The Boston Red Sox have very high hopes for this season after making a big splash in offseason acquisitions. Spring Training baseball is well underway, the regular season is fast approaching, and critical decisions must be made.
The Red Sox acquired missing ace, David Price, as well as strengthening their bullpen by signing closer Craig Kimbrel and setup man Carson Smith. With all these positives, there has been one player receiving much criticism from the fans, Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval, a proven veteran hitter and an excellent postseason performer, finds himself in competition with the younger Travis Shaw. There are two reasons to point to for the third base job being a contest during this spring, Sandoval’s weight struggles and his lackluster season last year during his first season with the Sox.
The weight issue with Sandoval has always been overblown as he has struggled with his weight throughout his career, even with San Francisco, when he was considered an elite offensive third baseman. His numbers last season with the Sox bring up some reasonable question as to whether or not he is still the guy they thought they were getting when they signed him to a five-year $95 million contract.
Sandoval batted .245 with ten home runs and 47 RBI’s in 470 AB for the Red Sox last season. These numbers represented the worst offensive season in Sandoval’s career. Meanwhile, Shaw had a great year for the Sox last season, hitting .274 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI’s in 226 AB. Those 226 AB represent Shaw’s major league experience.
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One thing I always look at when talking about an inexperienced player is the number of AB’s he has had. As pitchers see a hitter more, they pick up on his weaknesses and attack them. Usually, when the pitchers figure out the hitter, that is when the true test comes for the younger hitter, as he has to make adjustments to fix those weaknesses and perform.
For example, Red Sox outfielder, Mookie Betts was killing inside pitches last season and pitchers figured this out and attacked him on the outside of the plate.
Betts slumped for a little bit while working on how to attack pitches on the outside and as a result of figuring it out, he broke out of the slump and is now one of the best young outfielders in the game today.
Sandoval has eight years of pro experience with 3,685 AB and all the tape needed for a pitcher to know what to throw at him. With all of this experience Sandoval brings to the table and his postseason success, Sandoval should end up with the job in a platoon with Shaw as spring training concludes.
The Red Sox have postseason aspirations and starting Shaw out of the gate would be the wrong decision as Sandoval is the veteran. Sandoval is a .344 hitter in the postseason and won the World Series MVP award in 2012 for the Giants. Experience is the key here and with a fairly young team already, having Sandoval in the lineup brings much-needed experience along with players such as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez.