April 25, 2018

Drew Is Set To Return, But Who Wants Him?

June 2, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Red Sox fans can credit the Stephen Drew signing as having turned around the season – even if most of them don’t want to see him play for the Red Sox.

Actually, the Sox were still looking pretty lousy for a few days after they made the Drew announcement on May 20. For example, upon learning that he was being replaced 43 games into his season, shortstop-of-the-future Xander Bogaerts made two errors. That proved one of two things. Either they had to replace the kid because he isn’t ready for the position, or it’s a bad idea to mess with the heads of 21-year-old top prospects.

As Drew prepares to join the ballclub tonight (June 2), the Sox are riding a seven-game win streak and have an offense that has clicked since Brock Holt and Bogaerts moved to the top of it. Now, the questions are whether the reacquisition of last year’s starting shortstop was a panic move, and is Drew going to screw up the team’s newfound chemistry?

The answers are “yes” and “probably,” but hope springs eternal.

Specifically, Sox fans should be asking what the team will do with Holt, and whether they should even care. Top prospect Bogaerts may have a bruised ego, but third base is waiting for him. While many dismiss him as a utility player on a hot streak, Holt has played so well that Manager John Farrell should be thinking about how to keep him at the top of the lineup.

They say that in baseball, the prospects have to prove they can’t play and the others have to prove they can. Holt has apparently been in the latter camp, seemingly a utility player and possible insurance for Dustin Pedroia.

Listed (some would say generously) at 5-foot-10, Holt compares favorably as a poor man’s Pedroia, with a .307 minor league batting average, .372 on-base percentage, and .782 OPS. He hits doubles (101 in five-plus seasons) but not a lot of home runs (15), and he steals successfully about two-thirds of the time, an indicator of good skills but not speed.

In three minor league seasons (plus a short rehab stint in 2010), Pedroia hit .307, with an OBP of .392. What separates him from Holt is a .844 OPS. He hit a few more doubles (71 in three seasons), and 21 home runs (seven per season). The second-round pick out of Arizona State was less a base-stealing threat, with a sub-par 11 steals in 20 attempts.

While Holt hit well in a September 2012 call-up with Pittsburgh and had his moments with Boston in 2013, at the end of the season he hit just .203, pretty unimpressive. Perhaps luckily for him and every other young player to wear a Red Sox jersey, Pedroia is everyone’s reference point for the need to be patient with young players. He hit .191 in his 2006 callup, and .172 in the first 21 games of 2007, when he became Rookie of the Year.

So, let’s bring it to now.

For most of this World-Series-hangover season, with a lineup that was without the traitorous Jacoby Ellsbury, the Sox were moribund at the top. When Manager John Farrell moved Holt to leadoff and Bogaerts to No. 2 for a late-May weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Sox were seven games into a 10-game losing streak featuring consistently horrible offense.

They didn’t stop the slide immediately, but they did change the offense.

Boegaerts, third baseman for the post-season in 2013, has displayed athleticism and offensive prowess all season and he’s a top prospect so he’ll simply slide over to third base. He’s really heated up since moving into the 2 hole behind Holt (or, as some note, after Drew’s signing), with 20 hits and five walks in 53 at-bats, scoring 9 runs with 4 RBI. Overall, he’s up to .296/.389/.816 after a recent seven-game .382/.475/1.004 run.

In 11 total games in the leadoff spot, Holt has hit .353 with a .375 on base percentage and .924 OPS, helped along by a four-double performance on Sunday, when Farrell (seeing the challenge ahead) moved Holt to first base. (That position is vacant as Mike Napoli recovers from a banged-up finger and Mike Carp from a banged-up foot.)

For the season, Holt has hit .337 in two stints with Boston, including an OBP of .385 and OPS of .885. Significantly, the lefthanded hitting Holt has been the Sox best hitter against lefthanded pitchers, hitting .421/.452./.1.031. He has three stolen bases (just one from the leadoff spot) and hasn’t been caught.

He also sees an average of 4 pitches-per-at-bat, an important stat in Red Sox land, and would be tied for 23rd in the American League if he had more plate appearances.

So perhaps the Sox will leave him at first base for a week, advising their infielders, as many an American Legion manager has, to “miss low” on their throws to first base. When Napoli returns, maybe they’ll create a “Super Sub” position for him (which won’t help them at the top of the lineup except on the days he plays and Drew sits), or put him in the outfield. Or maybe they’ll wait for his first 0-for-two-days and put him into mothballs.

And Drew will go to shortstop.

Drew, you may recall, spent 2013 playing a savvy, veteran shortstop as critics called for the Sox to replace him with Jose Iglesias. He was up-and-down as a hitter, hindered by a couple of trips to the DL, and finished at .253, with a .333 OBP and .777 OPS. Although he had hit lefties throughout his career, he did so less often in 2013, suffering with a .196/.246/.585 result against lefthanders in 2013.

Did I mention he played great defense? He also hit .276/.356/.837 after the all-star break, excellent numbers for a shortstop, although he hit just .111 in the post-season, where he again played great defense.

So, tonight may mark the return of Stephen Drew to Boston, where nobody wants him, because the team has won seven straight.

Heck, that win streak has brought their record to 27-29. They’re almost at .500. Nobody wants to mess with a run like that.

Or then again, maybe baseball is a game of funny bounces and it won’t be that bad that the Sox picked up a good player.

But I am really fascinated by what the rest of this season will bring from Xander Bogaerts and Brock Holt, who are proving they can play.

Dave Rattigan joins Chris Mascaro and Bob Lazzari every week as hosts of View From the Lone Red Seat on the Seamheads Podcasting Network.

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