get a significant raise but nothing that will be untenable.
This idea that the Marlins will full into place like dupes and trade Stanton to the Red Sox is based largely on hope and not reality.
Then there is this: Outside of Betts, Henry Owens, and Blake Swihart, what Red Sox prospects would entice the Marlins? They would require sure-thing players close to the majors and probably at least one power hitter. The Sox have almost no power in Double A or Triple A.
Stanton looks like the MVP of the National League. Not even the Marlins are capricious enough to trade him now.
■ If the Red Sox intend to keep Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in 2015, they should be used sparingly over the remaining 38 games. They lead the majors in appearances (counting the playoffs) since the start of last season, and unnecessary use is unproductive at this point.
■ David Ortiz is in the top 50 all-time in home runs (459, tied for 35th), doubles (544, 29th), extra-base hits (1,021, 30th), and RBIs (1,520, 50th).
The only other players with at least 459 homers, 544 doubles, 1,021 extra-base hits, and 1,520 RBIs are Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Eddie Murray, Stan Musial, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols, and Manny Ramirez.
Ortiz has driven in 19 percent of the runs the Red Sox have scored this season and leads the majors with 91 RBIs despite playing for a horrid offensive team. Fans (and some in the media) who regularly invent ways to criticize Ortiz won’t realize how important he is until he retires.
■ Bradley was sent to the minors after compiling a 1.5 fWAR, 13th among center fielders. Jacoby Ellsbury is at a 2.5 fWAR. In other words, Bradley’s defense was so good that he was worth only one fewer win than Ellsbury.
■ Lots of folks asking if the Red Sox should make changes to the coaching staff. These are the same coaches who were on the staff last season, down to the man. The Red Sox led the game in scoring last season with Greg Colbrunn and Victor Rodriguez as the hitting coaches, and they didn’t suddenly start going to movies every afternoon instead of working with the players.
Coaches are valuable, and good ones are hard to find. The Sox have good ones, and after years of tumult and change on the staff, they should strive for consistency and keep this group together. The players not performing should be on the players, not the coaches. There is no evidence the Red Sox are approaching game preparation in any different way than they did last season.
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