The Red Sox are now deep inside Spring Training and are a ways off from their first Regular Season series on April 3. That being said, there are still many Spring Training stories to follow in the Red Sox camp:
Andrew Benintendi made an immediate impact last season after being called up in early August and filling the hole in left field. Through 118 plate appearances last season, Benintendi hit a slash line of 295/359/476. That would be impressive for any new player in the majors, but especially because Benintendi was only drafted in 2015 by the Red Sox. Because of a left knee sprain that put Benintendi out for three weeks last season, he still retains his prospect status going into the 2017 season. This has put him at the top of many Top 100 Prospect Lists, including 1st on Baseball America, 1st on MLB.com, and 2nd on Fangraphs. So far this spring, Benintendi has had a .367 batting average with a 1.158 OPS and 2 homers. Although Spring Training stats are almost always inflated, the outlook is good for Benintendi this upcoming season.
Pablo Sandoval may be the most intriguing comeback story to watch in the Red Sox camp. After signing a 5 year/$95 million deal in the 2014 offseason, Sandoval had a disappointing debut season with the Red Sox in 2015. He followed up his disappointing 2015 season with an even more disappointing 2016 season. Last season, Sandoval came to the Red Sox spring training camp overweight (not his first time struggling with his weight). He then continued on to play all of 7 plate appearances in the regular season, before suffering from a shoulder injury and having season-ending surgery to repair his torn labrum. Along with recovering from his injury, Sandoval also took last season to slim down considerably. This gave many fans hope about Sandoval’s perform this upcoming season. Those hopes have been validated by his Spring Training performance. Sandoval has a .333 average and a 818 OPS this spring, and maybe even more importantly, he seems to be handling third base just fine. With Travis Shaw traded in the offseason, and mega-prospect Rafael Devers still a couple of seasons away, Sandoval will have the pressure on him to perform this season.
Kyle Kendrick (and the rest of the rotation)
Kyle Kendrick is not an extraordinarily good pitcher. He is not even a a pretty good pitcher. Kyle Kendrick is a definitively average to below average pitcher. Despite this, Kendrick seems to be one of the more interesting players in the Red Sox Spring Training camp. Kyle Kendrick went from being the Rockies Opening Day starter in 2015, to now fighting to be rotation depth with the Red Sox this year. But his opportunity could come, as news has come out that David Price is most likely starting the season on the Disabled List (possibilities of the result of this are detailed in my previous post). Despite not having great career numbers, a 4.63 career ERA and a 4.9 career strikeout rate, Kendrick has been exceeding expectations with the Red Sox this Spring Training. Through 18 innings this Spring Training, Kendrick has thrown 16 strikeouts and to a 1.50 ERA. In his most recent start, Kendrick threw 5 innings, giving up 3 hits, 0 runs, and striking out 6. While the results of this outing are somewhat brought down by the fact that he was facing the weak offense of the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as the fact that it is a Spring Training game, the Red Sox should be pleased with the result. The back half of the rotation seems to be fair game for Red Sox starting pitchers not named Rick Porcello or Chris Sale. This leaves Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz, and now possibly Kyle Kendrick all contending for a spot on the rotation. While the chances of Kendrick making the Opening Day roster seems slim, it does not seem impossible, which is more than you can say at the beginning of Spring Training.