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Know your enemy: Boston Red Sox

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MLB: ALCS-Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The second in our look at the other teams in the AL East. Erik looked at the Rays back here. Now there are two other writers on the clock.

The Red Sox were the World Series winners last year. They scored more runs than any other AL team, 5.41 and they allowed the 3rd fewest runs in the AL, 3.99. So it isn’t much of a surprise that they haven’t had many changes over the off season.

The 2018 Red Sox had a 108-54 record, beating their Pythagorean mark (103-59) by 5 games.

They have lost a few guys in the bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly and Drew Pomeranz. Steven Wright will miss half the season after a PED suspension. Also Henley Ramirez and Ian Kinsler are also gone.

They didn’t have any major additions.

Lineup:

Catcher: Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon/Blake Swihart:

One of the few weak spots from last year. Leon and Vazquez split time there. Leon hit .177/.232/.279, Vazquez hit .207/.257/.283 and they combined for a -1.2 bWAR. I’d expect Vazquez to hit better this year. And Blake Swihart could play more if the other two don’t play better.

First base: Mitch Morland/Steve Pearce:

It looks like Pearce will start the season on the IL. Last year’s World Series MVP, is the better of the two, but he spends a lot of time injured. Morland hit .245/.325/.433 with 15 home runs last year. He would be better in a rigid platoon, which is the plan with Pearce.

Second base: Brock Holt/Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia (yeah, right):

Pedroia will start the season on the IL. He had 13 PA last year, who knows if he’ll play more this year. Holt hit .277/.362/.411, with a 1.3 bWAR, and Nunez hit .265/.289/.388, with a -1.1 bWAR, last year, and, of course, both played all over the field and will likely do the same this year.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts:

Just 26. A very good player, hit .288/.360/.522, with 23 home runs, last year and a 3.8 bWAR. He’s pretty average defensively, but with that bat, you can deal with average. PECOTA figures him to hit .275/.352/.438 with 16 home runs. I would tend to take the over.

Third base: Rafael Devers:

Just 22. Hit .240/.298/.433 with 21 home runs and a 0.0 bWAR. His defense was pretty awful in the games we saw, but he’s young and will improve. PECOTA projects a .254/.320/.443, season with 18 home runs.

Left field: Andrew Benintendi:

He hit .290/.366/.465 with 16 home runs and 21 steals, as a 23-year-old last year. A terrific leadoff hitter. PECTOTA expects a .274/.350/.440 line from him this year. He’s good defensively in left, and played some center last year.

Center field: Jackie Bradley:

Bradley is a terrific defensive CF. He won the Gold Glove. He hit .234/.314/.403 with 13 home runs and 17 steals (caught just once). 2.1 bWAR. He hit much better in the second half of last year, .269/.340/.487. Apparently he reworked his swing. I guess we’ll see if it is a real change or not. He’s had a very good spring with the bat.

Right field: Mookie Betts:

Last year’s AL MVP. He hit .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs and 30 steals, good for a 10.9 bWAR. Also had a Gold Glove in right. PECOTA has him hitting .303/.385/.523 this year. He’s just 26 so he’ll be a thorn in our side for a long time.

DH: J.D. Martinez:

Hit .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs last year. Must be one of the best free agent signings of the past few years. He can play corner outfield spots if needed.

Starting Rotation:

  1. Chris Sale
  2. David Price
  3. Rick Porcello
  4. Nathan Eovaldi
  5. Eduardo Rodriguez

So the same 5 who started 124 games last year. Sale, of course, is the star, finishing 4th in Cy young voting. David Price had a pretty great year too. 3.58 ERA in 30 starts. Porcello was 17-7 last year, showing if you pitch for a very good team, pitching 5 or 6 average innings a start can give you a great win-loss record.

Rodriguez struck out 146 batters in 129.2 innings. He’s averaged 22 starts a year over the past 4 seasons. Eovaldi had a 3.33 ERA in 11 starts for the Red Sox after making 10 starts for the Rays, with a 4.26 ERA. He’s had an up and down career, but he’s a good fifth starter.

Bullpen:

Matt Barnes, RHP, closer?

Ryan Brasier, RHP

Heath Hembree, RHP

Brian Johnson, LHP

Hector Velazquez, RHP

Brandon Workman, RHP

Tyler Thornburg, RHP

Last year Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly made the bullpen a team strength. This year it looks to be a weakness. Kimbrel is still unsigned, so if there are real troubles in the pen they could look to sign him.


The Questions:

What is going on with the bullpen?

I’m pretty surprised that they didn’t bring back Kimbrel. They are down their two best arms from last year. Barnes has 2 career saves, betting on him to be closer seems strange for a team that expects to make the playoffs. The rest of the team should be good enough to allow them time to figure out their bullpen, but it doesn’t look like it with be a strength.

Dustin Pedroia?

Will he play at all? He’s 35 now and he seems to be the Red Sox version of Troy Tulowitzki. He wants to play. He wants to play second base. And yet, even if he were to suddenly become healthy, it is unlikely he could play it at a major league average level.

He’s going to start the season on the IL, but it sounds like he isn’t too happy about it, he thinks he is ready to play.

The Red Sox will be paying him through the 2021 season, though for less money than you would think, $15 million this year, $13 million next and $12 million in 2021. It will be interesting to see how much he’ll play.

Can they repeat?

PECOTA has them going 90-72 this year, a pretty big drop from 108 and 54. That would put them second in the AL East, but good enough for the first wild card spot.

They no longer have the great farm system. Baseball America has them 30th among the 30 major league teams. They had no players in BA’s top 100 prospects list. But then they have a lot of young players in their lineup. The only prospect likely to help out much this season would be Michael Chavis, whose played mostly first and third in the minors.

Offensively they will likely be pretty much as good as last year. They aren’t great at catcher or first base (depending on how long Pearce is out), but they should be better than average at most of the other spots

The rotation isn’t so young. Price is 33, Porcello and Sale 30. Eovaldi 29. Eovaldi is 26. It will be interesting to see how they do this year.


They should be very good again, but I don’t think they will win 108 games like last year. I think they and the Yankees should be battling it out all season.

Poll

The Red Sox will finish ____ in the AL East.

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    First
    (81 votes)
  • 52%
    Second
    (130 votes)
  • 10%
    Third
    (27 votes)
  • 0%
    Fourth
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Fifth
    (6 votes)
246 votes total Vote Now