Sox Struggling in the Spring: Hold Off on the Panic Button

If you’re like me, you try to pay very little attention to the record of preseason games. Key word here: try. I can’t help but keep a stray eye on the Red Sox so far this preseason and notice how they’ve struggled out of the gate with a pedestrian 1-5-1 record through their Thursday game against the Marlins. Their offense has been suspect, posting 2 runs or less in 4 of those 7 games. On the flip side, pitching has been a question mark, giving up 6 or more runs in 6 of 7 games.

Before we hit the panic button, let’s remember just what the preseason is for. Like in the NFL, the preseason is really a platform for young players to showcase their talent. The Red Sox starters are all but set. We know the core group of players that will be starting in the infield, outfield, and rotation. Spring Training is a way for manager John Farrell to see first-hand who those last few guys could be that could be called up from the minors in case of an injury during the season, or to give some of the veteran players a day or two off.

Guys like Ortiz, Pedroia, and Napoli use Spring Training to get warmed up for the regular season. Take into account the Red Sox offseason was the shortest amongst any major league team (if memory serves me right, it’s because they were the last team playing last year), whereas teams that did not make the playoffs had nearly an extra month off, and could use more time in the preseason. Veterans for this Red Sox team don’t need as much time to get back into the swing of things (pun intended).

Young players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, and Daniel Nava, just to name a few, have used Spring Training to show the club what they can do, it it’s eventually led to big league call-ups throughout the season. This year is no different.

For those worried about the lack of offense, let’s take a look at who is actually stepping up to the plate. Out of the 10 players who have gotten 10+ at-bats this preseason, only three of them we will expect to see meaningful playing time during the regular season (Middlebrooks, Bradley Jr., Carp). Pedroia and Ortiz are a combined 1-for-15. I’d be willing to bet they’ll do better when the games matter. So would you.

For most young prospects, it’s obvious they still need a few more seasons in the minors. Yet every year it seems there is one player that jumps out and surprises everyone, making a statement that they’re knocking on the door of the Fenway clubhouse.

Exhibit A: Deven Marrero

Marrero is a virtually unknown Sox prospect that has burst onto the scene this past week. He’s a shortstop drafted by Boston in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Arizona State (Pedroia’s alma mater). Questions arose during the season as to why the Red Sox would trade one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, Jose Iglesias, to Detroit. In the offseason, we were left to wonder why Stephen Drew, a very solid defender, hadn’t been brought back for another year. I think we’ve gotten our answer.

Marrero is young, quick, and has incredible range defensively. While his offense needs work (.256 in 85 games with Single-A Salem last season) he has proven that he has the potential to provide tremendous stability plugging up the middle infield. In Thursday’s game against Miami, he showcased his skills making an acrobatic diving stop, turning a double-play with ease, and handling everything else hit his way.

He isn’t ready for the big leagues now, but don’t be surprised if he gets the call in a few games this season. His presences raises questions as to what Farrell intends to do with the left infield. Move Bogaerts to third? Middlebrooks to first? We can speculate all we want, but prospects who project to be big-league ready shortly, without a desperate need for them, is never a bad thing.

So, does the record stink? Yeah. But, does it matter? No. Keep not an eye on final scores and records, but the storylines that come from Spring Training within the games. It means very little for the veterans who will make an impact this season, it means everything for the prospects.

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