Boston Red Sox: Predicting the Performance of Each Position Player in 2012
Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has said that the team has more star players than any other team he's coached. With the likes of Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia taking the field, that's certainly true.
However, the Red Sox don't have a totally loaded lineup like the Texas Rangers have. There are a couple of platoons and a few concerns in the second half of their batting order. Here we take a look at what we can expect from each position player, and offer predictions for what grade we will likely give them at the end of the season.
Predicted grade: C
Going purely by the numbers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia did not have a great 2011, hitting a paltry .239. However, compared to the rest of Major League Baseball's offensively challenged catchers, his performance was more than acceptable.
Salty has always had a lot of potential, but is only taking baby steps to reaching it. Despite his relatively weak overall stats, there were times in 2012 when he played very well at the plate. He hit over .300 between June and July.
His workload will probably remain around the same, between 100-120 games, and he will probably be one of the 10-to-15 best offensive catchers in the game.
Predicted grade: F
Shoppach is not on the team for his offense. He has hit below the Mendoza Line in each of the last two seasons, with more than 400 total plate appearances. In his primary job of giving Salty the odd day off, he will be sufficient, though.
Predicted grade: A+
In his first season in Boston, Adrian Gonzalez had a great season. A slow end to the season tempered what had previously been serious MVP consideration, and some were disappointed with his 27 home runs. However, he still led the team in batting average (.338), on-base percentage (.410), wOBA (.406) and RBI (117).
Expect him to replicate and probably better his 2012 performance. If he does that, he should finish even higher than seventh in MVP balloting.
He had some very long home-run droughts last year. He tends to hit the long ball in bunches, but if he can cut down those dry spells, he should make a run at 40 homers and 130 RBI.
Predicted grade: A
In terms of hardware, Dustin Pedroia had one of the best seasons of all time in 2008, winning the MVP, Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. In terms of numbers, his 2011 campaign was even better.
Last year, he set career-highs in triples (3), walks (86), OBP (.387), RBI (91), home runs (21), weighed runs created (134) and WAR (8).
Consider that he did all that with a metal plate in his foot. He should be completely healthy in 2012, and there's no reason to doubt he will have another stellar season. He'll have another .300 average, maybe 25 home runs and close to 50 doubles.
Predicted grade: B-
It's easy to think of Kevin Youkilis as one of the younger Red Sox players. Yet this year he will be 33 years old and, other than David Ortiz, he is the only remaining Red Sox to have played on the 2004 championship team.
It appears his age might be starting to catch up with him. Injuries have limited his output in the last few years. On the other hand, much of the time he spent on the DL was due to a 2009 thumb injury and things like that can happen to the healthiest players.
The move from first to third base hasn't helped. However, if he can stay healthy, he should have a great year. Whilst his average plummeted 49 points last year, he still walked 13.2 percent of the time, over 50 percent better than the league average. Even if he can't reach the .300 average he maintained from 2008 through 2010, he should still be over .280, have an OBP just under .400 and drill 20 home runs.
Predicted grade: C
Predicted grade: D-
If one had to rank the options the Sox had at shortstop, the order would probably go like this:
Marco Scutaro would be top. Jed Lowrie, who won the starting job from Scutaro for a part of 2011, would be second, Mike Aviles third and Nick Punto fourth.
It is a little disheartening, then, that Ben Cherington's offseason moves have left Boston with a weak platoon at short.
Mike Aviles is a decent hitter and has shone against left-handed pitching, with a .350 career wOBA. One can't expect much from Punto at the plate, but with the glove, he is more than acceptable.
Predicted grade: B
There will probably always be comparisons between Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Both were acquired in the same offseason and both were signed to huge, seven-year contracts worth more than $140 million. However, while Gonzalez had a monster debut season in Boston, Crawford struggled.
It was clear from the very first series in Texas that playing for the Red Sox got to him. Perhaps it was the pressure of his big contract, the media scrutiny or the fans' lofty expectations. In any case, he had a terrible 2011.
It now appears Crawford will miss the first few weeks of the season, but big things are expected from him. He was putting together a career worthy of Cooperstown before he left Tampa Bay. With a season's experience under his belt, he has a better chance this year of dealing with the pressure of the New England market.
Fifteen home runs, 30 stolen bases and a .290 average shouldn't be too much of a stretch.
Predicted grade: A-
The most convincing argument against Ellsbury repeating his MVP-caliber 2011 performance is that he had never come close to producing at that level before.
But that is the only reason to doubt him. Ellsbury was an elite player last year and, while some regression is highly likely, that would still give him a great season, with a .310 batting average, 20-odd home runs and 40-to-50 stolen bases.
Predicted grade: C
Predicted grade: C-
Sweeney and Ross make for a very good platoon, as each complements the other quite nicely.
Sweeney is an elite defender in the outfield, able to play all three positions at a very high level; Ross is no liability with the glove, but he is not exactly an asset either. Sweeney is very selective when it comes to swinging at pitches, has a decent average and walks a lot; Ross has the power, out-homering his new teammate 14-to-1 last year.
The Sox probably won't miss J.D. Drew this year. Between them, Ross and Sweeney have the capability of finishing with a .265 average, 15 home runs, 70 RBI and a solid UZR.
Predicted grade: B+
The only number people are talking about right now is the $15 million Big Papi will make in 2011. It can be easy to get the predictions for a 36-year-old slugger very wrong, as their power can disappear overnight. However, Ortiz had a good 2011 and the smart money is on him repeating it.
His .309 BA was 39 points better than 2010 and was the second-best of his storied career. It would be a challenge to do that again, but .295 is very reachable. A seventh 30-HR, 100-RBI season is achievable too, but that would represent a brilliant year for Papi.