The 2014 Boston Red Sox season was marred with disappointment. Clay Buchholz was not the same pitcher from 2013. Dustin Pedroia had the worst offensive season of his career. Xander Bogaerts did not live up to expectations. There were many more disappointments, with bright spots few and far between.
The emergence of Brock Holt took Red Sox Nation by storm. The Texan saw time at seven different positions while crashing into walls to track down balls in the gap and grinding out at bats in blowout games that had little to no playoff implications. For the season, the 26-year old hit .281 with 23 doubles and 12 stolen bases. News surfaced late in the season that Holt had been battling through concussion like symptoms throughout the late summer months, a period in which Holt saw his average dip below .300 and he was limited at the dish. As the 2015 season sits less than four months away, Brock Holt does not appear to be penciled into the Red Sox Opening Day lineup.
A middle infielder by trade, he saw time at all four infield positions and all three outfield spots, but his role for 2015 is likely to be as the super utility man. With the offseason signings of Pablo Sandoval at third base and Hanley Ramirez, who will man left field, Holt’s starting status was put in limbo. Ideally, the Red Sox aim to have Ramirez flanked by Cuban rookie Rusney Castillo in centerfield with the budding Mookie Betts in right. Lets not forget about Shane Victorino, who battled injuries in 2014 but was an important piece of the championship puzzle in 2013. Then there is Allen Craig, a 2013 NL All Star acquired in the John Lackey trade at the deadline. Craig appears to be below Victorino on the depth chart after a meager 2014, although he likely possesses a greater upside that the aging Victorino. Craig hit a weak .128 in 94 at-bats with Boston in 2014.
GM Ben Cherington has been adamant about Holt playing a major role with the Red Sox in 2015, but has been non-committal when asked just where Holt will take the field. The outfield is crowded and the infield is set, with the fan favorite Pedroia at second base, young Bogaerts penciled in at short, Mike Napoli at first, and Sandoval at third. There are health concerns with Pedroia, who missed time due to injury last year so there is a possibility that Holt may see some time at second on days where Pedroia is given a rest. The same could be said about Holt’s potential at third base, he likely will fill that void when Sandoval is not in the lineup. Bogaerts is still very young, only 22-years old and may struggle from time to time as he continues to adjust to the major league game.
Given the logjam in the outfield, Holt may get lost in the shuffle. He will likely battle for time out there with whoever loses the competition for right field, likely Victorino since the Red Sox seem ready to hand Betts an everyday role for 2015. Unforeseen injuries always seem to occur so there is no doubt that going into the season with more than a handful major league caliber outfielders is a plus. Rumors have been swirling pertaining to Craig, who is the most likely to be dealt out of Boston’s group of outfielders but nothing seems imminent.
Many teams would cherish a guy like Holt and there is proof that super utility men can thrive at the big league level. Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays, who has been a two-time All Star seeing playing time all over the diamond after originally breaking into the bigs as a shortstop, is one example. His name has popped up in trade rumors during the Hot Stove Season this winter and is generating a lot of interest. The Los Angeles Angels reportedly contacted the Red Sox this winter, inquiring about Holt, but the Red Sox were not willing to part with the super utility man.
Although there may not be a defined role in Boston for Holt at the time being, Red Sox management has continued to state that he’ll be part of the core of the 2015 squad. Baseball is an unpredictable game with injuries, slumps, and plenty of roster turnover. It’s hard to find a player that embodied the “take advantage of opportunity adage” more than Holt in 2014, and he looks primed for more of the same in 2015, at whichever position he is asked to play, possibly a different one each day.