2012 Red Sox Player Preview: The Bench

The bench is always an important part of a baseball team.  The Red Sox have a mix of guys in their starting lineup who have either been everyday stalwarts like Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz who rarely miss time or have guys like Kevin Youkilis, Carl Crawford, and Jacoby Ellsbury who have all missed significant time in the past few seasons.  Certain spots are more important than other and for the Sox it is important to have a dependable backup infielder and a few solid outfield options with what they have in the starting lineup.  Here’s what they’re working with this season on the bench:

Catcher Kelly Shoppach

Red Sox C Kelly Shoppach

Here’s a look at Shoppach’s 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):

Games: 87 (112, 2008)
Average: .176 (.261, 2007 & 2008)
On-Base Percentage: .268 (.348, 2008)
Slugging Percentage: .339 (.517, 2008)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .607 (.865, 2008)
Home Runs: 11 (21, 2008)
Runs Batted In: 22 (55, 2008)
Runs: 23 (67, 2008)
Doubles: 3 (27, 2008)
Walks: 19 (36, 2008)

2012 Season Outlook:

Shoppach was brought in for one reason – defense.  Last year’s #2 catcher, Jason Varitek, was abysmal when it came to throwing base stealers out and Jarrod Saltalamacchia struggled early on as well.  Shoppach is well regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the game and had the highest percentage of catching would be base stealers of all catchers in the American League last year.  Shoppach’s production with the bat will be minimal (he has hit under .200 in each of the past two seasons) but he will give you the occasional pop (he’s been in double digits in home runs in 3 of the past 4 years).  The Red Sox will likely play Shoppach almost exclusively against left-handed pitching, which he hits considerably better, so that should limit the liability he brings on the offensive side.  Depending on how starter Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going defensively, you may see Shoppach come into the game as a late inning replacement particularly if the club finds a spot for both him and fellow catcher Ryan Lavarnway on the 40 man roster.

Utility Infielder Nick Punto

Red Sox IF Nick Punto

Here’s a look at Punto’s 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):

Games: 63 (150, 2007)
Average: .278 (.290, 2006)
On-Base Percentage: .388 (.388, 2011)
Slugging Percentage: .421 (.421, 2011)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .809 (.809, 2011)
Home Runs: 1 (4, 2005)
Runs Batted In: 20 (45, 2006)
Runs: 21 (73, 2006)
Doubles: 8 (21, 2006)
Walks: 25 (61, 2009)

2012 Season Outlook:

Punto had a nice little season last year with the world champion Cardinals.  Don’t expect him to repeat his offensive success however as he moves from the NL Central to the AL East.  Punto was once a solid supersub who could fill in for long periods of time at any position but at 34 he is more of a traditional utility infielder type now.  Punto’s biggest asset is his versatility in that he can still play all four defensive positions very competently.  He would allow the Red Sox to carry only the one back-up infielder but if youngster Jose Iglesias makes the squad as the starting shortstop then he will share the backup infield duties with mike Aviles.  Expect Punto to take virtually all of the back-up innings on the right side of the infield as well as a fair share at third base, particularly if Youkilis’ injuries flare back up.  Punto will never be an everyday player, if one of the Sox infielders go down long term expect Aviles or Iglesias to take that role, but Punto will give you the little things like a good bunt or solid base running.  He’s a good guy to have around.

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney

Red Sox OF Ryan Sweeney

Here’s a look at Sweeney’s 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):

Games: 108 (134, 2009)
Average: .265 (.294, 2010)
On-Base Percentage: .346 (.350, 2008)
Slugging Percentage: .341 (.407, 2009)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .687 (.755, 2009)
Home Runs: 1 (6, 2009)
Runs Batted In: 25 (53, 2009)
Runs: 34 (68, 2009)
Doubles: 11 (31, 2009)
Walks: 33 (40, 2009)

2012 Season Outlook:

Sweeney came over to the Sox along with Andrew Bailey in the trade that sent Josh Reddick and others to Oakland.  Sweeney is one of those guys that you look at and see a great player but all you really get is a decent sub.  He’s got a tall frame like that of a power hitter yet he’s never hit more than 6 home runs in a season.  He’s hit for pretty decent averages in his career though and he’s got some patience at the plate.  I’d expect that Sweeney will start the season in a platoon with Darnell McDonald in Carl Crawford’s spot in the outfield.  After Crawford comes back he’ll likely spell Cody Ross in right field against some right handed pitchers.  Sweeney is a dime a dozen guy in the outfield but he is a good fielder as opposed to Reddick, who was atrocious in the field, and the Sox needed a left handed outfielder off of the bench while prospect Ryan Kalish continues to recover from last season’s shoulder injury.  No offense to Sweeney but I hope we don’t see too too much of him after Crawford is back healthy.

Outfielder Darnell McDonald

Red Sox OF Darnell McDonald

Here’s a look at McDonald’s 2011 season (career highs in parentheses):

Games: 79 (117, 2010)
Average: .236 (.270, 2010)
On-Base Percentage: .303 (.336, 2010)
Slugging Percentage: .401 (.429, 2010)
On Base plus Slugging (OPS): .704 (.766, 2010)
Home Runs: 6 (9, 2010)
Runs Batted In: 24 (34, 2010)
Runs: 26 (40, 2010)
Doubles: 6 (18, 2010)
Walks: 14 (30, 2010)

2012 Season Outlook:

McDonald had a rough start last year after having a very solid 2010.  McDonald logged a lot of playing time in ’10 with Ellsbury’s and Drew’s injuries and seemed to struggle being put back into a reserve role in ’11.  McDonald looked to be on the bubble with the acquisition of Cody Ross and Sweeney but he seemed to get at least a temporary stay of execution when Carl Crawford was injured and Marco Scutaro was traded away.  McDonald seems to be responding this spring with his back against the wall, hitting .467 thus far in camp.  I like McDonald, he’s played hard in the past few seasons with the Sox and seems like a great team player.  I’d like to see him stick but when the club is healthy I’m not sure the numbers game will work for him.  Here’s hoping it does though.

We’re still waiting to hear on the shortstop position and there are a few young guys who may yet make an impact and I will cover them in a separate preview.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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