RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Can versatile outfield help fans forget about 'Killer B's'?

RED SOX INSIDER

Below are capsule previews of the Red Sox outfield, which has moved on from the Killer B's in a big way. The Mookie Betts/Andrew Benintendi/Jackie Bradley Jr. trio that helped win a World Series in 2018 has been scattered to the wind, replaced by Alex Verdugo and then whichever matchup suits Alex Cora's purpose on any particular day.

We'll be including J.D. Martinez among the outfielders, even though he'll play primarily as a DH, as well as super utilitymen Marwin Gonzalez and Danny Santana.

(Note: Ages are as of opening day, while projected stats are courtesy Baseball-Reference and Tom Tango.)

Tomase: A lot has happened since we last heard a word from John Henry

Alex Verdugo

Age: 25

Bats: Left

Outlook: Verdugo provided a glimpse into the type of player he could be last year when he returned from a cracked vertebrae to hit .308 with an .844 OPS in 53 games. Given a healthy offseason, there's no reason he shouldn't improve on those numbers significantly and maybe even blossom into an All-Star.

The tools are certainly there. Verdugo takes a line drive approach to all fields and will hit at the top of what should be a stacked Red Sox lineup. His energy should make him a fan favorite, and there's every reason to think that when the Red Sox are good again, he'll be right in the middle of it.

Best case: Verdugo makes Red Sox fans realize there's life after Mookie, hitting for average and a little power while playing above-average defense.

 

Worst case: Injuries held him back in Los Angeles, and a return of back problems would be a most unwelcome development.

Projected stats: .284-17-55-.807

 

J.D. Martinez

Age: 33

Bats: Right

Outlook: There's nowhere to go but up after a miserable 2020. Martinez at least owned up to his failings last year by admitting that he wasn't ready to play when the season restarted in July. Not only were his numbers (.213-7-27) terrible, but if anything, they covered up how lost he looked at the plate.

After a winter in his offseason hitting lab, Martinez believes he has corrected his mistakes. If that's the case, there's no reason he can't once again anchor the middle of the lineup as a run producer who also reaches base at an elite clip.

Best case: Martinez regains his .300-30-120 form and the Red Sox rely on him as the big bat they missed last year.

Worst case: Martinez's concerning inability to hit fastballs continues and his problems of a year ago start looking irreversible.

Projected stats: .278-29-91-.867

 

Hunter Renfroe

Age: 29

Bats: Right

Outlook: The first major acquisition of the offseason for Chaim Bloom might be the quintessential one, too. Renfroe has done a couple of things well in targeted at-bats and the Red Sox are banking on those skills translating to a full-time role. For one, he hits the ball a mile, as evidenced by a 33-homer season in 2019. For another, he plays exceptional defense in right field, with a Gold Glove nomination on his resume. In between, he's a .200 hitter with a sub-.300 on base percentage, but the Red Sox are hoping this is the year he puts it all together as a regular.

Best case: See above. Realistically, 30 homers with above-average defense should be his ceiling. No one's expecting him to suddenly hit .300.

Worst case: Renfroe fails to hit righties and is forced into an outfield platoon.

Projected stats: .221-25-61

Tomase: Santana might be the best player in Sox camp you know nothing about

Marwin Gonzalez

Age: 32

Bats: Switch

Outlook: Versatility was the buzzword of the winter, and about the only player in baseball who can do as much as Gonzalez is teammate Kike Hernandez. Gonzalez has played every position except pitcher and catcher, and he's one of only two players to appear in at least 130 games each at first, second, third, short and the outfield. A switch hitter who has hit exactly .261 from both sides of the plate, Gonzalez is notorious for grinding at-bats and he has already played a pivotal role in a World Series winner in Houston.

Best case: Gonzalez turns back the clock to 2017, when he hit over .300 while earning MVP votes as a jack-of-all-trades.

 

Worst case: He continues the downward trajectory that reached a nadir last year in Minnesota, where he hit a career-worst .211.

Projected stats: .239-16-61-.701

 

Franchy Cordero

Age: 26

Bats: Left

Outlook: Remember Wily Mo Pena? Cordero definitely brings similar vibes. A physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, Cordero is blessed with jaw-dropping natural power and he's also one of the fastest outfielders in baseball. While that rare combo makes him sound like a unicorn, his pedestrian lifetime numbers have been decidedly more pony.

Now entering his fifth season, he has yet to play more than 40 games because of injuries. A COVID diagnosis set him back to start spring training, so it's unclear how ready he'll be for opening day.

Best case: Cordero delivers on his physical gifts and breaks out with 20-plus homers.

Worst case: Did we mention Wily Mo Pena? Cordero similarly flames out and spends half the year in Worcester.

Projected stats: .240-10-32-.750

 

Danny Santana

Age: 30

Bats: Switch

Outlook: Santana arrives on a minor-league deal from Texas, where he stealthily put together a 28-homer season in 2019 before bulking up to play first base in 2020 -- with disastrous results. Santana hit just .145 in 15 games before undergoing September surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament. His recovery was expected to take eight months, though he appears to be ahead of schedule.

antana's value comes from -- you guessed it -- his versatility. He has played every position except pitcher and catcher and is an average defender at second and third. He has also played over 150 games in center. The Red Sox need to see if they can get him healthy. If so, he'd probably make his biggest impact at first base.

Best case: Santana hits 28 bombs again as the lineup's third jack-of-all-trades.

Worst case: He fails to heal and never makes an appearance in a Red Sox uniform.

Projected stats: .250-15-47-.771