By Mark Paulette
Just in case witnessing Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski having a tickle-fest in right field and seeing Benny launch his first bomb didn’t tip you off, the regular season is indeed underway. But that can’t stop Nostra-Markus from making more predictions. No, he plays by his own rules. For part III, it’s time to preview: The Role Players –
– Brock Holt, UTIL (2016 stats – .255/7/34, 94 games)
Superman reincarnate aka everything that is right with this world, aka Brock Holt, saw his 2016 season derailed by concussion issues which also led to a finish to his 2015 campaign. While his power increased (seven home runs in 94 games compared to six in 285 games from 2012-15) his average and on-base percentage fell off by 25 points. 2014 and ’15 saw sustained hot streaks from Holt, coinciding with him playing in spirts, which ideally is how Farrell will look to utilize him this season. Holt’s main source of playing time this season will come from plugging in two-to-three times a week in the infield. Should someone go down with an injury, no matter the position, Holt will be the first man off the bench.
2017 projections – .278/4/32, 105 games
– Chris Young, LF/DH (2016 stats – .276/9/24, 76 games)
Young proved he still had the ability to be a very effective hitter against both lefties and righties a year ago, and had it not been for a literal hamstrung middle-portion of the calendar, Young may have delayed the call-up of Benintendi in left field. While that spot is no longer in need of platoon, Young will still see most the time against left-handed pitching, either at DH or playing some outfield in the place of Bradley Jr.
2017 projections – .250/10/30, 88 games
– Christian Vazquez, C (2016 stats – .227/1/12, 57 games)
Vazquez unsurprisingly won the back-up catcher job out of spring training, due in part to his gold glove-caliber defense and Blake Swihart’s minor league option availability. Vazquez will take on the normal rotation duties of the traditional Sunday catcher, playing day games which follow the previous night’s game. Leon turned up his offensive game at the end of the spring schedule, and if he is semi-productive, he’ll keep Vazquez on the bench, with the 26-year-old still an offensive liability.
2017 projections – .235/1/15, 60 games
– Steve Selsky, OF (2016 stats – .314/2/7, 24 games)
I guess I must put Selsky here, as he did technically make the Opening Day roster? Though, come season’s end, I’m guessing he won’t have appeared in the fourth-most games off the bench for the Sox. Selsky was the quick fix, as Farrell wanted another right-handed bat off the bench, filling the spot which would have gone to a healthy Josh Rutledge. Selsky is limited to the outfield, where he’ll find little Major League time this season. But on the bright side, he had one helluva spring, slashing, .356/4/12 in 45 at-bats.
2017 projections – .274/2/6, 17 games
– Josh Rutledge, IF (2016 stats – .265/0/3, 28 games)
For as much of a man-crush as I have on the likes of Tom Brady, Brock Holt or Ron Baker, it would appear John Farrell is equally affectionate towards Rutledge. He’s always kept the utility-infielder as part of his plans since joining the organization in 2015, and despite producing just three runs driving in over the course of a mystery-injury filled 2016. It appears Rutledge will be the fourth man on the Sox bench when ready to return from the disabled list.
2017 projections – .277/2/11, 50 games
– Marco Hernandez, IF (2016 stats – .294/1/5, 40 games)
No matter how much Farrell refuses to admit it, Hernandez is the better plug-‘n-play infield option in place of Rutledge. The 24-year-old hit .309 last season at Pawtucket and .326 at Portland in 2015. He’s been in the minors since the age of 17, and after showing he can hold his own at the Major League level last season, the only thing currently holding Hernandez back is the fact he bats from the same side of the plate as Holt.
2017 projections – .286/1/7, 31 games
– Rusney Castillo, OF (2016 stats – .250/0/0, 9 games)
Castillo earned more of his $72.5-million-dollar contract this spring by hitting .368/1/7 in 21 games than anything he’s contributed at the Major League level over various parts of three very limited seasons. The silver-lining may be that this spring showed he does in fact have some baseball skills (despite seeming to still not understand the rules of the game). Is it enough to make a team willing to pay off some of his deal? That’s the roughly $40-million-remaining question.
2017 projections – .273/0/4, 11 games
– Allen Craig, 1B/LF (2016 – DNP, 2015 stats – .152/1/3, 36 games)
Three years ago, this guy was one of the best blossoming right handed hitters in the National League. Now, if he reaches the Majors this season it means something has gone very, very wrong in Boston. Craig, like Castillo, is trade ‘bait’ best case scenario, though I hesitate to use that word, as he’s shown nothing to prove his worth. His numbers last season at Pawtucket – .173/1/6 in 22 games. I rest my case.
2017 projections – .200/0/0, 5 games
To spare you from breaking down the every-sexy topic of bullpen pitchers, here are a handful of regulars you’ll see trotting to the mound this season –
– Craig Kimbrell, CL, R, (2017 projections – 2-4/2.71/85, 33sv)
– Matt Barnes, MR, R, (2017 projections – 3-3/3.75/75)
– Joe Kelly, SU, R, (2017 projections – 1-2/2.60/68)
– Robbie Ross Jr., MR, L, (2017 projections – 2-4/3.43/51)
– Heath Hembree, MR, R, (2017 projections – 3-4/3.79/64)
– Tyler Thornburgh, SU, R, (2017 projections – 1-1/3.16/26)
– Carson Smith, SU, R, (2017 projections – 1-1/2.82/29)
Mark Paulette is the Senior Producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like US” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.