Following the Boston Red Sox World Series title in 2013, the team was quickly left with many outfield questions to begin the 2014 season. Jacoby Ellsbury departed for a lucrative contract to play for the rival New York Yankees; Jonny Gomes was still a platoon type outfielder at best; and even though Shane Victorino was coming off a season in which he posted his highest batting average of his career and added his 4th Gold Glove, he was getting older and a repeat of the following season was not expected. So how did the Red Sox go from too many question marks after the 2013 season, to one of the most exciting and young outfields today? How did the Red Sox go from 7 different Opening Day starters in the outfield from 2014-2016, to a stable young starting outfield for years to come?
Jackie Bradley Jr., the 2011 College World Series Most Outstanding player, has finally seemed to take a turn for the best in his rather young career with the Red Sox. He made his Major League debut in 2013, playing in 37 games. He would then play in 127 games in 2014 and become an everyday starter. Defensively, JBJ became one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, finishing 2nd in Gold Glove voting to Adam Jones in 2014. However, in his first two seasons he did not bat above the Mendoza Line (.196 BA, 94 hits in 479 at bats), while also striking out at a rather high rate, 31% compared to a league average of 20% according to FanGraphs. In 2015, the game got a little better for JBJ, where he posted a .249 BA, while hitting 10 HR’s with 43 RBI’s. The looming question was always can he produce enough as a hitter at the Major league level to go along with his defense. Then in 2016, he became the player Red Sox Nation always wanted him to be. At the plate, he posted a .267 average, with 26 HR’s and 87 RBI’s. He again was in the running for a Gold Glove, but again finishing 2nd, this time being beaten out by Kevin Kiermaier of the Tampa Bay Rays. While 2017 is certainly a new season, JBJ seems to be on the rise offensively, and will continue to dazzle in the field with diving plays, and utilizing his cannon of an arm to keep runners at bay from taking extra bases.
Mookie Betts is perhaps rising to be one of the top players in the game at a rapid pace, both offensively and defensively. Betts was the 2nd piece assembled in the young outfield for the Boston Red Sox. As a prospect, Betts was brought up through the farm system as an infielder, not an outfielder. Once the Red Sox signed second baseman Dustin Pedroia to a long term extension in 2013, it was only a matter of time before the Red Sox were forced to find Betts a new position as his production warranted him a promotion to the Majors. Breaking on the scene in 2014 in a limited role, Betts posted a .291 average in just 52 games. In 2015, Mookie Betts was in the starting outfield for the Red Sox on opening day, and once again posted a strong .291 average over the course of the season, while hitting 18 HRs and producing 77 RBI’s. Little did everyone know, Betts was just getting started. In 2016, Betts continued his tear through the Major Leagues, hitting .318 with 31 HRs and 113 RBIs. He finished the year as the MVP runner-up to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and received the Silver Slugger Award along with a Gold Glove Award after finishing the season with .997 fielding percentage, and 14 outfield assists, which ranked 3rd in the league.
Andrew Benintendi was still attending class at the University of Arkansas when the Red Sox question marks started to arise in 2014. Benintendi, has quickly become one of baseball’s top prospects, and looks to fast track his young career as a new member of the Boston Red Sox outfield in 2017. Drafted in 2015 after receiving the 2015 College Player of the Year Award, Benintendi hit the ground running within the Red Sox organization in 2016, playing 97 games between single A and AA and posting a .312 average along the way. He earned his Major League debut without ever seeing a AAA field. Many would like to question the development of a player in the minors, but is Benintendi good enough to make that jump so quick? In his 34 games with the Red Sox in 2016, Benintendi posted a .295 average, with 31 hits, 2 HRs and 14 RBIs. His stint was shortened when he sprained his knee while running the bases in Tampa Bay, but he was able to avoid serious injury and return for the postseason. While his defense remains to be a work in progress, Benintendi appears to be on the road to success, and man the Green Monster for years to come.
While the Red Sox were certainly hoping Jacoby Ellsbury would re-sign a long term deal with the Red Sox in 2014, the constant shuffling of players in the outfield for the Red Sox over the last 3 seasons culminated into this; The Killer B’s. All three outfielders are young and out to prove they are one of the best trios in the game, if not the best. 2017 will be their debut from start to finish as a trio, Red Sox Nation can only hope it is for many years to come.