With the second half starting Friday, there are plenty of burning questions surrounding the last-place Red Sox. Here are the five most important ones:
1) Buyers or sellers?
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching and the Red Sox find themselves in a tough situation. They may be in dead last in the AL East, but they’re in a division that’s pretty mediocre and if the Red Sox bats come alive, they could catch up and make a run. However, they’re still in dead last and have a lot of depth in starting pitching. Trading one of these guys for some help in the future can be rewarding in the long run. Ben Cherington has said that the Red Sox would never really be a true seller, but what if they continue to struggle over the next few weeks?
2) When will the bats come alive?
It feels like all season long the Red Sox and their fans have just been waiting for the team to turn it on at the plate. They hope that their 11-0 drubbing of the Houston Astros on the last day of the first half was a sign of things to come. The Red Sox rank second-to-last in runs and third-to-last in home runs and batting average in the American League. The only player hitting well over .280 is Brock Holt. David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli are all having down years and one tends to think the Red Sox bats will remain silent until those three guys turn it around.
3) Can Brock Holt sustain his tear?
Brock Holt has had a wild ride so far. He’s hitting .327 and he had five hits in his most recent game against the Astros before the All-Star break. The third baseman has also been forced to play almost every position on the field because of injuries and struggles across the diamond, especially in the outfield. Just in July he has six multi-hit games and he has set the tone at the leadoff spot for the Sox. But it’s difficult to see if he can continue this trend.
Obviously it’ll be great if he does, but this isn’t a perennial All-Star at the end of the day. It’s Brock Holt.
4) How far can Christian Vazquez go?
The Red Sox rookie Puerto Rican catcher is going to see a lot more playing time now that A.J. Pierzynski is gone. In his first three games in the Majors, he’s hitting over .450 and has given Sox fans some hope. He has five hits along with five RBI already and with no one else hitting in the Sox lineup, fans definitely want to see what this kid can do. Again, it’s difficult to imagine him sustaining this kind of hot streak. He’s just a rookie and he doesn’t have enough pelts on the wall to show he can continue this over long term.
5) What will happen with the outfield?
A corollary to this question is, “Will Shane Victorino stay healthy?” The Flyin’ Hawaiian has barely seen the diamond this year because of injury and one has to believe that it’s been one of the reasons for the Sox struggles. He’s currently taking care of a rehab stint in Pawtucket and the team hopes he’ll come back and be impactful immediately. If Victorino is healthy and productive, the Red Sox may finally solve their outfield problem. Jackie Bradley Jr. continues to show great promise defensively and his batting is improving. Meanwhile, a Daniel Nava-Jonny Gomes platoon wouldn’t be too bad either.
Or, the Sox can go out and get an outfielder from the market by trading one of their pitchers. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but the first step in repatching the outfield is getting Victorino back.