Brock Holt and Deven Marrero are fighting for the same job
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There is just one week left until Opening Day, and most of the position battles for the Boston Red Sox roster have already been determined. The Red Sox will almost certainly carry three catchers, and the starting rotation will be determined by health more than anything else. However, there is one battle that is still yet to be decided. Utility infielders Brock Holt and Deven Marrero are both fighting for one job, and both have solid reasons to make the team. Let’s take a dive into Brock Holt versus Deven Marrero, the last true spring training battle.
The Utility Infielder: Brock Holt Versus Deven Marrero
Full disclaimer on this post: the Red Sox might not have to make a decision on this one. According to multiple reports leaguewide, both Holt and Marrero are being shopped, with multiple teams interested in Marrero. If the Red Sox are capable of getting solid trade value out of either player, then they should definitely make this trade.
Still, it is hard to believe that there is much value for either player. Both players have clear limitations, and both are coming off down seasons. With the injury history of both Dustin Pedroia and Eduardo Nunez, it is very likely that Holt and/or Marrero will be called upon during the season. Unless some other team blows the Red Sox away with an offer, chances are both players stay on the roster for as long as possible.
The Case For Deven Marrero
Entering spring training, Marrero probably had the upper hand for the utility role. While Holt suffered through yet another concussion in 2017, Marrero put together arguably his best season as a pro. Even though he was still nothing more than a replacement-level player, he showed the ability to stick on a major league roster.
Marrero’s fielding was above average, as that is what got him into the majors to begin with. However, he also carved out a role against left-handed pitchers. In 61 plate appearances (an admittedly small sample size), Marrero posted a .291/.344/.600 slash line against southpaws. While these are not All-Star numbers by any means, it is certainly serviceable. If Marrero could consistently hit like that against lefties, he would certainly justify a bench spot on a major league roster.
Additionally, it would be easier to keep Marrero over Holt. Marrero is only due $561,500 this season, compared to Holt’s $2.25 million. On top of that, Holt still has options left, while Marrero does not. In theory, the Red Sox could keep both players with Holt in Pawtucket.
The Case for Brock Holt
While Holt’s concussion history is concerning, he has considerably more major league success than Marrero. He was just about the only good thing on the 2014 Red Sox, and has been a solid reserve ever since first entering the league.
His 2017 season was one to forget, as a concussion greatly reduced his impact. When he was on the field, he was not productive, but he showed signs of life in September. Holt put together a .256/.375/.333 slash line in the season’s final month, and looked like he might have put his injury behind him. He did not hit for power, but that was never his game. Holt has made a career on seeing-eye singles, and he was able to do that in September.
The Spring Training Results
Each player had their own pros and cons, and entered spring training on roughly equal footing. Ultimately, the fates of these players were to be decided by their pre-season performances. Spring training is all about getting back into baseball shape, and statistics do not always matter. Every player is primarily working on finding their rhythm, so statistics only have value if a player is playing incredibly well or incredibly bad.
Thus far through spring training, Marrero has been incredibly bad with the bat. In 47 spring training at-bats, he has posted a slash line of just .234/.280/.340. These are bad numbers on their own, but they are made worse when factoring in his level of competition. Marrero has primarily been facing minor league talent, and he is still struggling at the plate.
Holt, on the other hand, has put together a solid spring. He only has three exta-base hits (all doubles), but in 29 plate appearances Holt has hit .345/.472/.448. This clearly surpasses Marrero’s production, and the high batting average indicates that Holt’s September resurgence was not just luck.
Defensively, both players have been exactly what they are expected to be. Holt has played some underwhelming defense all around the diamond, while Marrero has brought some glove security all around the infield.
The Ultimate Decision
Holt and Marrero are essentially perfect opposites. Holt appears to have his old swing back, meaning that he is an above-average bat off the bench. However, his defense has always left a lot be desired, and he is a liability all over the field.
On the other hand, Marrero has one of the best gloves for a utility infielder. He can line up all over, and provides starting-quality defense at every position. That being said, his hitting is atrocious. The longer spring training goes on, the more it looks like Marrero’s “relative” offensive success in 2017 was a fluke.
So, which player suits the Red Sox needs more? Should they buy in on Holt and his bat or Marrero and his glove? While it is a close choice, the Red Sox should ultimately choose to stick with Marrero. Looking at the rest of the roster, Marrero’s defensive abilities serve the Sox better than Holt’s offense.
The Reason For Marrero
This team should not struggle scoring runs. With star players like Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers, this offense should be one of the best in the league. Holt would not even be one of the top-ten hitters on the team, so his offensive upside over Marrero would not really matter much.
The defense is a different story. With Dustin Pedroia out for the foreseeable future, the infield defense could be a major problem. Eduardo Nunez figures to be the everyday second baseman until Pedroia returns. While he is clearly an offensive upgrade over Marrero, Fangraphs ranks him as a below-average fielder. Marrero would be a perfect fit as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Additionally, defensive questions riddle the rest of the Red Sox infield. Hanley Ramirez figures to be the starting first baseman, should he stay healthy. 2016 was his only season as a regular first baseman, and it was something of a mixed bag. He is not terrible, but he is certainly not winning any Gold Gloves, either.
The left side of the infield is not much better. Xander Bogaerts is an average defensive shortstop, while Devers defense is not quite major league ready yet. The second-year player is still 20 years old, so he has plenty of time to improve defensively, but right now he is a liability.
With average to subpar defense around the infield, the Red Sox need to find the best glove available for the utility role. Marrero can play second, third, and shortstop better than Holt can. His defense should be more valuable than Holt’s offense, and ultimately Marrero should be the guy winning this battle.