Travis Shaw needs to be the starting 3rd baseman. Hanley Ramirez should be the starting 1st baseman of your Boston Red Sox. Okay, don't laugh. At least hear me out.
First off, Ramirez and Shaw have the greatest offensive upside. When healthy (and his head is on straight), Hanley is a top offensive talent in the game. He has a career .376 OBP and we have seen him absolute carry teams before (think Dodgers in 2012). As for Shaw, we have seen what he can do in limited time. He hit 13 homers and 10 doubles in just 65 games last year. He really showed his ability to drive the baseball. Granted it was limited time, but I would love to see what Shaw could do playing in 140 games as opposed to 65. Could he fizzle out? It is possible. I would take a chance though and play the kid. To further Shaw's case, he is hitting .464 this spring. Not that spring stats matter a ton, but it is nice to see him doing well.
On the other hand, what is the base case scenario for Sandoval offensively? I would say that it is 20 homers, 80 RBIs, and a .280 batting average. I would take that season in a heartbeat from Pablo. However, I just do not see that happening unless he is able to hit from the right side again. Additionally, that is just about the peak with Sandoval. With Shaw, there is more risk, but there is also more reward and potential upside.
From a defensive standpoint, Ramirez is already playing a better first base than most people would have imagined. His adjustment back to the infield is going a lot smoother than his transition last spring. Hanley has already made a diving play and made some nice scoops on low throws. He has shown he is capable of playing the position. Sure, he is no where close to being the first baseman Mike Napoli was after making his position switch, but he does not look bad. From an outside perspective, it looks like Ramirez is also actually giving effort as well. This is huge and absolutely necessary if it is going to work out.
As for third base, Sandoval played atrocious defense last season. He committed 15 errors and could not throw the ball to first base at all. When he was in San Francisco, Sandoval was an above average defender. The Sox need that guy to return this season. The alternative, Travis Shaw, is not a newcomer to the position as some might think. He played third in college and played almost 1,000 innings there in the minor leagues. Shaw also played 54.2 error free innings at third base for the Sox last season.
Even though the are stuck paying Sandoval, it would be wise to start Shaw as the everyday third baseman next season. Shaw has done nothing but prove that he has earned everyday at bats. Sandoval, conversely, has shown nothing to prove that he deserves everyday at bats. Playing Shaw at third regularly gives this team the best chance to maximize their offensive talent with Ramirez at first.
Thoughts on the corner infield situation?
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Stats via baseballreference.com