More often than not, if you’re a baseball team coming off a last place finish, the problems you have carry over with you into next year’s Spring Training aren’t likely to be deemed as positive. Due to a variety of mid-season and off-season transactions, however, the Red Sox have entered 2015 with one very positive problem in particular: an immense amount of talent and depth in their outfield. With seemingly seven major league caliber outfielders battling it out for four, maybe five roster spots, the level of competition proves to be friendly, but fierce. These players, of course, are “newcomer” Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Each player, what tools he brings to the table, and his likely future with the team are profiled below.
Hanley Ramirez: A true prodigal son story indeed, as the former top prospect returns to the organization that developed him before dealing him to the Marlins for Josh Beckett. The former shortstop is moving to left field, as has been confirmed by both General Manager Ben Cherington and Manager John Farrell. However, while his job is secure, there is no doubt that his defense in left could be shaky, especially early in his transition to left. The impact that this could have on games definitely bears watching, regardless of how much his bat helps what was a putrid lineup in 2014. Prediction: Starting LF for all of 2015 season (not really going out on a limb there)
Mookie Betts: One of the most fascinating stories in an otherwise disappointing 2014 season was the meteoric rise of Betts from Single-A ball to the big leagues. The converted infielder hit and got on base at a phenomenal clip at every level he played at in 2014, and even made the transition to the outfield smoothly as well. After bulking up in the offseason, his spring has gotten off to a fantastic start as well, to the point where many prognosticators believe he should be the team’s opening day center fielder. The fact that Betts has minor league options does help the Red Sox in the event that they cannot move more established players off the roster, but his performance (at least so far) dictates that he should play every day. Betts profiles as a leadoff hitter better than almost anyone on the roster as of right now, which will ultimately play in his favor. Prediction: Starting CF to start the season (in RF by the end)
Rusney Castillo: A big name International Free Agent signing last summer and part of the Red Sox’ concerted efforts to tap into the Cuban talent pool, Castillo figures to be a big part of the Red Sox’ present and future. This spring, he has been slowed by an oblique injury, and his recovery time could be a factor in how the roster shakes out as the Red Sox break camp. His relatively large contract might be a reason why he starts on the big club in 2015 for the PR-conscious Red Sox, but there is a chance they use his minor league eligibility as a chance to keep him in Pawtucket for the first couple weeks of the season, depending on how quickly he can get back into spring training games. There is no question that he will be playing every day at some point in 2015, however, as well as going forward. Prediction: On the Opening Day roster (splitting time with Betts/Victorino until one of them is moved off the roster)