If the 2018 Red Sox had a weakness, it would’ve been the second base position. Dustin Pedroia suffered a serious knee injury back in 2017, forcing him to start the 2018 season on the disabled list. The longtime veteran returned in May, but only played three games before re-aggravating the injury and missing the rest of the season. Dustin Pedroia reportedly started running again and in on pace to be ready for 2019 Opening Day. Can the Red Sox second baseman come back and stay on the diamond?
2019 Boston Red Sox Preview: Dustin Pedroia
The biggest issue with Pedroia is keeping him on his feet. The 5’9”, 175-pound second baseman playe with more heart than anyone in the league in his prime, and now his body is starting to pay the price. Since 2014, Pedroia has played in 135, 93, 154, 105, and three games each season. Outside of 2016, Pedroia has missed significant time and usually is battling through some sort of injury.
That said, Pedroia is still a good player when on the field. Back in 2017, Pedroia managed to compile a .293/.369/.392 slash line with an accompanying 101 wRC+. Since 2014, when injuries first forced him out of game time, Pedroia has a .295/.359/.413 slash line with a 109 wRC+. He’s not 2008 Pedroia anymore, but he’s still an above-average hitter when healthy.
Of course, Pedroia also brings arguably the best defensive second baseman in the league. A four-time Gold Glover, Pedroia in his peak boasted unmatched range, reflexes, and arm skill from the second base position. Nobody turned a prettier double play and he could reach just about any ball hit to his side of the diamond.
While his speed is sapped a little, the reflexes, arm, and fundamentals are still there. He doesn’t have quite the same range, but he’s still a well-above-average glove. Seeing as the Red Sox other second base options are Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez, an above-average defender represents a significant upgrade.
The first and only goal for Pedroia should be getting back on the field and staying there. The 2008 Most Valuable Player is starting to break down, but he proved in 2016 that he can still play through a full season if everything goes right. Even if he can’t do a full season’s work, he’s usually good for 90-100 games.
Pedroia is one of the hardest workers in the league, and sometimes that works against him. Nobody wants to get on the field more than Pedroia, and sometimes he works his way onto the diamond before he really should. This is likely what happened last year, as the injury which sidelined him was the same one he suffered in 2017.
In a perfect world, Pedroia will be fully rested and recovered for the beginning of the 2019 season. However, it’s anyone’s guess if that actually happens. The second baseman will make a major step in his rehab this week, as he’s set to run for the first time since June. Hopefully, that goes well and Pedroia continues working his way back to the diamond.
Steamer Projections expects Pedroia to be his typical late-career self when he gets back on the field. Pedroia is projected to post a .272/.344/.390 slash line with a 98 wRC+ in 128 games. The batting statistics sound about right, as Pedroia has played well in the past when returning from injury. The 128 games, meanwhile, is a little more interesting.
Assuming Pedroia is ready for the season opener, playing in 128 of a possible 162 games sounds like a lot. Since 2014, Pedroia has only played in 128 or more games two times. This obviously isn’t good, and Pedroia has never returned from an injury this serious in the past.
Additionally, manager Alex Cora won’t want to push him any harder than physically possible. Cora’s conservations strategies are well-documented, as the manager purposefully goes out of his way to give his regular players rest in order to conserve them down the stretch. Boston has a litany of capable second baseman in Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, and Tzu-Wei Lin. While none are as good as peak Pedroia, all deserve to see the field with decent regularity. Pedroia will probably be part of a platoon to keep his body as rested as possible. Look for him to play in about 90-105 regular season games.
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com
(May 30, 2018 – Source: Bob Levey/Getty Images North America)
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