General - The second decade of 2000 has been a back wrenching roller coaster ride for Red Sox fans. To begin the decade the Rays replaced them as the second best team in the AL East, a position that normally got the Red Sox in the playoffs. In 2012, after signing a number of expensive free agents to return to that second spot they fell to last place. The 2013 season saw a rise to the top spot and a World Series victory but 2014 saw another drop to the basement. In the process they traded the ace of their staff and lost him to their ex-general manager now working for the Cubs. The Red Sox hope 2013 was not an aberration but they must improve on their bats, which looked more like the Rays than the Red Sox of the past. They also have a team lacking a big time ace with their best arms still bubbling up in the minor leagues.
Key Additions - They hope the free agent signings of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will provide some spark to a stale offense in 2015. Hanley will play in left, but could be used at short. With third base sufficiently covered the Red Sox traded Will Middlebrooks to improve themselves on the catching front by acquiring Ryan Hanigan from the Padres. Myworld is always a bit suspicious of players who keep bouncing around from team to team as Hanigan has these past couple years. They improved their pitching by acquiring Wade Miley from the Diamondbacks, though his best season was his first year when he won rookie of the year. The Red Sox acquired Rick Porcello for the starting rotation, trading away Yoenis Cespedes to the Tigers. Red Sox fans had hardly got to know the Cuban since he was a late season addition from the Athletics. The Red Sox took a gamble on Justin Masterson, signing him as a free agent in hopes he can recapture his old form. Alexi Ogando is a recent free agent signing that will probably work in the bullpen, since starting seems to be bad for his arm.
Catcher - Ryan Hanigan has seen four different teams since 2013. In the last two years he has had trouble hitting over .218 and last year was his worst year throwing out baserunners. He does have more experience than Christian Vazquez who played in just 55 games last year with a .240 average. They allowed Ryan Lavarnway to bounce around on waivers opening a spot for their catcher of the future in Blake Swihart. Expect him to be the regular by mid-season, but a good spring could see him win the opening day job.
First Base - Mike Napoli and his .419 slugging average is not a lot to get excited about. He also only drove in 55 runs, production expected from a middle infielder rather than a first baseman. The Red Sox hope for his return to 2013 form when he slugged .482 and drove in 92. David Ortiz could see some time here against National League teams if they want to get his bat in the lineup, but Allen Craig and Daniel Nava were the primary backups last year. Neither of them was an improvement over the punchless Napoli.
Second Base - The glitter is kind of wearing off on the MVP year Dustin Pedroia had a number of years ago. His offensive production fell below many second basemen last year but he continues to start because of what he has accomplished in the past. The Phillies did this with a number of their players, hoping for a resurgence of their greatness but that never came to pass. The Red Sox are hoping Pedroia is not done at 32 as an offensive weapon at second base. Brock Holt is a nice leadoff option but a man without a position, playing all of them except catcher and pitcher last year. Mookie Betts put up some monster numbers in the minors and has been bumped from his outfield spot. His natural position is second base.
Third Base - They traded their third baseman of the future Will Middlebrooks to give the position to Pablo Sandoval. They have to hope he stays in good enough shape to continue to play the position defensively. The Panda has been known to have some weight issues with the Giants. Sandoval did not have a great season (.739 OPS) but seems to do better when the playoffs begin. For the Red Sox his numbers are better than what they had at the position last year. Brock Holt can spell him here and Hanley Ramirez could move here if they need to fill the position for an extended period.
Shortstop - Xander Bogaerts has been told he will be the shortstop. He made all the plays but many feel his best position is third base. That position has been taken by Sandoval. Xander needs to improve on his .297 OBA or Hanley Ramirez could move to this position to improve the offense. Brock Holt will be the player to give Bogaerts the occasional rest.
Left Field - Hanley Ramirez will see how life is in the outfield. He has been a shortstop for most of his career, starting it with the Red Sox minor league affiliates, so he is coming home. Ramirez has had trouble staying healthy, seeing only 128 games for the Dodgers last year. His bat also slumped quite a bit from what he put up in 2013. He will be playing in a more hitter friendly park so expect those numbers to inflate a bit. Daniel Nave will act as a fourth outfielder type. The Red Sox like his grit and ability to get on base (.361 OBA). Holt and Allen Craig are other options, though Craig only hit .128 in 94 at bats for the Red Sox last year.
Center Field - A battle of once rookie phenoms. Jackie Bradley has failed to take over the position the last couple years, failing to transfer his minor league productive bat to the majors. Bradley would be a gold glover on defense but needs to hit. Mookie Betts did an adequate job playing the position last year, but he spent most of his time in the minors at second base. He doesn’t quite have the tools of the new center fielder Rusney Castillo who raked last year in a brief September callup. Whether he can sustain that over a full season is still a question. Expect Betts to take over hear if the Red Sox feel Castillo needs some more seasoning in the minors.
Right Field - Shane Victorino would like to reclaim the position but injuries last year limited him to just 30 games. The Red Sox feel a need to get Mookie Betts bat in the lineup. His .812 OPS was second to David Ortiz and this is the only position except catcher without an established starter. If Rusney Castillo struggles out of spring Mookie could return to center and Victorino would take over in right. Allen Craig and Daniel Nava are two other players who can play this position. Watch out for Bryce Brentz, a rookie with a power bat that needs an opportunity.
Designated Hitter - David Ortiz drove in 104 runs last year. Defensively, the only position he can play is first base and he does not do that well. So he will see 140 plus games at DH. Mike Napoli, Allan Craig, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez could all get a day or two here to rest their legs but still keep their bats in the lineup.
Starting Pitching - With the loss of Jon Lester they really lack an ace. Clay Buchholtz has put up ace numbers in the past, but last year his 5.34 ERA and .273 opponent average was more indicative of a back of the rotation starter. Joe Kelly made the claim he will win the Cy Young award in 2015 but he has yet to see a complete year in the starting rotation. His small stature makes teams think he is a better fit in the bullpen. Three new acquisitions have seen better years. Wade Miley gives up a lot of hits but is a good fit for the middle of the rotation. Rick Porcello is another pitcher allowing more hits than innings pitched last year and has never reached his first round pick potential. Justin Masterson has seen better years. Last year was a disaster with lefties roping him at a .330 clip. The Red Sox are loaded in the minor leagues and those players can be seen in the 2015 rookies section. Expect one or two of them to eventually fit in the rotation after the veterans struggle or fall to injury.
Closer - Koji Uehara was unhittable in 2013. As the season progressed last year he was very hittable. If he continues the end of the 2014 path the Red Sox need to find another closer. Edward Mujica took over this spot after Koji struggled but the Red Sox have let it be known he is available in a trade. That does not leave a lot of proven alternatives.
Other Relievers - Junichi Tazawa came upon the scene and acted as a primary setup man. He struck out more than a batter an inning, the only bullpen guy to do that except for Koji. Alexi Ogando was recently signed and he is a better fit for the bullpen, where he can keep his arm healthy. His fastball has more zip in shorter outings. They really lack a lefthanded piece though Craig Breslow was resigned and Robbie Ross was acquired from the Rangers. Neither had a lot of success last year. Anthony Varvaro had a lot more success against lefthanders (.149) than righthanders (.273) so the righthander may be the better option. Expect some of the young Red Sox arms to claim some of the positions as they wait for an opportunity in the starting rotation.
2015 Rookies - The Red Sox are loaded with young pitchers. Henry Owens is an ace in waiting with a lefthanded arm that creates a lot of swing and miss. Eduardo Rodriguez was acquired from Baltimore and thrived in AA Portland (0.96). He is another talented lefthanded arm. Edwin Escobar is a third lefthanded arm acquired from the Giants that could find himself in the Red Sox rotation. Brian Johnson is a 2012 first round pick that is a fourth lefthanded piece that dominated in 20 AA starts (1.96). Matt Barnes is the one right handed option ready to help the rotation. Rusney Castillo should take over the centerfield job and will vie for rookie of the year honors. Blake Swihart should be able to take over the starting catching position by mid-season. Injuries to Sandoval could give Garin Cecchini an opportunity but his power numbers have been a disappointment. Deven Marrero is the Red Sox best defensive option at shortstop, but his bat is not quite ready. Myworld was impressed with the bat of Travis Shaw in the AFL. He has a shot to take over the first base position if Mike Napoli continues to be short on power. Bryce Brentz is a 2010 first round pick outfielder who has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. He has a power bat and arm for right, a position he could claim with a good spring.
2015 Finish - A lot depends on improved years from players who may no longer have those years ahead of them. The starting pitching is also short with a questionable bullpen. It seems they must rely on production from too many rookie players, a recipe for inconsistency. They will not finish last in the division, but they will still fall short of the playoffs as the vaunted Eastern Division fails to net a wild card winner for the second year in a row.