Pablo Sandoval has won multiple World Series titles and has been named World Series MVP, but is the veteran third baseman really the solution for the defending American League East champions at the hot corner?
The switch-hitter (mainly from the left side of the plate) struggled out of the gate last season to the tune of a .000 batting average in six at-bats before missing the rest of the season after receiving surgery on his left shoulder. He has gone through the required rest and rehabilitation and now looks to man the hot corner on an everyday basis with Travis Shaw traded away to the Milwaukee Brewers during the offseason.
But what should Red Sox fans expect from the aging and successful Sandoval this coming season and moving forward?
In his first year with the Boston Red Sox, the two-time All Star ripped 10 homers, while driving in 47 runs, along with a .245/.292/.366 slash line. Not only was he bad at the dish, but he was one of the worst defenders at third base with 15 errors on the season after being known as a top-tier defender at the position in his seven-year career with the San Francisco Giants.
Sandoval had already won three World Series in his career and now has a huge contract under his belt thanks to the Red Sox, so what is their left for him to prove? Yes, he has gained weight in the twilight of his career, but is he really going to be able to keep it off to make the Red Sox ownership proud of their decision to stick him with the job without any competition in the spring.
The one thing Sandoval has going for him is the fact that there is no one to compete with him for his job which means it is his job to lose. Plus, the fact that he has worked so hard to stay in shape before spring training has started means he might be ready to show the Red Sox (and the fanbase) that he actually cares about the game of baseball instead of just the money the Red Sox gave him a couple seasons ago.
The Red Sox will look towards Sandoval to help fill the void of David Ortiz with some spot duties at DH, but no one person can replace the production David Ortiz has left behind. But what are some realistic expectations for Sandoval and his new-found weight at 30 years old?
The Red Sox will be happy as long as plays third base a little above average as well as an offensive season that resembles his average years with the Giants (.294/.346/.465, 15 home runs, 66 runs batted in, 57 runs scored). The power numbers might be down for the rest of his career, but fans should expect at least a .275 batting average with 12-15 home runs and over 65 runs batted in. Otherwise, John Henry and Co. will look to ship Sandoval out of town if he fails to produce again this season.