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Know Your Enemy: Boston Red Sox

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Dustin Pedroia will lead a revamped team in 2015

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Boston Red Sox certainly did not live up to expectations. After coming off a World Series championship the previous season, the team finished with just a 71-91 record. The Astros and Twins nearly posted an identical record, while even the Phillies managed to finish with 73 wins.

After an awful first half of the season, a team fire sale erupted. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Jake Peavy and Jonny Gomes were all shipped off to contenders throughout the season. It is safe to say, the Red Sox have a much different team heading into 2015.

Additions:

Hanley Ramirez (LF), Pablo Sandoval (3B), Ryan Hanigan (C), Justin Masterson (RHP), Wade Miley (LHP), Rick Porcello (RHP), Alexi Ogando (RHP), Robbie Ross Jr. (LHP), Anthony Varvaro (RHP)

Subtractions:

Yoenis Cespedes (LF), Will Middlebrooks (3B), David Ross (C), Burke Badenhop (RHP)

Roster:

Catcher: Ryan Hanigan & Christian Vazquez

Two defence first players will share time behind the plate. Hanigan's strong plate discipline typically leads to a respectable on-base percentage, as his career .256/.353/.341 (90 wRC+) line suggests. The 24-year old Vasquez struggles offensively and is currently nursing an elbow injury. Both catchers are extremely strong pitch framers and should provide decent value even without strong offence. Top prospect Blake Swihart has already reached AAA and could reach the majors later this season.

First Base: Mike Napoli

The former Blue Jay had another strong season in 2014 after hitting .248/.370/.419 (124 wRC+) . He is one of the best players in baseball at taking a walk, while also providing value with his strong defence.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia

Elite defence and near league average offence led to a 4.2 WAR in 2014. He is a career .299/.366/.444 (117 wRC+) hitter with a strong ability to take a walk. Even if his offence does not bounce back, Dustin should remain among the best second baseman in major league baseball.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts

The young Aruban failed to live up to expectations last season after posting a .240/.297/.362 (82 wRC+) batting line. Below average defence at both shortstop and third base also drove down his value. That being said, Bogaerts is still only 22 and comes with a substantial amount of hype. It may only be a matter of time until he develops into a star. The ZiPS system projects him for a 103 wRC+ and 2.5 WAR.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval

The Red Sox spent $95 million this offseason to land the new fifth best third baseman in the AL East. On the other hand, Sandoval does consistently provide above average offence with a career 122 wRC+. He seems to project as an average defender at third base, despite his large size. He is a switch hitter that struggled against lefties last season to the tune of a .199/. 244/.319 (59 wRC+) line. If Red Sox fans want to watch an elite third baseman, the Blue Jays play in Boston in late April.

Left Field: Hanley Ramirez

Another major offseason addition, Hanley has posted an impressive .283/.369/.448 (135 wRC+) last season. A usual liability on defence, Hanley will play in the outfield for the first time and deal with the green monster. The former Dodger has struggled with injuries in recent years, so a trip to the disabled list is almost expected. He seems likely to be the team's cleanup hitter behind David Ortiz.

Centre Field: Mookie Betts

The 22-year old Betts is among the top young players in the game. A strong average and walk rate should make him a strong leadoff hitter for years to come. He posted a .291/.368/.444 (130 wRC+) in his 52 game MLB stint last season, pretty impressive for a young rookie. With Dustin Pedroia at second base, he figures to see the majority of his time in the outfield. He may move over to right field to make room for Rusney Castillo.

Right Field: Shane Victorino

After posting 6 WAR in 2013, Victorino struggled with injuries and only played in 30 games last season. When healthy, he projects to be around a league average bat that is much better against left-handed pitching. He actually seems to be giving up switch-hitting and will only hit right handed. He is a former centre fielder and capable of providing very strong defence in a corner spot. Accordingly to ESPN Boston, multiple scouts have said Victorino does not look right physically.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz

Big Papi posted a .263/ .355/ .517 (135 wRC+) line last season, pretty impressive for someone his age. Ortiz is now 39, but has failed to show much of a decline. If his batting average for balls in play rises back up to his career rate, Ortiz could very well be one of the most productive hitters in all of baseball this season.

Other: Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Brock Holt, Daniel Nava

If no one is traded, the Red Sox will have an embarrassment of riches at the plate.  Castillo was recently signed to a 72.5 M contract and figures to get plenty of time in centre field. Craig was one of the best hitters in the NL Central from 2011-2013, before falling off a cliff in 2014. Holt is a left-handed bat that played seven different positions last season, on route to posting a 2.3 WAR. Nava is corner outfielder and first baseman that is much stronger against right handed pitching. Finally, Jackie Bradley could also factor into the mix throughout the year. It really seems like someone has to go before the regular season gets started.

Rotation

  • Rick Porcello
  • Clay Buchholz
  • Wade Miley
  • Justin Masterson
  • Joe Kelly

Though the rotation is Boston's weakest area, this rotation should generate an insane amount of ground balls. Buchholz and Masterson both posted ERA's over 5in 2014, but have proven to be strong starters in the past. If neither player is able to bounce back, the Red Sox could really struggle to keep runs off the board. Joe Kelly may start the season on the disabled list, though he is scheduled to pitch this week. Prospects Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson could factor in throughout the year, as well as knuckleballer Steven Wright, and spot starter Brandon Workman.

Bullpen

  • Koji Uehara
  • Junichi Tazawa
  • Anthony Varvaro
  • Edward Mujica
  • Craig Breslow
  • Alexi Ogando
  • Brandon Workman

Uehara and Tazawa provide the Red Sox with a solid 1-2 punch in high leverage relief. Anthony Varvaro has posted an ERA under 3 in each of the last two seasons, while Mujica provides yet another solid right-handed reliever. On the other hand, the backend of the bullpen could be fairly weak. Craig Breslow is no Andrew Miller against lefties. Uehara could miss the start of the season with a hamstring injury, but he should only miss limited time.

Outlook

With an incredible amount of depth throughout their lineup, the Red Sox are the widely regarded AL East favourites. Even if injuries occur, Boston should have one of the best offences in the majors. Though they will not need elite starting pitching, the rotation will definitely make or break this team. If Masterson and Buchholz fail to bounce back, one injury to Rick Porcello or Wade Miley could quickly take this club out of playoff contention. That being said, I expect the Red Sox to limit enough runs to win the AL East division in 2015.