The Boston Red Sox have placed outfielder Ryan Sweeney on the 15 DL with a toe injury. Sweeney is the fifth Boston Red Sox outfielder to land on the DL this year and Darnell McDonald, who began the season as the team’s fifth outfield option is now the only outfielder on the team’s opening day 25 man roster who has not seen time on the DL.
Ryan Sweeney has primarily been a platoon player this year, seeing action against right-handers most of the time, but the loss it still a significant blow to the already crippled Red Sox outfield. Sweeney has been a hair below average at the plate overall, with a 95 RC+, but that is largely due to his lack of power. Sweeney has no home runs and just 18 extra base hits in 183 plate appearances thus far this year. However, he is solidly above average at getting on base with a .330 on-base percentage. He has also been an excellent fielder in both right field and center field this season. UZR credits him with 3 runs saved in right and 1.2 runs saved in center and DRS credits him with 4 runs saved in center and 2 runs saved in right (though the usual small sample size warnings obviously apply).
The loss of Ryan Sweeney is made a bit easier by the return of Ryan Kalish. Once a top prospect, Kalish lost nearly all of his 2011 season to neck and shoulder injuries and fell off the radar as Josh Reddick emerged as the everyday right fielder last season. Like Sweeney, Kalish is capable of playing both right and center well and he has an advanced, disciplined approach at the plate.
More help for the Red Sox outfield should be on the way as Cody Ross is set to return any day now and Carl Crawford is close to a rehab assignment. Even so, Sweeney can’t return soon enough in my opinion. I am big fan of Ryan Kalish and I believe he will be the everyday right fielder in Boston soon and Cody Ross was a force at the plate at times this year, but Sweeney’s patient approach at the plate and plus defense are desperately needed right now. With free swingers like Mike Aviles and Will Middlebrooks in the line up nearly everyday and Adrian Gonzalez chasing too many bad pitches, Sweeney is one of just a few players on the team who can work the count and help wear down starting pitchers. He has also been the lone bright spot on defense in this make-shift outfield. Without Ryan Sweeney, Boston is only going to be more free swinging and more defensively challenged.