Red Sox - 2014

Overall - Myworld last year predicted the Red Sox would finish in last place in the competitive American League East.  They had traded some of their big name, high contract players the previous year for prospects.  The free agents they signed for the 2013 season appeared to be players to cover positions for prospects that were not yet ready to play.  The names Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes, Stephen Drew, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara and David Ross are not names to put fear in a general managers heart.  Most of them were rejects from other clubs, considered too old to make a contribution.  They also stole the Blue Jays manager John Farrell to run the club.  Surprise.  Surprise.  The result was the best record in the American League last year.  They were helped by a pitching staff that pulled off some surprises, with Koji Uehara winning the closer job after the All Star break and proving to be one of the more unhittable pitchers in baseball.  Clay Buchholtz and John Lackey contributed to a season they were absent from in 2012.  The newly revised offense scored more runs than any team in the major leagues, with no player hitting more than 30 homeruns.  They still finished first in slugging, bashing 363 doubles, 50 more than any other team.  This year they lost a big contributor to their playoff season in Jacoby Ellsbury, a major contributor who ignited the offense.  They have two players who are competing to replace him (Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley). The centerfield hole will be a big one to fill if they want to repeat.  Shortstop is another hole which the Red Sox hope rookie Xander Bogaerts can fill.  Those shoes will be easier to fill.

Key Additions - The Red Sox released Jarrod Saltalamacchia after they signed A.J. Pierzynski.  Pierzynski adds more experience to the catching position but Jarrod put up the better offense numbers.  Neither player is a strong defensive catcher.  They also signed Edward Mujica to work in a set up role.  He had 65 appearances last year for their World Series opponent Cardinals, saving 37 games.  He had lost the closer role to Trevor Rosenthal and is insurance in case Koji Uehara is injured.  Burke Badenhop was acquired from the Brewers to strengthen the back of the bullpen.  An interesting minor league free agent signing is Grady Sizemore.  Injuries have prevented him from playing the last couple years, but prior to his injuries he was considered one of the better centerfielders in the game.  Jonathan Herrera was acquired from the Rockies to fill a utility role.

Key Subtractions - They lost both Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew to free agency.  Two rookies may take over their positions, critical middle defensive positions for a team trying to make a playoff run.  Another middle defensive position will be taken over by a new player with the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia to free agency.  The only returning middle defensive player is Dustin Pedroia.  They will not have either closer Andrew Bailey or Joel Hanrahan but they have found alternatives to all their positions.

Catcher - A.J. Pierzynski will be taking over the catching duties.  It is interesting the Red Sox would go with a player with more experience handling pitchers.  Jarrod Salalamacchia had better offensive numbers (.804 OPS versus .722 OPS) and is younger.  Neither player is considered a strong defensive player.  David Ross was the backup last year and will fill the same role this year.  He doesn’t have much of a bat but he is a solid defensive player.  Ryan Lavarnway will bide his time in AAA.  He may have missed his opportunity to become the starting catcher of the future for the Red Sox.  Pierzynski signed a one year contract and when that ends Blake Swihart could be ready to take over the position.  Swihart is a better defensive catcher than Ryan and could provide the offensive numbers equal to Ryan.  Another catcher Ryan will have to contend with is Christian Vazquez, but he needs to lesson his passed balls (23) before he is considered major league ready.

First Base - Mike Napoli was signed to a multi year contract by the Red Sox last year.  After a physical condition (hip ailment) was found the contract was pared down to one year.  Napoli hit 23 homeruns and slugged .482 in that one year so the Red Sox resigned him.  They also have David Ortiz who can play this position in a pinch, especially when they need to get his bat in the game against National League teams when he can’t DH.  The two most likely replacements for him would be Mike Carp and Daniel Nava, both outfielders who can play first base.  Carp hit .296 and slugged .523 in a part time role.  The Red Sox need to get that kind of production in the lineup.  Myworld liked what we saw of Travis Shaw in the Arizona Fall League.  He only hit .221 in AA but he hit 16 homeruns.  We think his offensive potential is closer to the .305 average he hit in High A in 2012.

Second Base - Dustin Pedroia has not won an MVP award in awhile, but he is the heart and soul of the Red Sox, something that seems common among players who occupy second base.  Last year Pedroia hit .301 playing in 160 games.  His defense is superb and he will never finish a game with a clean uniform.  The Red Sox acquired Jonathan Herrera from the Rockies to fill the utility role.  He hit .292 last year serving the same role for the Rockies.  Pedroia is only 31 so a future second baseman is not of any immediate need.  If they look into the future they would find Mookie Betts.  He assaulted High A pitchers for a .341 average in 51 games.  Combining the two levels he hit 15 homeruns and stole 38 bases in 42 attempts.  He is a player Red Sox fans should watch.

Third Base - Wil Middlebrooks will play here as long as the Red Sox do not sign a more experienced shortstop.  Last year during the playoffs Xander Bogaerts starred at the position.  The Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis in the middle of the 2012 season when Wil appeared to be ready for the major leagues.  2013 proved to be a challenge with Middlebrooks hitting only .227.  He did hit 17 homeruns but to stay here full time he will need to hit better than .206 against righthanders.  Jonathan Herrera can play here but is not a permanent solution.  If Middlebrooks continues to struggle the Red Sox will have to either find a third baseman or rush Garin Cecchini to play the position.  Cecchini led all minor leaguers with a .443 OBA.  The concern with Garin is his ability to hit for power for this position.

Shortstop - The Red Sox are loaded with shortstops.  For the 2014 season they will hand the position over to rookie Xander Bogaerts, who did not look like a rookie last year playing third base in the playoffs.  He is considered one of the top five prospects in baseball.  At 6′3″ many think he is too big to play shortstop.  Shortstop is the natural position for Jonathan Herrera.  He will play here in a utility role.  If the Red Sox do not acquire a more experienced shortstop and feel a need to move Bogaerts to third they have Deven Marrero to play here.  He was the Red Sox number one 2012 pick.  Deven lacks the bat of Xander but is a quality defensive player.  Mookie Betts does not have the arm for the position but he has the range.  Another player to watch is Tzu-Wei Lin, who was signed out of Taiwan in 2012.  He still needs to play in a full season league and like Deven has not shown a strong bat.

Left Field - This will be a platoon of Daniel Nava and Johnny Gomes.  Nava hit .322 against righthanders while Gomes slugged for power against lefthanders.  Gomes strikes out a lot and does not hit for average regardless of the pitcher he is facing.  Nava is the more consistent hitter with a .385 OBA.  This could also be a position the Red Sox may want to squeeze in the bat of Mike Carp.  Carp is not strong defensively, but he has a power lefthanded bat.  A wild card is Grady Sizemore.  He could play anywhere if he doesn’t win the centerfield job.  With his injury history a corner outfield position may be best for him, but that all depends on the confidence the Red Sox have in giving Jackie Bradley the centerfield job.  He won it last year in spring training and then failed.  Bryce Brentz has the power bat to be the future at this position.  His biggest challenge is to stay away from guns after shooting himself, delaying the start of his 2013 season.  Bryce was a first round supplemental pick of the Red Sox in 2010 but is not a strong defensive player.

Centerfield - Last year Jackie Bradley won the centerfield job but bombed when the regular season started and was sent back to the minors.  The Red Sox would like to give him the position to begin the 2014 season.  He is in a battle with Grady Sizemore for the centerfield job.  Look for one of those two to start.  Myworld would put my money on Bradley with Sizemore acting as a fourth outfielder to begin the season, or start in the minors to get more at bats.  Bradley offers more of the speed the Red Sox lost with the departure of Ellsbury, but he does not steal bases.  His OBA was an impressive .374 in AAA.  With Bradley the Red Sox do not need a centerfielder for the future, but if he fails they could move Mookie Betts to this position.  A long time option could be Manuel Margot, who covers a lot of ground in centerfield.  He could develop into a five tool player but still needs a couple years of minor league seasoning before he is ready.

Right Field - Shane Victorino will be the favorite to begin the position here.  As a former centerfielder he provides the Red Sox with solid defense.  He also provided a consistent offense with a .802 OPS.  At 33 he will need a rest every now and then so this could be an opportunity for the Red Sox to get the power bat of Mike Carp in the lineup, or play both Daniel Nava and Johnny Gomes.  Grady Sizemore has been having an excellent spring and he may need a place to play.  For the future the Red Sox are not strong at the corners.  If left field is not open Bryce Brentz can play here, but he is better suited for left.

Designated Hitter - This position belongs to the power bat of David Ortiz.  There is no one better at this position.  At some point in his career his bat will slow down.  To keep it fresh the Red Sox can bring in Mike Carp.  A more likely bat to rest Ortiz would be the right handed bat of Johnny Gomes.  Gomes defense in the outfield makes his best position DH, but not with Ortiz in the lineup.

Starting Pitching - The Red Sox starting pitching improved last year, allowing them to improve on their last place finish.  It was only 14th in the major leagues in ERA, but with their offense that is good enough to win games.  Jon Lester will be the ace.  Many think he can be better than his 15-8, 3.75 ERA season.  Clay Buchholtz pitched like an ace last year (12-1, 1.74) but neck, stomach, back and shoulder issues have restricted him from pitching 200 innings or starting 30 games in a season.  He missed much of the middle of the 2013 season with neck issues.  Jacob Peavey used to be an ace with the Padres, but is probably better as a number three starter.  Ryan Dempster is another veteran they can put at the back end of the rotation.  Felix Doubront should win the number five spot.  The Red Sox have been waiting for him to put it together.  He will be challenged in spring from the promise of Allen Webster.  Allen struggled in his major league debut last year (8.60 ERA) so it may be best for his development to start the season in AAA.  The Red Sox do not lack depth in the minor leagues with Henry Owens, Webster, Mat Barnes and Anthony Ranaudo all ready to step into the rotation in 2014 should one of their veteran starters fail.  They also have their number one pick of last year Trey Ball and their 2012 number one pick Brian Johnson to follow them on the depth chart.

Relief Pitching - The Red Sox started the season with Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan as their closers, but injuries ended their seasons early.  Koji Uehara ended the season as the closer and did so well he will begin the 2014 season as the closer.  Edward Mujica started last year as the closer for the Cardinals and he will be the setup man for the Red Sox.  If Uehara should stumble or fall to injury Mujica could be inserted as the closer.  Junichi Tazawa, signed out of Japan a couple years ago, appeared in 71 games and made a solid contribution to the bullpen.  From the left side Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller will get the call, though last year they both were better against right handed hitters.  Longmen will be Chris Capuano and Brandon Workman.  The Red Sox have a nice balance of lefty and righty relievers to give Farrell good matchups.

Potential Rookie Candidates - Xander Bogaerts is the favorite to win rookie of the year honors.  He will be playing either short or third base for the Red Sox depending on their season needs.  Jackie Bradley will compete with him if he wins the starting centerfield job.  Allen Webster will get the first call to get in the rotation if injury or ineffectiveness requires a fifth starter.  The Red Sox could also go with Henry Owens, Matt Barnes or Anthony Ranaudo, whoever is hot in the minor leagues.  The Red Sox would prefer to just have one rookie in their rotation or it will be a challenging season.  A long shot to make the club will be Garin Cecchini and only if Middlebrooks struggles.  Brandon Workman could be the quiet rookie out of the pen or working as a spot starter.

2008 Draft - The Red Sox have had some pretty good drafts, getting better results from the later rounds as they signed the high risk players with over the slot bonuses.  The 2008 draft was not one of those great drafts they would put on their resume.  Casey Kelley was their first round pick who they traded to the Padres for Adrian Gonzalez.  Injuries have prevented Casey from reaching his potential.  Ryan Westmoreland was a fifth round pick whose career was ended by a brain injury.  The sixth and seventh round picks gave them catchers Ryan Lavarnway and Timothy Federowicz.  Lavarnway is still the Red Sox catcher of the future as he waits the one year season of Pierzynski.  Federowicz was traded to the Dodgers for Eric Bedard in a three team trade.  He currently is the backup catcher for the Dodgers.  Travis Shaw was picked in the 32nd round but did not sign and was again drafted in the 9th round of the 2011 draft out of Kent State.  Yan Gomes was a 39th pick who did not sign.  Of all those players Yan is the only regular.

Expected Finish - Myworld is still not a believer in their overall talent, but these players have the character to play above that talent.  Expect them to make the playoffs as one of the wild card teams but. we would be surprised to see back to back World Series.

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