With his job on the line, John Farrell has let it be known that Travis Shaw is in the mix for a starting position and Pablo Sandoval is playing for his job. Farrell told assembled media yesterday that Sandoval is “very well aware of it.” He also discussed “not limiting [Shaw] to just a utility player,” emphasizing that the the 25-year-old corner infielder “could be competing for regular at bats.”
In the wake of consecutive last place finishes, a bad start for Farrell and the Red Sox could mean a change in the Red Sox manager’s office by Memorial Day. Dave Dombrowski was not part of the management team that signed Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million contract, so he will have no qualms sitting the big money/underperforming player in favor of an up-and-coming, but still unproven player.
After posting a .797 OPS with 14 homers and 42 RBI in just 226 at bats last season, the Red Sox believe Shaw can be a productive major league hitter. The left-swinging slugger has been proficient in driving the ball to all fields, which makes him particularly intriguing at Fenway. He begins the spring like a man looking to win a job, hitting .419 in 11 games with a 1.132 OPS. Primarily a first baseman, Shaw, an exceptional athlete who has seen time at shortstop in the minors, has been solid at third base.
Sandoval is hitting .250 with an .847 OPS this spring. A wind-aided home run yesterday gave his power numbers a boast, but the Red Sox would like to see Sandoval drive the ball with more consistency. Defense has also been a concern. The hefty third baseman already has four errors and, like last season, has displayed minimal range at the hot corner.
Sandoval’s hitting and fielding woes have gone well documented, but his base running was atrocious last season, well-below standards for a major league player of any size at any position. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe offers this synopsis of Sandoval on the base paths during the 2015 season:
- 17 times when Sandoval was on first base when a single was hit. All 17 teams, he advanced no further than second base.
- Sandoval was on first base only 7 times when a double was hit. Six times, he reached only third base. He didn’t score once in this situation.
- In the 11 times he was on second when a single was hit, he scored just 3 times.
- His “extra base taken percentage” was just 9%. In comparison, lead-footed David Ortiz was at 18%, Dustin Pedroia was at 32% and Mookie Betts was at 44%.
In short, competing in the American League East is a difficult task. Competing with Sandoval occupying a spot in your lineup every day might be an impossible task. Shaw deserves a chance to show his worth and Farrell needs to win.