Every now and then, I have to remind myself that not every Red Sox fan is as big of a loser as me, watching every inning of every spring training game. Well, if you haven’t been keeping up with spring training, then maybe you were unaware that Travis Shaw is making spring training his bitch. Above, you can see the Mayor of Ding Dong City doing what he does best, but beyond launching a couple ding dongs this spring, he’s just been tearing the cover off the ball in general. This spring, he’s hitting .522 with an astronomical 1.430 OPS in 23 at-bats, both of which lead all American League players, while he trails only Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies.
Now, stop right there. Shut up. Shut your mouth. I know. I KNOW that spring training statistics don’t mean anything. We’ve seen great players suck, and sucky players play great, and those scenarios play out every spring. But when you’re talking about numbers like these, and you’re that far ahead of the rest of the pack, that’s gotta count for a little, tiny something, no? Maybe? Possibly?
Regardless of if it carries any weight with you as a fan, I think it’s fair to say that the Red Sox, themselves, are impressed — as they should be. We all know the deal. The Red Sox were morons and gave monster contracts to Pablo Sandoval to play third base, and Hanley Ramirez to play left field, now first base. Money dictates playing time, so that’s why Shaw doesn’t have a starting job. Because, trust me, if Shaw were making $95 million, the Red Sox would happily give him his choice of first base or third base on Opening Day.
But I look at that David Murphy signing at the end of last month, and I wonder how confident the Red Sox are in Rusney Castillo’s ability to be a serviceable major league player. At times, Castillo has looked like the $72 million player that they had hoped they were getting. Other times, he looks like a player with absolutely no baseball IQ, who is incapable of hitting a ball out of the infield, and shaky at best defensively in the outfield. The Murphy signing was wise on Boston’s part, because we really don’t know what Castillo is at this stage of his major league career. That being said, knowing that you’re stuck with Sandoval and Hanley at the corner infield spots (for now), the Red Sox are going to give Shaw a look in left field this week.
“We’re at that point in camp where we will start to take the players that we know have defensive versatility and start moving them around a little bit more,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said here at JetBlue Park on Monday. “So later in this week, we’ll start to see Brock and Travis Shaw out in the outfield a little bit. And that’s all part of a plan we set out at the beginning of spring training.”
This is a great opportunity for Shaw to prove that he’s capable of fielding the left field position, which will only increase the number of at-bats he’ll get in 2016. Shaw appeared on Rob Bradford’s podcast for WEEI.com, and he talked about his plan to “force” himself into the Red Sox lineup.
“I feel like if I keep swinging it like I am, there’s definitely going to be more opportunities for me to hit,” Shaw said. “[Being] a left-hander hitter, I feel like I can offer a lot in the middle of this order and that has kind of been my goal this whole spring, to continue to prove to them that last year wasn’t a fluke and this is who I am and who I am going to be for a long time. It feels good to still be in this spot right now. I feel like I am in a good spot on this team. Even though I don’t have a starting role right now, I feel like this year could still be a pretty good year for me.”
The left-handed hitter did say he thought about his future when it was announced Ramirez would be making the switch to first base.
“It crosses your mind,” he said. “Last year was a pretty good year for me and that is a pretty good — I think — first impression that I made. It just shows there are guys in this game that are as good as you all the time. For me I try not to look at that and let my at-bats speak for itself. I feel like if I can continue to swing it like I am and like I did last year, I guess I can try and force myself into the lineup as much as I can.”
Over the weekend, I hit a little bit on Hanley and his defense at first base so far this spring, and at this point, I’m honestly more worried about Sandoval at third base than I am with Hanley at first base, and that’s saying something. To this point, Hanley hasn’t stuck out like a sore thumb at first base like we thought he would. And if he’s healthy, he’s gonna hit. We know that. But the same can’t be said for Sandoval, which is why I think we’ll be seeing Shaw getting more time at third base than at first base this year.
Regardless of where it is that the Red Sox get Shaw his at-bats this year, whether it be at first base, third base, left field or DH, they’re a better team when he’s in the lineup.