Right now, the Red Sox are carrying five major-league calibre outfielders on their 25-man roster, with another on the disabled list (Shane Victorino). Currently, Manager John Farrell has been rotating the five that are healthy: Jackie Bradley Jr., Grady Sizemore, Mike Carp, Daniel Nava, and Johnny Gomes. Eventually, at least one of these players will be sent down to the Red Sox AAA affiliate Pawtucket Red Sox.
When Shane Victorino returns, you can almost guarantee his return to the line-up. In 2013, the “Flying-Hawaiian” won his fourth gold glove playing right field for the Red Sox. The thirty-three year old Hawaiian native hit .294 in 2013, and stole twenty-one bases for the Sox.
Jackie Bradley Jr., a man who was gathered a tonne of buzz around the Red Sox organization the past fourteen months, seems poised to finally make the jump to the big leagues. In just the first nine games, “JBJ” is batting .400, with three runs scored, and five runs batted in. The twenty-two year old has been impressive in his limited action with the team, but could prove to fill the void left by Jacoby Ellsbury in 2014.
Farrell has already commented that he prefers to have strong defenders in the outfield. In Fenway Park, who could blame him. As many Red Sox fans know, the park has one-of-a-kind dimensions, and fly balls can careen off of the Green Monster, or into the triangle in deep centerfield. A defense-oriented outfield might not be a bad idea. Grady Sizemore, who as many are aware, could end up on the disabled list himself, would be a great final piece of the outfield, if he can stay in the line-up. Having the extra outfielder, Sizemore won’t be forced to play 140-150 games this year, which could prove to be critical if the Red Sox would like to make another postseason run in 2014.
The next candidate to most likely keep his major-league job, is Johnny Gomes. Not the flashiest of the bunch, Gomes has nerves of steel in the batters box and Sox fans witnessed a plethora of clutch hits last year. His ability to play left field, and his dedication to laying out to catch any ball in the outfield, will keep him on the team. Gomes’ gritty style of play seems to mesh well with Farrell’s clubhouse; something that kept him around last October. His ability to not only pinch-hit, but substitute into the outfield at any moment, give him a good shot at maintaining his 25-man roster spot.
Here’s where the Red Sox might make the cut. Fortunately for Daniel Nava, the Red Sox are currently holding a roster spot for a fifth outfielder. Considering that it’s likely at least one of the aforementioned outfielders will end up on the disabled list this year, there is a good chance Nava can still see a good chunk of playing time. Last year, Nava hit .303 in 134 games in left field, and if the offense isn’t as potent as it has been, Nava could easily make his way back into the starting rotation.
Finally, Mike Carp. In 2013, Carp was used in a platoon role, playing a career-high 86 games. Carp could be bumped to AAA in 2014. Carp was 0/8 in the playoffs last year, accumulating three strikeouts. Whether or not that was a dagger in the coffin or not, it didn’t seem to impress Farrell. He’s played in a third of the games at this point, and his role seems to be limited.
Moving forward, you can expect Nava in left, Bradley Jr. in center, and Victorino in right field. Gomes should platoon and get his fair share of at bats and action in the field. It’s not one of the more powerful outfields that the Red Sox have fielded in recent memory (It would be impressive for any of the outfielders to reach twenty home-runs this season), but it adds a strong defense to an already defensively-sound line-up.