With the baseball season set to kick off in less than 24 hours after this blog is being written, here is a preview of my favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, for the upcoming season.
The Red Sox are arguably the most successful franchise of the 21st century, but the past five seasons have certainly been a roller coaster. The 2010 season was hindered by a ridiculous amount of injuries, 2011 saw a historic September collapse after being dominant most of the season, 2012 was a disaster highlighted by a firesale in August, which set the stage for a World Championship in 2013, followed by another last place campaign last year. That being said, this year’s team is very different and for the most part there is optimism for the Sox to make another postseason run.
The Red Sox made several moves this offseason to make up for all the talent traded away during the 2014 campaign. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was signed to a five year $100 million contract in November coming off another championship for the San Francisco Giants. The 28 year old bring to the Sox what only one other active player has: 3 World Series Championships and a World Series MVP. Sandoval hit .279 with 16 HR and 73 RBI for the Giants in 2014.
One day later, the Red Sox signed another high profile free agent by bringing 31 year old (soon to be) left fielder Hanley Ramirez on board. Things have come full circle for Ramirez, since he made his major league debut with the Red Sox before being traded to the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in 2005. The deal is for four years and $88 million, and if he stays healthy it could be one of the better signings of the offseason. Hanley hit .283 with 13 HR and 73 RBI in just 128 games for the Dodgers in 2014.
The Red Sox also made several moves to rebuild their pitching rotation, which I will talk about in detail more below. Another significant offseason move that might not pay dividends this year was signing of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. The 19 year old prospect has one of the highest potentials in recent memory. The Red Sox acquired the rights to him with a $31.5 million signing, and he will most likely play in the minors for the whole season.
The picture above is what is projected to be the Red Sox starting lineup when they open up the season in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon. Mookie Betts is primed for a big role for this team in his first season as a starter after hitting .450+ during spring training. Big things have been expected from the young outfielder as a prospect the last few years, and now he will have a chance to prove himself with extended playing time. For Dustin Pedroia, it’s just business as usual as the laser show should put up another solid season on the offensive and defensive side at second base. Likewise, David Ortiz shows no signs of slowing down coming off another 35+ HR 100+ RBI season, despite being 39 years old.
The new guys Ramirez and Sandoval will man the 4 and 5 spots, and with a post-sleep apnea Mike Napoli at first base in the 6th spot, positions 3-6 could easily put up 100-120 home runs this season if healthy. Shane Victorino starts the season in right field for now, but poor play and/or injury could quickly see him demoted or traded with Rusney Castillo ready to come up from Pawtucket. Xander Boegarts has big expectations as well and is hoping to prove himself at shortstop. The Red Sox took a hit with catcher Christian Vazquez going on the 60 day DL with Tommy John surgery, but this could open the door for star prospect Blake Swihart to get called up from the minors at some point this season.
Only one Red Sox starting pitcher returns from last year’s opening day roster, and he will be the opening day starter. Clay Buccholz has consistently shown flashes of greatness throughout his career, but has also been wildly inconsistent and battled through several injuries. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to be the ace that the Red Sox need. If not, there could be a lot of shuffling in the rotation this year. The Red Sox four other starters were not with the team before the trade deadline last year. Joe Kelly was acquired from St. Louis in the John Lackey trade, and Rick Porcello was acquired from the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes. The Red Sox also traded for 28 year old left hander Wade Miley who signed a three year $19 million contract extension and signed former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson to a one year $9.5 million deal.
These are all solid pitchers, and if they all pan out the Red Sox should have a great rotation, but rarely do things go as planned. Kelly is already on the 15 day DL and knuckle baller Steven Wright has been called up to replace him. Miley is 38-35 (8-12 in 2014) with a 3.79 ERA in four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 26 year old Porcello posted 15 wins last year with 3.43 ERA and 3 complete game shutouts for the Tigers. Kelly was 4-2 with a 4.11 ERA after being traded to Boston last season, and Masterson had one of his worse years with a 7-9 record and 5.88 ERA for Cleveland and St. Louis. The Sox bullpen will feature Koji Uehara for the third season in a row, although he will start the season on the DL, but should be ready for the home opener on April 15. Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and the newly signed Alexi Ogando will also be key bullpen contributors. Pitchers in the minors that could make an impact include Matt Barnes, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Henry Owens.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox simply because nobody knows how all the offseason moves will work out, who will stay healthy, and the simple fact that the inconsistent Red Sox have gone from first to worst in 2011 alone, to worst in 2012, to World Series Champion in 2013, and back to worst last year. That being said, I think the Red Sox will contend this year and go 91-71 and make the playoffs as a wild card.