As we approach Opening Day of the MLB season, it’s becoming apparent that the Red Sox need to find a place in the starting lineup for Travis Shaw. After surprisingly showing the bat and defense needed to be any every day player in 2015, Shaw has continued to play well in Spring Training this year. Shaw is proving to the Red Sox coaching staff that he should be an everyday player and now it’s time for John Farrell to make a bold move and find a place for this 25-year-old up and coming player. Making bold moves has not been a strength of Farrell in his tenure as a Red Sox manager. After all, this was a manager who started Mike Napoli into July last year despite having a .193 batting average in the first half of the season. Recently, there has been speculation that Shaw is in a competition with Pablo Sandoval for the starting job at third base. This could just be motivation for Sandoval. Regardless, Shaw should be starting, but why is third base the focus?
Last season, Travis Shaw batted .270 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI in 65 games. He also had an .813 OPS. He played well defensively as he committed just three errors. He proved he was capable and deserving of an opportunity to be the starting first baseman heading into the 2016 season. We all know the problem. Hanley Ramirez is pegged to be the starting first baseman despite not having much experience at the position. By most accounts, Ramirez has been making progress at the position in Spring Training.
With the recent speculation that Shaw is now competing for the third baseman job, this could pose a big problem for the Red Sox. By starting Shaw at third, the Red Sox would likely gain some production at the plate, but this would not be true in the field. Shaw’s natural position is first base. While he did have a good amount of experience at third base in his minor league career, he did not excel there defensively. Shaw made 15 errors in 104 minor leagues at third base. While this amount of errors is not overly concerning, third base is not his natural position.
Here are three reasons why the Red Sox should start Travis Shaw at first base and Pablo Sandoval at third base.
1. Hanley Ramirez is a natural shortstop. Pablo Sandoval is a natural third baseman. Travis Shaw is a natural first baseman. The big question here is are the Red Sox better off with two corner infielders playing out of position? Or, will they be a better team with two players playing in the right place to solidify a solid overall defensive infield with Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts up the middle? In addition, despite having an unproductive season last year, Pablo Sandoval is a better third baseman than Hanley Ramirez is as a first baseman.
2. Many fans in Red Sox Nation will point to Ramirez being the power bat the Red Sox need in the middle of the lineup. That power bat is a myth, folks. Using a three years sample size, since 2013, Pablo Sandoval has batted an average of .268 with 13 home runs and 66 RBI per season. Using the same sample size, Hanley Ramirez has batted .288 with 17 home runs and 60 RBI per season. So, yes, Ramirez has been more productive offensively. However, again, the point is why have two corner infielders play out of position to possibly get a little bit more offensive production? Hanley is 32 years old. Does anyone think he is going to get better at this point?
3. Pablo Sandoval is a winning player. For all of his flaws, Sandoval does have a winning attitude that has worked well with championship teams. Ask the San Francisco Giants about Sandoval’s contributions to World Series winning teams. You will not hear the same type of feedback about Hanley Ramirez. On a team that has young talent like Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Xander Bogaerts, and Travis Shaw, it’s important to surround them with players who have the right approach. Sandoval does that.
The Red Sox have put a big emphasis on putting the best team on the field in their discussions with the media this spring. Will they deliver on this?
Shaw at first. Sandoval at third.