Pablo Sandoval has not lived up to expectations with the Red Sox, but has shown signs of improvement this offseason. Will he start at third base in 2017?
The time Pablo Sandoval has spent in Boston has not been easy to watch. After signing a five-year, $95 million deal before the 2015 season, Sandoval has yet to even come close to expectations. He has struggled with his weight, missed significant time due to injury and has yet to perform when healthy. If you haven’t been following “Kung Fu Panda” this offseason, you would wonder how he even has a chance to make a comeback in 2017. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Sandoval has been taking the steps to make a comeback. It could mirror the splash Hanley Ramirez had last season after a rough 2015.
He has been working out and the results have been apparent.
Sandoval has made his workouts and weight loss public through his Instagram account, and the results have been a breath of fresh air for fans of the organization. He has slimmed down considerably, which will help him perform. His weight has been a problem throughout his career, but came under fire more in Boston because of the intense media coverage. We also can’t forget his infamous belt-breaking incident.
With Sandoval working on his weight, and being seemingly motivated, he is taking the first steps to improving himself. The next step is staying healthy, and losing weight could help him with that also. He won’t be carrying so much weight, which will make it easier for him to maneuver on defense at the hot corner. He is only 30 years old, which is another reason he could bounce back. Being in the prime of his career in what could be his best physical condition is a reason John Farrell should give him a chance to start at the beginning of the season.
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He is performing in Spring Training.
Sandoval is off to a hot start in Spring Training, another sign he is ready to take back his starting job. In 21 at bats, he has seven hits and four runs batted in. A .333 average in a small sample size isn’t a sure sign he is back to All-Star form, but he has shown he can hit for average in the past. It should not be forgotten that Sandoval has batted .300 during a season multiple times. He was, at one point, considered one of the best third basemen in the game as well. His past resume, along with his production this spring is enough to give him the chance to start in 2017.
Sandoval will be well-rested in 2017, too. He only recorded six at bats in 2016 before going down with a season-ending injury. He has been busy with rehab and conditioning, which has kept him active. Sandoval has had a bit of time out of the spotlight in Boston. That would be refreshing to anyone who is under-performing.
The Red Sox have insurance policies.
Another reason Sandoval should be the starter to begin the season is the fact there is a back-up option. Utility player Brock Holt, another former All-Star, is waiting in the wings. It is the logical thing to start the player who makes more money and has the better resume so the organization can get its money’s worth and hopefully see a return to form. If not, they still have a productive player who can take his place.
If Sandoval is truly committed to his weight control and improvement, that is reason enough to give him a shot at the hot corner. His resume combined with his age gives some hope that he will bounce back for a productive 2017 campaign. If he doesn’t produce, they still have Brock Holt to take over, who is a viable option.
While manager John Farrell has yet to make a public decision about the matter, all signs point to Pablo Sandoval starting at third base. While nothing is for sure, he still could be a productive player. He may even be a leading candidate for the American League Comeback Player of the Year. Time will tell, but look for Sandoval at the hot corner on Opening Day.