With a 40-man roster that’s already garnering wide praise for its projected ability to win games in 2016, the Boston Red Sox are sitting pretty heading into the upcoming spring training. That being said, even though they roll deep there’s never a way to know how they might be impacted by injury or ineffectiveness. Non-roster invitees typically generate little fanfare, but in some cases can end up becoming major contributors. The Red Sox are no exception, and have some players worth watching on their own list this year.
Allen Craig, Outfielder/First Baseman: It’s unclear what is more surprising; that Craig is entering his third season with Boston, or that he has fallen so far since his days as an All Star with the St. Louis Cardinals (as recently as 2013).
A .291 hitter in parts of five seasons with the Cardinals, since joining the Red Sox via a trade mid-season in 2014, Craig has spent most of the past two years in the minors. When he has played for Boston, he has been strikingly bad—to the tune of a .139 batting average, two home runs and five RBIs in 65 games.
Presumably healthy and still just 31, it’s a complete mystery as to how the right-handed hitter, who batted .315 with 97 RBIs in 2013 for a team that reached the World Series (and lost) to the Red Sox could seen his production go off a cliff at such a precipitous angle. That unknown (and the $21 million he is still owed through 2017) have kept him on the periphery of Boston’s roster plans. There may not be a clear role for him now but having a veteran hitter of his pedigree is a nice luxury. If he shows any sign of life this spring, he could end up with the opportunity to make a significant impact at the big league level before the season is over.
Josh Rutledge, Infielder: At this point in his career, Rutledge likely is who he is- a guy who can be a valuable backup infielder due to his ability to play multiple positions and because he won’t embarrass himself at the plate. The Red Sox saw this first hand last season after he came over from the Los Angeles Angels in the Shane Victorino trade. Appearing in 39 games with Boston (85 plate appearances), he hit .284 with a homer and 10 RBIs.
With guys like Brock Holt and Deven Marrero above him on the depth chart for the role of utility infielder, some things would need to happen to carve out a spot on the big league roster for Rutledge. However, the 26 year-old is still under team control and could bide his time in Triple-A Pawtucket if he does impress the club during spring training.
Kyle Martin, Pitcher: A ninth-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2013, the big right-hander (6’7” and 220 pounds) has made quick work of the minor leagues during his three professional seasons. In 84 games, all coming out of the bullpen, he has produced a 3.43 ERA and struck out 164 batters in 162.2 innings, while yielding 149 hits and just 42 walks.
Possessing a fastball that sits in the low 90s and a good changeup, Martin is primed to be a big league contributor out of the pen. Although it would be a surprise for him to break camp with the team, spring training is an excellent opportunity for him to leave some lasting impressions and be on the short list in the event relievers are needed during the season.
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