Mitch Moreland

Roster Recap: Mitch Moreland Is Not Big Papi’s Replacement

Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy! 

The big question heading into this offseason was how the Red Sox would replace David Ortiz, but that was always a dead-end. The whole point of Papi was that he was irreplaceable and Dave Dombrowski, seemingly recognizing this, decided not to overextend the Sox at first base, instead opting to trade for the best pitcher in the American League. I’m into it, and if that means we see a lot of Mitch Moreland, so be it.

Moreland is not exciting, but he’s cheap ($5.5 million) and, critically, is a powerful left-handed bat who’s potentially got fielding skills for days. He won last year’s AL Gold Glove award at the cold corner and should see playing time against righties, allowing Hanley Ramirez to DH. Despite an eminently respectable fielding performance in 2016, that’s probably for the best for Hanley from time to time. Moreland’s not great, but he doesn’t need to be. It’s a good match.

What went right in 2016

Some of the Moreland’s raw numbers on offense were good. He hit 21 doubles and 22 homers in 503 PA, so the pull-side pop is real. As for the Gold Glove, well, look: Rafael Palmeiro famously won the AL award at first base in 1999 while playing a grand total of 28 games there, so perhaps this encomium doesn’t mean too much, but Moreland won it anyway and now has to try to field with a gold-plated mitt, smh (that’s how it works, right?). And he was okay, for sure. He put up a respectable 3.5 FRAA, right around his 3.0 career average, though in 2015, he put up -7.8 FRAA, which is Very Bad, and in 2012, he put up a 9.1 FRAA, which is Very Good, so he’s been all over the place. Anyhow, that’s the good part.

What went wrong in 2016

It gets hot in Texas in the summer, so I might not call Moreland’s extreme whiff tendencies “wrong,” insofar as they may have cooled some people off, but the guy has real trouble making contact and doesn’t walk too often. Unfortunately, his .233/.298/.422 slash is in line with his .254/.315/.438 career average, as were his 118 whiffs over those 503 PA. His BABIP last year was a paltry .266, which goes a long way toward explaining his slightly down year, but even in his average (near .300) BABIP years the numbers aren’t too much better. He is what he is, and that’s a player who depends on the kindness of the baseball gods to be average.

What to expect in 2017

He will hit around .240/.300/.415. He will play too much and frustrate and excite you exactly as much as a $5.5 million regular should. He will strike out a lot (though less than, says, Chris Carter would have) and hit home runs (ditto, except “fewer” instead of “less”). He will make some nice plays at first base. You will like those. Then he’ll strike out some more. Or pull a moonshot. That will be good.

Then he’ll strike out again.

Photo by Sean Porkorny/USA Today Sports Images

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5 comments on “Roster Recap: Mitch Moreland Is Not Big Papi’s Replacement”

Walt in Maryland

Who said he was Big Papi’s replacement? A better way to view him is as Travis Shaw’s replacement.

Bryan Joiner


Walt in Maryland
John Burney

Good luck to Mitch!!! Wherever he go’s!!!!


Thank you for saying ‘fewer’ homers instead of ‘less’. You’ve restored my faith in humanity.

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