Search For A Spark
Shift Holt to center field
In the otherwise encyclopedic Baseball Prospectus 2014 ("The Essential Guide to the 2014 Season"), Brock Holt wasn't even accorded his own entry. He was listed with the other Red Sox extras in the section called "Lineouts."
"Acquired with Joel Hanrahan, Brock Holt could have a future as a big-league utility infielder, but 2013 was an inauspicious start,'' the opus stated. "You have to root for a guy who acknowledges the inherent 'STEVE HOLT!' joke potential in his name, so consider us hopeful.''
Well, the Red Sox front office folks aren't thrusting their fists in the air and shouting "Brock Holt!" in homage to the "Arrested Development" character, but who ever imagined that Holt might be the key to unlocking the Sox's offensive malaise? He already has solved the crisis in the Sox's leadoff spot, hitting safely in 19 of his last 21 games, played first base for the first time ever in Mike Napoli's absence, and has shown he can play the outfield, taking extra bases away from Detroit's Ian Kinsler in his first-ever start in left field.
There's one move left for Holt to make, which should come as soon as Shane Victorino is healthy enough to reclaim right field: move to center field. Daniel Nava looks like he's regaining his stroke, so he goes back to sharing time with Jonny Gomes in left. Victorino becomes the everyday right fielder, and you can keep Jackie Bradley Jr. around to play right when Victorino needs a day and as insurance if he breaks down again. And you give Holt a crash course in the art of playing center field, which the Sox already began last week. You can always use JBJ for defensive purposes in the late innings and hope that somewhere along the way, he rediscovers his stroke.
But in the meantime, Holt becomes a poor man's Jacoby Ellsbury, without the stolen bases. By the time he cools off, which is probably inevitable, you hope that Mookie Betts is ready or Bradley starts to hit.
Change will do these guys good
Special to ESPNBoston.com
There's no easy fix for an offense hitting .228 as a collective group 10 games into June.
Of course, these numbers are bound to change. However, each of these players will be taking the field on a nightly basis until then looking to shake out of his slump. For the time being, perhaps a lineup change could offer a solution to the team's scoring woes.
Here's one such suggestion:
1. Xander Bogaerts
2. Brock Holt
3. Dustin Pedroia
4. David Ortiz
5. Mike Napoli
6. A.J. Pierzynski
7. Daniel Nava / Jonny Gomes
8. Stephen Drew / Jonathan Herrera
9. Grady Sizemore / Jackie Bradley Jr.
Despite his struggles this month, Bogaerts' .367 on-base percentage and 4.12 pitches seen per plate appearance this season rank high in the American League. Holt has been the team's best player by far this month, slashing .378/.404/.511 and racking up five extra-base hits. Pedroia, Ortiz and Napoli are the team's most obvious options for the meat of the order, while Pierzynski proved in May (.300 average, 14 RBIs) he has the potential to be a serious run contributor. Nava is finally showing signs of life and could platoon nicely with Gomes, and both Drew and Herrera are versatile veterans who can chip in with a strong at-bat. Finally, Sizemore and JBJ at the bottom of the order offer speed on the bases if they can get on, giving Bogaerts & Co. a greater chance at seeing fastballs as the lineup turns over.
Until Shane Victorino returns from his hamstring injuries, the trading deadline gets closer or top prospect Mookie Betts proves he's ready for the majors, the current roster is what the Red Sox have to work with each night. Shaking things up a bit couldn't hurt.