One of John Farrell’s biggest tasks for 2016 involves the Boston Red Sox’s outfield.
The Red Sox currently have four outfielders — Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Rusney Castillo and Chris Young — vying for three starting spots, and that’s before one factors in Brock Holt’s ability to play pretty much everywhere on the diamond. Farrell will need to pick his spots when it comes to deploying the talented bunch, though the Boston manager already has an idea of how things will shake out.
“(Young) signed here under the notion that he’s going to get every at-bat against left-handed pitching,” Farrell said Tuesday on WEEI’s “Hot Stove Show.”
The strategy makes sense given Young’s success against left-handers. The 32-year-old hit .327 with seven home runs, 24 RBIs and a .972 OPS in 175 plate appearances versus southpaws while with the New York Yankees in 2015. He also could garner some playing time against right-handers, though, as the Red Sox look to take advantage of his right-handed power, particularly at Fenway Park.
“He’s well aware of the role when he comes in,” Farrell said of Young, who signed a two-year contract with Boston earlier this offseason. “We also know the way his swing is built. He fits Fenway Park very good with that pull approach. We’re all competitors. I never want to just limit the total number of at-bats a guy can accumulate.”
Farrell’s comments suggest Young will be far more than just a “fourth outfielder,” meaning someone else’s playing time could suffer as a result. With Betts on the cusp of stardom, his role in Boston’s lineup is secure. The same can’t be said for Bradley and Castillo, though Farrell’s overall goal is to keep everyone fresh and involved while exploiting matchup advantages.
“The way Jackie swung the bat when he came back up from the minor leagues was really a positive and encouraging sign,” Farrell said. “We know he’s going to play premium-type of defense, but still, you look at the long-term track record of both he and Rusney, there’s some checkered past early in their careers.
“We like the abilities, we’ve got some depth and we can keep some guys from getting overexposed. The overall athleticism is certainly a plus in the group of four.”
The Red Sox will only be able to use three outfielders at a time, assuming Major League Baseball doesn’t go the softball route and implement a short fielder. Injuries and inconsistency always crop up over the course of a 162-game grind, however, and Boston looks equipped to handle such pitfalls.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via New York Yankees outfielder Chris Young