After an unexpected run in 2021 that nearly resulted in a World Series berth, the Red Sox found themselves watching this year’s playoffs at home after finishing bottom of the AL East. One of the team’s main areas of criticism was their production at first base. With four different players having at least 50 at-bats at the position, Boston struggled to a collective .210/.294/.369 slash line that ranked third in batting average, sixth in percentage base, seventh-lowest in slugging percentage and resulted in an 85 wRC+, fourth-lowest in the league. It came just a year after Boston first basemen slashed a respectable .235/.310/.463, with a line boosted to .266/.366/.560 in the second half of the season after acquiring Slugger mid-season. Kyle Schwarber (.291/.435/.522) and the apparent breakout of Bobby Dalbec (.269/.344/.611).
As noted in MLBTR’s offseason outlook, Boston faces an interesting decision as the team looks to return to the playoffs in 2023. Currently, the Red Sox have four first basemen on their 40-man roster: the recruit Triston Casasformer prospect Bobby Dalbec, 1B/OF Francy Corderoand veteran Eric Hosmer. As free agency progresses, it’s plausible that at least one of these players will lose their roster spot ahead of spring training.
Starting with the obvious candidate to earn most of Boston’s playing time next season, Triston Casas, called up in September. Selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2018 draft (26th overall), Casas comes across as an above-average hitter who hits the ball all over the field. After hitting .273/.382/.481 with 11 homers in Triple-A Worcester during the 2022 season, Casas made his major league debut. The 22-year-old showed promise in his limited hits, hitting .197/.358/.408 with five homers on 76 hits. Despite his low batting average, he displayed tremendous plate discipleship, walking at a 20% clip (vs. the league average of 8.2%) while batting at a slightly elevated pace ( 24.2% versus 22.4%).
Casas is controllable through the 2028 season and won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2025 season, making him a favorite to potentially hold first base in Boston for most of the decade.
Another favorite to remain on the 2023 roster is right-hander Bobby Dalbec. Like Casas, Dalbec was a top prospect who got off to a promising start late in the 2020 season, slashing .264/.359/.600 with eight home runs in 80 at-bats. Given those high numbers, Dalbec was given first base to start the 2021 season but struggled, hitting a weaker .219/.264/.409 in the first half of the season. His failure led Boston to trade for a reinforcement in the form of Kyle Schwarber.
However, the Schwarber trade meant the youngster’s production increased, with Dalbec hitting a resounding .269/.344/.611 in the second half of the season. Dalbec named Schwarber as a source for his production, saying the veteran helped him “pass the ball overand allowed him to “shoot the ball more instead of trying to force itbefore saying more directly that Schwarber was “big for me“, by Khari Thompson of Boston.com.
On the heels of a strong end to his 2021 season, Dalbec was again listed as the Red Sox’ first baseman and, again, struggled. In the first half of the season, Dalbec hit a meager 0.205/0.286/0.344 with a high strikeout rate of 31.3%. After the All-Star break, he showed minor improvements, hitting .237 / .277 / .430, but with a mammoth strikeout rate of 38.6%.
With just over two years in service and a fraction of his trade value in 2020, the Red Sox will likely choose to keep the 27-year-old with the organization. Dalbec still has two option years, which means the Sox can send him to Triple-A Worcester without having to run him through waivers and risk losing him to another organization.
Franchy Cordero started the 2022 season at Worcester but was recalled at the end of April after a veteran Travis Shaw started the season 0 for 19 with seven strikeouts. He spent most of the season in Boston, racking up 275 plate appearances and slashing a respectable .219/.300/.397 before suffering a sprained right ankle in early September and landing on the IL of 60 days.
This was Cordero’s second season with the Sox, joining the team in the André Benintendi trade with Kansas. During the second half of the season, the 28-year-old hit an interesting .191/305/.490 with two homers. MLBTR’s Offseason Outlook flagged Cordero as a potential no-bid candidate, with the six-season veteran set to earn $1.5 million through arbitration.
The last first base option currently on the Red Sox 40-Man is veteran Eric Hosmer. Acquired from the Padres with prospects at the trade deadline, Hosmer earns $39 million through the 2025 season, but San Diego covers all but the league minimum wage in MLB.
Since signing his now infamous contract with the Padres, Hosmer has hit .265/.325/.410, a notable regression from his .292/.351/.449 line in his last five seasons with the Royals. He’s had a poor start to his Boston career so far, hitting .244/.320/.311 in 45 at bats, but brings playoff experience and veteran leadership to a relatively inexperienced first base corps. Hosmer is also a four-time Gold Glove winner and could be used as a late-game defensive backup and mentor for Casas before potentially being DFA later in the season if the Red Sox need a roster spot. speculative way.
Returning to a general discussion, it is pertinent to note that of the four players listed, only Dalbec has a right-handed bat. Additionally, Dalbec has been a stronger hitter against left-handers, hitting an above-average .268/.333/.522 against them (compared to .212/.278/.418 against right-handers) and can carve out a platoon role with the left. -handed hitting Casas. Additionally, Cordero is the only player in the group who will earn a “meaningful salary” (MLBTR projects he will earn $1.5 million), with Hosmer’s contract being paid the league minimum by the Padres and Dalbec and Casas. not yet reached arbitration.
Finally, with the Red Sox choosing not to bid the designated hitter JD Martinez a qualifying offer, Boston now has an open spot in its starting lineup. The team is expected to be active in the free agent market, but it’s also plausible that they won’t make a big exclusive DH addition and instead use the position to rest players situationally. If so, there’s a better chance that everyone in the quartet will stay on the roster.
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