We’re only 13 days away from Opening Day! The excitement is boiling inside of me like a pot of water. I so badly want the day to just get here already, but there’s still some important roster decisions that need to be made first, particularly the battle for the final spot on the bench.
As AL teams tend to do, the Sox will most likely keep 13 non-pitchers on the roster. Dustin Pedroia will be out injured to start the season, so while there will technically be two spots open to begin the year, Pedey isn’t expected to miss more than a month or so, leaving just one open spot long term. Mitch Moreland, Sandy Leon, and Eduardo Nunez seem to rightfully have 3 of the 4 bench positions already locked down, leaving 3 or 4 guys realistically contending for the final roster opening. Let’s cover them and give their odds of coming out on top.
First up is the probable favorite, Blake Swihart. He has so many things going for him right now that it’s hard to pick against him. Although he’s a natural catcher (which is always a position of need in terms of depth), he has also been used at LF, 3B, and even 2B and 1B this Spring. Add in the fact that he’s tearing it up down in Florida so far to the tune of a .342 BA, a massive 1.089 OPS, 2 HR, and 9 RBI stat line in 14 games, and I’d definitely peg him as the leading candidate for the final spot.
Next up is Brock Holt. I’ve already argued in a previous article that Holt is an extremely effective and valuable asset to this team when he receives upwards of 100 games played and 400 plate appearances. The problem with that, though, is that Brock has had some difficulty staying healthy and reaching those milestones. Although he’s put together a good Spring so far (.316 BA), he’s only played in 8 games due to yet another injury, this one to his elbow. He returned to action earlier this week, but the concern surrounding his fragility can’t seem to escape him. I expect him to make the initial Opening Day roster, then get sent down to the minors when Pedroia comes back and ultimately receive a call-up when the inevitable injury eventually happens to someone.
Deven Marrero comes in next just inches behind Holt in my book. Marrero struggles at the plate, as his .208 career BA attests to, and that hasn’t changed at all this Spring. He is, however, extremely gifted with his glove, arguably the best defensive infielder the Red Sox system has. I don’t see that fact making up for his lack of offensive ability, though, and expect Marrero to miss the cut despite being out of options in his contract.
Finally, Sam Travis has a shot to be the guy here as well, although he’s way out on the fringes of the picture and would really need to hope for some sort of shift in the team to make it. Although his .238 BA so far in Spring Training could improve, his power is unmistakable. He’s boasting an .820 OPS with 3 HR and 9 RBI in 17 games. He made a good impression last year in his only time in the bigs as well with a .263 BA and a .667 OPS, but he has a lot of traffic in front of him, and I don’t see him navigating it to a roster spot.
How do you guys see this picture playing out? Let me know in the comments section below.