Two-Way Lin?

nvalvo

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Tzu-Wei Lin is a 23 year-old glove-first infielder, who has also played some outfield. The Red Sox gave him the largest bonus ever to a Taiwanese position player, ~$2m.

After years of offensive futility, he has adjusted his swing to get more fly balls. His minor league GO/FB ratios are pretty amazing reading: 1.52, 1.58, 1.94, 1.42, 1.82, 1.96, 0.76. Something has changed, and it seems to have helped him add almost 300 points of OPS between his 2016 and 2017 stints at AA. This got him a couple of writeups in Carson Cistulli's Fringe Five feature at Fangraphs.

As I'm writing this, he is sporting a pretty attractive .949 OPS in the majors. 9/25, 2 triples, 7 strikeouts against 3 walks, one stolen base. That's a .360/.429/.520 slash line.

Lin only has 29 MLB plate appearances, so this is thread is admittedly premature. I thought we should have a place to collect our observations of and thoughts about this dark horse candidate at third.

I won't shock anyone if I suggest that this level of production might be unsustainable. The question is: how unsustainable? If Lin can post a .750 OPS, and Todd Frazier (or whoever) can post a .770 OPS, then I don't want to trade Sam Travis (or whoever) for such a small benefit: I'd rather let Lin, Marrero, and — health permitting — Holt try to stabilize the third base position and the bottom of the order until Devers is ready.

A few notes to get us started:
  • Lin has a .500 BABIP, 9 hits (including a bunt single) on 18 BIP. That's obviously extremely high. If we were just to assume a .300ish BABIP we could try to dock him three singles, which would yield either a .240/.321/.400 line on a .333 BABIP. Also known as a better line than anything Sandoval has done in Boston. (Docking him four singles would yield a more Marreroish .200/.285/.360 line on a .277 BABIP.)
  • However, Lin has a very high LD rate: 29.4%! 5 line drives out of 17 non-bunted balls in play. He may be earning most of that batting average.
  • Interestingly, Lin has held his excellent AA walk, 10.9% to 10.3%, while his strikeout rate has ballooned up to 24.1% from 14.7% in Portland. His eye has held up, but he's lost something in contact.
  • Farrell has been using Lin mostly against righties (7/21, 1 3B, 3 BB, 6 K), but he's held his own against lefties (2/4, 1 3B, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 sacrifice).
  • He's seen a lot of fastballs, 72%.
  • His spray chart suggests an up-the-middle approach.
 

Cesar Crespo

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He reminds me of a less talented Mookie Betts who changed his approach at age 23 instead of age 20. Lin also has no L/R split in his minor league career and has the arm strength to play RF/LF. I saw him in Portland and he looked pretty competent in CF. Granted I only saw him in CF twice.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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Can we change thread title to "Linsanity" or "All-Lin" or something like that?

You have to ride this kid until the pitchers figure out how to get him out (which probably means throwing fewer fastballs) but then you have to see whether he can make adjustments. Hopefully, he's not Travis Shaw part deux.
 

ehaz

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If he could hold us over until Devers in 2018 that would be just gravy. Maybe he's our Taiwanese BROCK HOLT! ?
 

johnnywayback

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It would be pretty incredible if Lin turned out to be an answer, let alone the answer: literally nothing in his history until this year has indicated that he even has the bat to be a serviceable utility guy, let alone a starting 3B. As fun as this is, I certainly wouldn't want to him to be anything more than Plan D for the postseason. But we don't have to make that decision for another couple of weeks, and there's no harm in using that time to find out more.

And, it appears, we will:
.
Pete Abraham‏Verified account @PeteAbe 3m3 minutes ago
Farrell full of praise for the Lin/Marrero 3B combo. Said no plans to change anything any time soon.
 

dbn

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I agree with both the OP and johnnywayback. Lin will fall to earth: this is certain. Though, I'm cautiously optimistic that his landing point is a serviceable bat and good defense. Plus, it's always fun to pull for a young guy breaking his way in to the bigs in "our" laundry.

In other words, I'm at the "popcorn" stage with Tzu-Wei.
 

ponch73

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Talk about improbable. Lin's major league debut has been Belichickesque thus far. It's not often that the #5 guy on the depth chart steps up like this (although the 24% K rate is ominous) while the prior year's #1 gets traded in the offseason and becomes a 5-WAR player.

Also interesting to note ... at NO time in Sandoval's inglorious Red Sox career thus far did he boast an OPS of .900 or above.
 

sean1562

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in a world where aaron judge can jump from an .850 AAA hitter and top 75 prospect to 5 WAR in a half season of the big leagues, is it too much to ask that Lin can be better than Pablo Sandoval? please can someone be at least serviceable at 3b this season? watching Shaw succeed(while I am happy for him) is getting more painful by the month
 

Al Zarilla

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It would be pretty incredible if Lin turned out to be an answer, let alone the answer: literally nothing in his history until this year has indicated that he even has the bat to be a serviceable utility guy, let alone a starting 3B. As fun as this is, I certainly wouldn't want to him to be anything more than Plan D for the postseason. But we don't have to make that decision for another couple of weeks, and there's no harm in using that time to find out more.

And, it appears, we will:
.
Pete Abraham‏Verified account @PeteAbe 3m3 minutes ago
Farrell full of praise for the Lin/Marrero 3B combo. Said no plans to change anything any time soon.
I saw the interview with Farrell a bit ago and even he mentioned Lin-sanity as a word going around in the clubhouse. He also mentioned a boost in energy in the dugout, attributing it to Lin (and Marrero?). And he did say even though some guys are progressing in rehabs (Panda and Johnny P.) so what, if these two young guys continue to do the job. Last half sentence paraphrased.
 

Sox Puppet

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I saw the interview with Farrell a bit ago and even he mentioned Lin-sanity as a word going around in the clubhouse. He also mentioned a boost in energy in the dugout, attributing it to Lin ...
The Wei he's been playing, it's almost Tzu good to be true.

<ducks> :)
 

ehaz

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in a world where aaron judge can jump from an .850 AAA hitter and top 75 prospect to 5 WAR in a half season of the big leagues, is it too much to ask that Lin can be better than Pablo Sandoval? please can someone be at least serviceable at 3b this season? watching Shaw succeed(while I am happy for him) is getting more painful by the month
Not just that but Christ, Judge was also 24(!) last year with more than a K per game in AAA. Not exactly some 21 year old baby. In 2016 Henry Owens was 23 and he put up an ERA of 3.53. Judge's improvement is like Owens immediately becoming prime Kershaw.
 

Rovin Romine

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in a world where aaron judge can jump from an .850 AAA hitter and top 75 prospect to 5 WAR in a half season of the big leagues, is it too much to ask that Lin can be better than Pablo Sandoval? please can someone be at least serviceable at 3b this season? watching Shaw succeed(while I am happy for him) is getting more painful by the month
I was irrationally high on Shaw - but I can't be bitter about his success. Hopefully I'll still feel that way 3 years from now.

That said, the common wisdom is treating Lin being a starter caliber 3b with as much contempt as it did Shaw two years ago.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Talk about improbable. Lin's major league debut has been Belichickesque thus far. It's not often that the #5 guy on the depth chart steps up like this (although the 24% K rate is ominous) while the prior year's #1 gets traded in the offseason and becomes a 5-WAR player.

Also interesting to note ... at NO time in Sandoval's inglorious Red Sox career thus far did he boast an OPS of .900 or above.
BB% and K% aren't even worth looking at in such a SSS. With 1 PA tonight, he raised his BB% from 10.3 to 13.3. Not really sure when it stabilizes, some say around 100. With young players, I don't think that is true at all. If he was striking out over 40% of the time, maybe.
 

Koufax

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Lin was not a touted prospect. He just showed up fully-formed (or perhaps as a premie) on the Sox roster with no warning. He is a talented young man but he's been a shortstop all the way. It's not clear he'll be able to transition to 3B smoothly, but he's an athlete and there is reason to give him some room to learn. The Sox don't need Wade Boggs redux at 3B; they just need competence. There's a better than 50-50 chance he can provide that.
 

grimshaw

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In a below average farm system, he wasn't even on Speier's top 30 or Soxprospects top 60 prospect list, which makes this even more of a great story.

The flyball revolution has really helped turned some careers around this year.
 

charlieoscar

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Lin was not a touted prospect....
Well, they signed him at age 18 for a $2,090,000 bonus in 2012, which was then the highest bonus for a position player from Taiwan, so they must have expected something from him.

Incidentally, with 2 triples and no doubles or home runs, he is one triple behind Blake Swihart for most extra-base hits in a season (2016) without having a double or home run.
 

Sampo Gida

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Not just that but Christ, Judge was also 24(!) last year with more than a K per game in AAA. Not exactly some 21 year old baby. In 2016 Henry Owens was 23 and he put up an ERA of 3.53. Judge's improvement is like Owens immediately becoming prime Kershaw.
Problem is that the ball harms minor league pitchers making the jump and helping hitters.
So I am much more bullish on hitter call ups and not weighing minor league stats as highly.
 

johnnywayback

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I saw the interview with Farrell a bit ago and even he mentioned Lin-sanity as a word going around in the clubhouse. He also mentioned a boost in energy in the dugout, attributing it to Lin (and Marrero?). And he did say even though some guys are progressing in rehabs (Panda and Johnny P.) so what, if these two young guys continue to do the job. Last half sentence paraphrased.
It's interesting -- seeing Marrero on my TV drives me nuts the same way Pablo Sandoval's existence drives you nuts (I just don't think he has the bat to hold down a major league roster spot), and my fondest hope for Lin is that he banishes Marrero to Pawtucket forever. But it's clear that Marrero is a good clubhouse guy: you see him in the dugout palling around with Betts and Bogaerts, and I even think I've seen them on social media hanging out together away from the field. And I'm willing to swallow the idea that "chemistry" has something to do with performance, and that Farrell has a better sense of it than I ever could.

One of those obnoxious moments where you have to let the stat-Luddites win one, I guess.
 

Buzzkill Pauley

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If nothing else, the Sox seem to have identified the obvious successor to Brock Holt.

Which, frankly, I was concerned about from a team-building perspective, because nothing reported about Holt's neurologic condition leads me to believe he will be a reliable option going forward. For Holt, rather than hoping he gets back to his old self on the field again, I'm just hoping he doesn't suffer lifelong and disabling vertigo. Because that's some nasty shit.

[edit] To piggyback on johnnywayback's post made while I was working on my post, these are the type of bench options a team like the Sox which intends to field an offensively capable player at every position needs to have.

Sure, a PH capable of hitting the long fly is needed (thus, Young), but guys who can bring energy and defense and speed on the bases, along with a good clubhouse presence, are also needed to keep the daily grind of hotels and plane flights from becoming overbearing.
 
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Snodgrass'Muff

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Can we change thread title to "Linsanity" or "All-Lin" or something like that?
Good lord, no. This is already an all time great SoSH thread title. It's perfect as it is. It's amazing to me how many people don't seem to be appreciating it.

I agree with both the OP and johnnywayback. Lin will fall to earth: this is certain. Though, I'm cautiously optimistic that his landing point is a serviceable bat and good defense. Plus, it's always fun to pull for a young guy breaking his way in to the bigs in "our" laundry.

In other words, I'm at the "popcorn" stage with Tzu-Wei.
It's not certain, actually. His surge in AA came with a deliberate effort to alter his swing mechanics. He was 39% better than league average before his call up. He's exactly 39% better than league average right now.

I suppose if you want to say that any regression toward league average at all constitutes "falling to earth" you can hang on to the phrase, but I don't think a precipitous drop in his wRC+ is imminent. It's possible, but not unavoidable. I really wouldn't be surprised if he finishes with a 125 or so.
 
It's not certain, actually. His surge in AA came with a deliberate effort to alter his swing mechanics. He was 39% better than league average before his call up. He's exactly 39% better than league average right now.

I suppose if you want to say that any regression toward league average at all constitutes "falling to earth" you can hang on to the phrase, but I don't think a precipitous drop in his wRC+ is imminent. It's possible, but not unavoidable. I really wouldn't be surprised if he finishes with a 125 or so.
Mookie Betts wRC+ since he joined the team: 129, 119, 135, 116 (YTD).
His minor league numbers: 103, 160, 166, 177, 158

Xander Bogaerts wRC+ since he joined the team 85, 81, 109, 113, 112
His minor league numbers: 145, 123, 144, 159, 153, 133

Even if you believe completely that Lin's 139 wRC+ in 48 AA games this year is the real him, which given a history of 102, 90, 76, 105, 55, 62 prior to that would be an optimistic belief, you're still really at the aggressive end of the scale with 125. Xander has put up close to 12 fWAR in the last 2.5 seasons without getting close to a 125 wRC+ in any of those years

It could happen, but I'm not holding my breath. Steamer projects a 69 wRC+ FWIW, which is presumably what the numbers predict if the new swing turns out not to be a miracle cure. Which sadly is probably more likely. Frankly if Lin turns out to be the best shortstop in baseball I would be surprised.

Still, I'm on board with giving it a chance to be true, especially given the other alternatives.

(Fangraphs projects Devers at 87 wRC+ for the rest of the season, Sandoval also 87 and Marrero at a putrid 49)
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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I suppose if you want to say that any regression toward league average at all constitutes "falling to earth" you can hang on to the phrase, but I don't think a precipitous drop in his wRC+ is imminent. It's possible, but not unavoidable. I really wouldn't be surprised if he finishes with a 125 or so.
125? Was this a conversion to the metric system or some sort of typo?

Wouldn't we be happy if he had a 80 wRC+ at the end of the year?
 

grimshaw

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Ya that's ridiculous. That would put him as a) the best hitter on the team and b) 4th after Corey Seager among MLB SS.

To date - 159 PA in AA. 36 PA in MLB. Cornerstone player.
 

Snodgrass'Muff

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Mookie Betts wRC+ since he joined the team: 129, 119, 135, 116 (YTD).
His minor league numbers: 103, 160, 166, 177, 158

Xander Bogaerts wRC+ since he joined the team 85, 81, 109, 113, 112
His minor league numbers: 145, 123, 144, 159, 153, 133

Even if you believe completely that Lin's 139 wRC+ in 48 AA games this year is the real him, which given a history of 102, 90, 76, 105, 55, 62 prior to that would be an optimistic belief, you're still really at the aggressive end of the scale with 125. Xander has put up close to 12 fWAR in the last 2.5 seasons without getting close to a 125 wRC+ in any of those years

It could happen, but I'm not holding my breath. Steamer projects a 69 wRC+ FWIW, which is presumably what the numbers predict if the new swing turns out not to be a miracle cure. Which sadly is probably more likely. Frankly if Lin turns out to be the best shortstop in baseball I would be surprised.

Still, I'm on board with giving it a chance to be true, especially given the other alternatives.

(Fangraphs projects Devers at 87 wRC+ for the rest of the season, Sandoval also 87 and Marrero at a putrid 49)
Well, I don't expect him to be a full time starter. I expect the team will be able to platoon him and allow him to face right handed pitchers mostly. Think Mike Carp 2013.

Edit: And they will find a starting 3B eventually which will further restrict his ABs/chances to bring his wRC+ down.

And I'm willing to discount his minor league numbers prior to this year to some extent because he made mechanical changes to his swing and immediately saw positive returns, which he's sustained all year to this point. Projection systems won't be taking that into account.

And there's a difference between predicting him finishing at 125 and saying it wouldn't surprise me. I chose the latter for a reason. Chances are he'll come in below that, but WBCD's suggestion of an 80 wRC+ by year's end WOULD surprise me.

Long term, I think he's probably an good utility option. Decent bat, good glove type. But he's off to a hot start and if he is what I think he might be offensively, then his wRC+ drop will be slow and should see him looking pretty good by year's end all told.
 
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Snodgrass'Muff

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I could see him putting up a 110-120 OPS+ but not wRC.
Why do you think there is such a large difference there? They measure something similar. They take different paths to get there, but player's OPS+ and wRC+ tend to be in the same neighborhood.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Why do you think there is such a large difference there? They measure something similar. They take different paths to get there, but player's OPS+ and wRC+ tend to be in the same neighborhood.
I meant to type 125, not sure why I typed wRC. Granted not much difference from 120 to 125 but I see him closer to the 110 range.
 

MikeM

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And I'm willing to discount his minor league numbers prior to this year to some extent because he made mechanical changes to his swing and immediately saw positive returns, which he's sustained all year to this point. Projection systems won't be taking that into account.
It's not like we are talking about a Mookie Betts making a change after an initial 300 PAs in his first minor league season though. You are left discounting 2300+ PA's over the course of 5 seasons there that were telling a completely different story then this one.

His last 2 stints in AA before this year's turn around saw lines of .223/.287/..293 and .202/.268/.266. I mean is there even a legitimate history of players making mechanical changes which see *that* much of a dramatic offensive turn around after 2000+ ABs, *and* see those results mostly stick long term? Face value question btw, because I'm drawing blanks while trying to find some similar ones atm.
 
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edoug

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It's not like we are talking about a Mookie Betts making a change after an initial 300 PAs in his first minor league season though. You are left discounting 2300+ PA's over the course of 5 seasons there that were telling a completely different story then this one.

His last 2 stints in AA before this year's turn around saw lines of .223/.287/..293 and .202/.268/.266. I mean is there even a legitimate history of players making mechanical changes which see *that* much of a dramatic offensive turn around after 2000+ ABs, *and* see those results mostly stick long term? Face value question btw, because I'm drawing blanks while trying to find some similar ones atm.
Jose Bautista?
 

MikeM

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JD Martinez.
JD Martinez had a fairly decent track record behind him of hitting minor league pitching though.

Bautista is obviously the standard example of a dramatic turn around, but even he was never as bad from an overall standpoint as Lin was prior to this adjustment. To me it just seems like a whole different level of expecting a mechanical adjustment can really spin gold out of straw here.
 

Cesar Crespo

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JD Martinez had a fairly decent track record behind him of hitting minor league pitching though.

Bautista is obviously the standard example of a dramatic turn around, but even he was never as bad from an overall standpoint as Lin was prior to this adjustment. To me it just seems like a whole different level of expecting a mechanical adjustment can really spin gold out of straw here.
It was such a huge change though. All the skills were there, they just weren't of much use when all he did was pound the ball into the dirt. Now that he's getting loft, he looks like a completely different player. Thing is, he could be a completely different player and still not be close to this good. It's a < 250 PA sample. His true talent level could be around .270/.330/.380 which would still be very valuable given his defensive versatility and speed.
 

geoduck no quahog

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I assume there's a big difference between minor league batting instruction and major league...plus the influence/assistance of other major leaguers...so I'm always willing to believe the early success of a call-up is something that might be maintained.

I'm usually wrong.

...but I love this kid.
 

Snodgrass'Muff

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JD Martinez had a fairly decent track record behind him of hitting minor league pitching though.

Bautista is obviously the standard example of a dramatic turn around, but even he was never as bad from an overall standpoint as Lin was prior to this adjustment. To me it just seems like a whole different level of expecting a mechanical adjustment can really spin gold out of straw here.
The thing is, though, he was expected to hit when he signed.

https://www.minorleagueball.com/2017/6/26/15870382/tzu-wei-lin-inf-boston-red-sox

Lin was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent out of Taiwan in 2012, receiving a large bonus of $2,050,000. At the time he was projected as a strong defensive player with a chance to hit for average. He did not hit much at the lower levels, just .226 in the New York-Penn League in 2013 and .229 in the South Atlantic League in 2014 without much in the way of power or special on-base skills.
He runs well and is a stolen base threat but has never hit much before this year. Past scouting reports noted a mechanically sound swing and a decent batting eye but an extreme lack of power held him back. Until the last few months he looked like a utility player as a result. He’s already hit five homers this spring, a career high.
So he was never expected to be a stud at the plate, and none of this is to say he's likely to remain a stud at the plate (which is what he's done so far this year at both AA and the majors), but there is plenty of reason to be hopeful that he'll be a decent stick and a good glove.

I'll repeat what I said earlier that long term, I'm optimistic that he has a chance to be a good utility bench bat for a contending team, and given the strong start this year, I wouldn't be all that surprised if his season ending wRC+ ends up as high as 125 since he's not going to have a starter's worth of plate appearances for his likely regression to drag his current wRC+ (136) down that far.

If they don't add a third baseman by the deadline and don't promote Devers this year, he'll probably end up closer to a league average or slightly better bat by the end of the year. But I don't think that scenario is all that likely.
 

SouthernBoSox

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I will say, if nothing else, his at bats display a confident eye. He just seems to spit on non strikes at an impressive level.
 

E5 Yaz

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The newest addition to the post Nomar 5's. In order of importance:

Punto
Gomes
Baldelli
Craig
 

Sox Puppet

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Bumping this thread just for the heck of it.

Lin is really taking some great swings lately and making me feel pretty confident about the Sox weathering X's absence. I didn't expect to miss Deven Marrero, and now I really don't.
 
I got several posts into the thread before I realised they were talking about last year. Uncanny how similar his start has been this year.

Alas I suspect a .600 BABIP may be too much to hope for going forward. Fangraphs projections agree, expecting a miserly 249/307/353 for the rest of the season, though I think there are reasons to hope he'll be able to beat that (LD%, favourable match-ups, improved swing carrying over from last year(?), eyeball test).
 

geoduck no quahog

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I'm not anti-Holt, given his utility and given that no one should be judged on so few at bats (including Lin), BUT...

Lin's defense seems so far superior that he needs to be the Designated Marrero when Pedroia returns. Correct me if I'm wrong, but between Lin and Nunez, 4-5-6 is covered. Swihart and Martinez can cover Left Field with one of the B's filling in for the other in CF or RF.

Where does that leave Holt vs. Lin?
  • They're both LHH's, which is a need on this team - still
  • Neither is ever being used for their bat, unless they PH in interleague or for one of the catchers (doubtful)
  • Lin had 23 SB's in 2015 (only 10 in 2017) but is seemingly a better PR candidate than Holt.
  • Late defense is definitely an issue with Devers at 3B and Pedroia being handled carefully (not to mention Bogaerts, who I still think can be a + defender)
Even though it appears that Holt is a well-liked character in the clubhouse and he's a player with a lot of big league experience - if they need to choose 2 of Nunez, Lin, Holt...wouldn't Lin be the logical long term choice?

Perhaps injuries will make this issue irrelevant.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Lin call also play a decent CF, and has the arm for RF and LF. He is superior to Holt in pretty much every way.
 

Puffy

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I got several posts into the thread before I realised they were talking about last year. Uncanny how similar his start has been this year.

Alas I suspect a .600 BABIP may be too much to hope for going forward. Fangraphs projections agree, expecting a miserly 249/307/353 for the rest of the season, though I think there are reasons to hope he'll be able to beat that (LD%, favourable match-ups, improved swing carrying over from last year(?), eyeball test).
For a good defensive bench player with versatility, I don't think .250/.300/.350 is all that bad a starting point, and there may be some offensive upside there. I don't think Holt's offensive projections are all that much better (ZIPS .259/.332/.360) considering Holt's defense and the fact that he doesn't really look like a great bet to meet those projections.