Opening Day is nearly here. While the Red Sox open the season in Cleveland, I’ll be attending the D’Backs home opener. Hopefully I will see Zach Greinke pitch well, and that dominant offense from Spring Training (but it was only Spring Training). But let’s focus on the Red Sox.
This would be the young guys who are playing an increasing number of positions for this Red Sox team.
Xander Bogaerts is on the brink of being an All-Star. Last year his defense was much improved. As was his hitting. The only thing he lacks at this point is power. If he can start driving the ball a little more, they could have a superstar on their hands.
Mookie Betts has been shifted to right field to make way for JBJ. He was a very good center fielder last year, and hit very well the second half of the season. He has the arm for right field. This spring (caveat: it’s spring) he has displayed more power. Mookie is an all-star in the making and seems to have the charisma to make the leap to superstar.
Jackie Bradley Jr. showed some of the promise for about a month or so. That would be as a hitter. His defense is Gold Glove level. It was his offense that has kept him bouncing between Boston and Pawtucket. He hit well in Spring training, again (and again it is spring). We’ll see if this is the year he puts it all together for a season.
Travis Shaw is our late addition to this group. He wasn’t expected to be named the starter at third base. In part because he played first base. He probably hoped to be the back up at first and third. Hanley has stayed healthy, so far. But the Panda is like Po and seemingly expanding in girth every time you see him. That is great if you are an animated Panda. Not if you are the third baseman of the Red Sox and need to play defense. It was Shaw’s hitting this spring, and Pablo’s lack thereof that has Travis starting the season in the field at the hot corner. He put things together late last season during a call-up. He opened some eyes by flashing more power than expected. Will he maintain or become the next Will Middlebrooks? Only time will tell, as Asia sang.
Blake Swihart will start as the primary catcher. He was rushed to Boston due to injuries to Vazquez and Hannigan. He struggled offensively at first, but improved as the season wore on. While he is improving as a catcher, the main draw is his hitting.
Christian Vazquez starts the season on the DL as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. He is the emerging as a great defensive catcher. We’ll see if his throwing returns. It was very hard to steal on Christian. He is also great at framing pitches and calls such a good game that he’s the guy pitchers want calling the game. If he can hit .260 …. he’ll have a long career. But will it be with the Red Sox? Can they keep both Christian and Blake? Will Blake move to another position (I’d say first, but Sam Travis is due in the next year or so)? Perhaps Blake will be moved to get pitching. There are many questions for this position, but these are good questions not bad questions.
Eduardo Rodriguez begins the year on the DL after tweaking his knee during a drill in spring training. He did well last year, when he wasn’t tipping pitches. He supposedly made the necessary changes. He looks very promising. But so did Felix Doubront. Everyone is high on him, and he wants to learn about pitching from Price. Hopefully we will be ready to pitch soon.
I’m not sure if Brock Holt fits here, but I’m not sure where to put him. He is their super-utility player who has suddenly become their starting left fielder against righties. He experienced a down turn at the end of last season. Was it fatigue? Had pitchers figured him out? Time will tell. This may have a ripple effect should anyone in the infield gets hurt. Perhaps they will move him to the infield and play the 4th outfielder.
Shaw and Holt are the beneficiaries of Dumbrowski’s decree that Farrell play the best players, not necessarily the highest paid players. Apparently Farrell didn’t believe him. Dumbrowski is dealing with a bunch of players that Cherington signed. The ghosts of the Cherington era haunt Fenway. Dumbrowski will try to exorcise some, but may have to wait some out.
Dustin Pedroia is bouncing back from yet another injury. His defensive ratings dropped last year, but his power came back. He still makes amazing plays and is fun to watch. The question is how many games he’ll play.
This is the David Ortiz farewell tour. Spring Training is sort of superfluous to him. He’ll probably hit over 30 HR and drive in about 100 RBI, if healthy. It will be sad to see him, and his production. For now, he continues to anchor the heart of the line up.
David Price is the new ace, and should be for some time. He’s also the mentor for the young pitchers like Eduardo Rodriguez. This is the guy Dombrowski wanted, and got. I’m glad the Red Sox don’t have to face him anymore.
Craig Kimbrel is the new closer. He has played long enough to not be part of the promise for the future. He should help stabilize the bull pen after it was used, abused and misused last year. The first problem was starters getting knocked out early and often. Due to injuries and failures they went through more options at closer than I can count or remember. With the re-vamped bull pen they could shorten games. This took a hit with Carson Smith’s injury.
The Problems & Question Marks
There are just too many of these.
Hanley Ramirez is untested as a first baseman. So far it has been far better than left field was. His hitting is also a big question mark. He was once a great hitter. He hit well in April, and then hit a wall. The shoulder injury hampered his swing the rest of the year. We are very uncertain if he will be productive this year.
Pablo Sandoval has potentially eaten himself out of a starting job. I’m not sure what the Red Sox should do. He may have an eating disorder as some have theorized. That would necessitate treatment, but he’d need to want it. If he loses some weight, and Shaw struggles, he may find his way back onto the field. Or he may be traded if the Padres want to take a chance on him. One of the pictures I saw from Spring Training was Pablo fielding ground balls. In this shorts pocket was what appeared to be a cell phone. A large one. I’m not doing fielding drills with my phone. This indicates to me that some priorities are out of whack.
Rusney Castillo was a big risk by Cherington and company. He hasn’t panned out, yet. He has struggled with the fastball. He may go back to the minors since he lost his spot to Brock Holt. He needs at bats to develop his offense. Now we watch, and wait.
Clay Buchholz is an enigma. When he’s having a difficult season, you want him to get hurt. When he’s having a fantastic season, he inevitably gets hurt. He’s like a yo-yo alternating good and horrible seasons. He started well last year before the injury bug bit him, yet again.
Rick Porcello has had a frustrating stint with the Red Sox. Dumbrowski dealt him away from Detroit, and is stuck with him again. I wonder if he groaned. Rick had a strong finish to his season. So far the early season Porcello who gave up home runs has been pitching. But it is Spring Training and guys are working on pitches rather than pitching to win. We’ll see which Porcello shows up.
Joe Kelly is another enigma. How many can one team have on it’s pitching staff??? He dominated at the end of the season with a new approach to pitching. If THAT guy shows up, things look good for him, and therefore the Red Sox.
Koji Uehara is getting older. He is no longer the closer after struggling some. Junichi Tazawa struggled due to overuse last season. Has he recovered ,or is he damaged goods? Big question.
This could be a very good season, or a very bad one. While there is much promise, there are also some big question marks and concerns. It really could go either way. This is a season in which they may be more prone to injury than normally. Now we just watch and wait.