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The 2010 outfield had large shoes to fill with the departure of Jason Bay to the Mets. With J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury coming of strong 2009 campaigns and veteran Mike Cameron in the fold, the Boston outfield seemed poised to have a good year. Sadly this was not the case, but the disappointing outfield in 2010 was not without some silver linings
J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron entered 2010 with great expectations. Drew was coming off back-to-back seasons OPSs north of .900, Ellsbury had gained the reputation of being one of the fastest men in baseball and Cameron was a sure-handed veteran presence who could stabilize center field while Ellsbury learned how to better translate his gifts into defensive play. Representing one third of the Red Sox lineup, these three were expected to bring strong defense and offense to the table. However, Ellsbury and Cameron played in a combined 66 games and Drew, avoiding the disabled list to appear in 139 games, turned in his weakest offensive year since 2002.
Cameron and Ellsbury did not contribute to the team as they were expected. Cameron battled injuries and tried to play hurt in a greatly reduced state before finally calling it quits and Ellsbury’s freak collision with Adrian Beltre back in April left him with a rib injury that turned out to be more serious than anyone thought.
Drew on the other hand, aside from the typical days off for normal wear and tear, was healthy. Drew was a regular in the lineup – only Adrian Beltre (154), Marco Scutaro (150) and David Ortiz (145) played more games than the right fielder. What makes Drew’s season disappointing is that while he seemed mired in a yearlong slump, he was really on a six-month roller coaster with many ups and downs. Though he only hit above .300 in one month (May), Drew put up OPSs of .851/.965/.805 in May/June/July after a slow April (.695). Unfortunately Drew struggled in August batting just .198/.298/.385/.683 during a stretch where the team needed a strong presence in the lineup after losing Youkilis and Pedroia for the year. What was consistent for Drew was his inability to his left-handed pitching. Despite owning a .255/.358/.422/.780 career line about southpaws, Drew only managed to hit .208/.302/.309/.611 against them in 2010.
Mike Cameron: Incomplete
J.D. Drew: C
Jacoby Ellsbury: Incomplete
Enjoying something of a resurgence in 2010, Bill Hall played a significant roll for the team filling in for injured infielders and outfielders. Acquired for the low price of Casey Kotchman and heavily subsidized by the Brewers (by way of Seattle) Hall hit .247/.316/.456/.772. Hall smacked 18 home runs and drove in 46 and even added nine stolen bases to his resume. Where Hall truly thrived was hitting right-handers. Eleven of his home runs came against right handed pitching as Hall batted his way to an .841 OPS against same-sided pitching. His .680 OPS versus lefties was where he fell short. Hall has traditional been better against lefties in his career with a .259/.330/.461/.790 line against lefties and a .247/.300/.435/.736 against righties.
Nava will always be remembered for hitting a home run on the first pitch he saw in the majors. Making his major league debut at the age of 27 while overcoming enormous odds, Nava was a jolt of energy to the Red Sox season. Though he didn’t hit another homer, Nava batted .242/.351/.360/.711 through 161 at bats. He’s not terribly fast and Francona wasn’t always comfortable with his left field defense late in games, but for a find in the independent leagues, you couldn’t ask for much more than he gave the Red Sox in 2010. It’s likely his story will always overshadow his ability, but Nava was pretty far down on Boston’s outfield depth chart, so his contributions were even more unexpected than usual.
The Darnell McDonald signing was a steal for the Red Sox. It is especially surprising in hindsight how McDonald was so underrated by other clubs that a team with three solid starting outfielders, two top prospects (Kalish and Reddick) and several other fourth outfielder/platoon partner/ bench guys (Hall and Jeremy Hermida) would be the only team with interest. As a guy who can play center field, bring some power and speed (9 homers and 9 steals) McDonald could have served a National League team well as a fourth or fifth outfielder that could pinch-hit or run and be a master of the double switch. Maybe this was his career year and with an OPS+ of 103, McDonald’s .270/.336/.429/.766 season was just a tad better than average, but in the jam the Red Sox were facing, McDonald was a perfect fit.
The young outfielder got his first taste of the big leagues in 2009 and in 2010 appeared for another stint with Boston. The 23-year-old produced nearly identical results each year:
Entering the 2010 season the left-handed outfielder, ranked #75 by Baseball America, can play all three outfield positions, which makes him valuable to the Red Sox as in in-house prospect who could capture a starting job or as a fourth outfielder with power and speed who is cost controlled. He hasn’t yet shown success in the majors and has with a .247/.286/.427/.713 line at Triple-A has struggled in the upper minors at times as well.
Kalish came into the season ranked behind Reddick, #96 on Baseball America’s list, but after crushing Double and Triple-A pitching to the tune of .294/.382/.502/.884, he found himself in the majors. Kalish showed that he was ready for a shot at a major league job hitting .252/.305/.405/.710 with four home runs and 10 stolen bases. With a crowded outfield, Kalish is not guaranteed anything in 2011, but what he showed the Red Sox should put him into their plans for 2012 or as an important piece in a trade.
The Red Sox outfield was certainly a mixed bag this year, loaded with talent and injuries. The only player who really slumped was J.D. Drew. Kalish’s growth was a positive sign and gives the team many options while constructing the 2011 roster. Because Ellsbury and Cameron were limited by injuries, the outfield isn’t in as bad of shape as it seemed at times this year and with Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick all in the fold for next year, Theo and Francona have a lot of tools at their disposal. But if the big three are healthy and productive, the 2011 outfield is sure to improve on this year’s production.