Red Sox Outfield Poised to Have an Elite Defensive Season

by Mark Gallant | Posted on Monday, February 22nd, 2016
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MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox

In 2015, the Boston Red Sox managed to finish 7th in the league with 21 defensive runs saved (DRS) in the outfield, despite the fact that the Hanley Ramirez project in left field was a disaster. With the 2016 outfield of Rusney Castillo in left, Jackie Bradley in center, and Mookie Betts in right all but set in stone, the Red Sox could end up with the best defensive outfield in the league.

Hanley Ramirez wasn’t just a bad outfielder last year, he was historically bad. In almost 750 innings played in left, he cost the team 19 runs. If he ended up playing closer to a full season (around 1250 innings), he would have cost the team over 30 runs compared to an “average” outfielder. Since DRS started being tracked on Fangraphs in 2003, only one outfielder has eclipsed the -30 mark— Matt Kemp in 2010 at an eye-popping -37. If Ramirez had been an average outfielder last season or if an average outfielder played instead of him, the Red Sox would have had the second best outfield in baseball with 40 DRS, only behind Tampa Bay at 44. Considering the fact that Kevin Kiermaier accounted for the DRS record 42 of those 44 runs, the Red Sox could have had the most balanced outfield trio in the league.

This year, that is certainly an attainable feat. In just his first full season playing outfield in professional baseball, Betts had 10 DRS, which is considered great. Bradley and Castillo both played just above 600 innings each, but posted 8 and 15 DRS, respectively. Castillo’s number seems a bit fluky, as I don’t see him amassing 30 DRS in a full season, but I do see him with around 10 DRS this upcoming season. Using the eye test, Bradley is one of the best outfielders in the league, but he wasn’t loved by the DRS calculation system in 2015. In just over 1000 innings in 2014, Bradley had 14 DRS, which I see as a bit more accurate. I expect him to have over 15 DRS, with 20 not being unrealistic.

Some people are already concerned about the outfield alignment when newcomer Chris Young plays, which will be primarily against lefty starters. Manager John Farrell said that he didn’t want Betts moving from right to center every few days when Young plays over Bradley, which would leave Young in center field. Five years ago, Young was an elite center fielder for the Diamondbacks, posting 20 DRS in 2011. However, at 32-years-old, Young no longer has the same range and has posted a -6, -1, and -3 DRS over the past three years, respectively. While he isn’t going to play a gold-glove caliber outfield in place of Bradley, he is certainly not going to be as bad as Ramirez and can hopefully be an average outfielder.

With three every-day outfielders capable of 10+ DRS each and a slightly below average to average fourth outfielder, the Red Sox should easily have around 35 DRS in their outfield. Brock Holt is also a reliable fifth outfielder who has been above average defensively in the past in case of injury. With a stellar outfield set for the upcoming season, the big question shifts to the infield defense. The Ramirez project has shifted from left field to first base, while Pablo Sandoval has hit the headlines due to his weight entering spring training. If those two don’t have the range to handle the corners, the outfielders may have some extra work cut out for them.

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Mark Gallant
About the Author

Mark has contributed to isportsweb, the Yawkey Way Report, Fansided's Chowder and Champions, and The Hockey Writers. He is also the host of the weekly radio show Top Shelf Sports on Bryant University's WJMF radio. Follow him on Twitter @TopShelfSports5

  • Tony Byergo

    I think if you want to talk about the best outfield in the AL, the discussion should probably start with WC Royals. There 4 OFs to start this season had a combined 44 DRS last year — Cain 18, Dyson 11 (playing less than half time), Orlando (8 (playing less than half time), and Gordon (who missed two months). They could easily hit 75 DRS combined this year — in 2014, Cain, Gordon and Dyson combined for a 74 DRS themselves.

  • Tony Byergo

    Well, through 19 games, the Boston starting outfield of Betts, Bradley, and Holt is actually a -3 DRS. Not thinking they are rating as the best defensive outfield in the AL.

  • Tony Byergo

    Top 3, by DRS, appear to be Houston, Chicago WS, and KC.

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