Five years ago, Grady Sizemore was at the pinnacle of his Major League success. Entering his sixth Major League season, Sizemore had emerged as one of the best young outfielders in baseball, coming off a 2008 campaign where he finished 10th in the American League MVP voting. However, after many back and knee injuries derailed the promise that could have further catapulted Sizemore’s career with the Cleveland Indians, the 31-year-old outfielder has made his case to revive his Major League dream with the Boston Red Sox by being named the starting center fielder for the start of the 2014 season.
Despite not playing in an MLB game since 2011, Sizemore has been turning heads with his impressive performance with the Red Sox in Spring Training. In 12 Spring Training games, Sizemore hit .333 with a home run and two runs batted in. Also, Sizemore emerged as a factor on defense, making nice plays in center field that demonstrated hints of the aggressiveness he displayed during his time with Cleveland.
Initially, Sizemore was brought in to compete with prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. to become the starting center fielder after Jacoby Ellsbury left to sign with the New York Yankees. In Spring Training, Bradley struggled, only hitting .158 with 17 strikeouts in 19 games before being optioned to the Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA). Sizemore has become a favorable component of the Red Sox outfield, adding to the continuum of new hope provided by the Red Sox.
In addition to Sizemore, many other outfielders on the Red Sox entered in with little to their name, or sought the chance to maintain their skill at the Major League level. In left field, Daniel Nava was a severely undervalued prospect, playing with the Chico Outlaws (Golden Baseball League). However, Nava flourished with his opportunity with the Red Sox, eventually breaking into the bigs in 2010, and finishing eighth in batting average in 2013. Also, other Red Sox outfielders (Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino) had to pay their dues with other teams before becoming major contributors for the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox.
In essence, Sizemore represents a sign of hope in a Red Sox outfield that’s in the midst of transition since the departure of Ellsbury to the Yankees. Although he may not be as explosive as he was during his heyday with the Indians, Sizemore has the tools and experience to become a major contributor in the outfield, as the Red Sox look to compete. If Sizemore continues to play at the rate he has demonstrated in Spring Training, while maintaining his health, then he will be an essential part of the Red Sox outfield that will look to contend once again for a World Series title in 2014.