Boston Red Sox: Final Predictions for the Opening Day 25-Man Roster
Spring training has been quite the couple of weeks in Ft. Myers, with a lot of the positional battles starting to come to a close and the winners soon to become obvious.
Coming into camp, Boston had to fill two spots in the rotation, figure out who their starting shortstop would be and determine who would be coming out of the bullpen during the season. There are, of course, battles just to find a spot on the roster as well.
Let's take a look at who made the cut and will open the 2012 season on the 25-man roster.
*All statistics are as of March 25
Jon Lester, Starting Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 1-1 (three games), 5.73 ERA, 11 IP, 4 K, 7 BB
No-brainer right here, as manager Bobby Valentine has already announced that Jon Lester will start on Opening Day against the Tigers, according to the Boston Globe's Peter Abraham.
The Boston lefty went 15-9 last season with a 3.47 ERA. He is 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in three career starts against Detroit.
Josh Beckett, Starting Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 1-0 (four games), 1.29 ERA, 14 IP, 5 K, 5 BB
Josh Beckett as the No. 2 starter is another easy one. He has had a very good spring and seems determined to make a big comeback after a disappointing end to last season.
Beckett, an All-Star last year, went 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 30 starts for the Red Sox.
Clay Buchholz, Starting Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 2-2 (four games), 4.80 ERA, 15 IP, 10 K, 3 BB
Despite a relatively high ERA over the course of the four games he's appeared in this spring, Clay Buchholz is healthy and that's all that should matter.
Buchholz missed the majority of the 2011 season with a stress fracture in his back, as he only appeared in 14 games, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA.
Boston's lack of quality starting pitching is really dependent on Buchholz and his ability to stay healthy over the course of the entire season.
Felix Doubront, Starting Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 1-0 (four games), 2.70 ERA, 16.2 IP, 10 K, 6 BB
Felix Doubront is having about as good a spring as he could've asked for, and is really turning the heads of the coaches and the front office.
I recently wrote about how he is winning the rotation race and that he should end up as one of the five starters, as I'm predicting here.
He's only had limited time in the major leagues over the last two seasons, and has rarely started games when he was called up. In 23 career games (three starts), Doubront is 2-2 with a 4.84 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 35.1 innings of work.
He is already one of the surprises this year, and hopefully he can carry his recent success into the regular season.
Aaron Cook, Starting Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 0-0 (three games), 1.93 ERA, 9.1 IP, 4 K, 3 BB
Aaron Cook also came into spring training (being invited as a non-roster invitee) looking to win a spot on the 25-man roster, and he's done a very good job thus far.
Cook hasn't pitched as often as some of the other contenders, but he's been very effective and, in the end, I think that Valentine would rather have him as a starter than Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves, both who fit well into the bullpen.
Appearing in 18 games last season with the Colorado Rockies, Cook struggled, going 3-10 a 6.03 ERA in 97 innings.
Vicente Padilla, Relief Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 1-0 (five games), 4.09 ERA, 11 IP, 9 K, 1 BB
Vicente Padilla has had a great spring, but an injury to his hamstring will send him to the bullpen, says Valentine, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo.
Padilla came into camp as a non-roster invitee and was really pitching well, but he will still be effective coming out of the bullpen and as a spot-starter, if need be.
The 34-year-old pitched in less than 10 innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.
Daniel Bard, Relief Pitcher
Starting Statistics: 1-2 (five games), 7.23 ERA, 18.2 IP, 11 K, 13 BB
This is one of my more controversial picks, but I think in the end it's the best option for both the Red Sox as a team and for Daniel Bard.
Bard has struggled in his transition from a reliever to a starter, but might be starting to get the hang of it. Trying to convert the former setup man was a good idea, in theory, but, unfortunately, I don't think he's done enough to really win a spot on the rotation.
Last season, coming out of the bullpen, Bard pitched in 70 games for the Red Sox, going 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA in 73 innings.
Michael Bowden, Relief Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 0-0 (six games), 2.25 ERA, 8 IP, 7 K, 1 BB
This young flame-thrower has really shown improvement this spring and is a good fit in the bullpen for 2012.
Michael Bowden has primarily pitched in Boston's minor-league system over the last few years, only appearing in 23 big-league games.
He's young. He throws hard. He has command. What isn't there to like about him?
Andrew Miller, Relief Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 0-0 (three games), 0.00 ERA, 3 IP, 5 K, 2 BB
Andrew Miller hasn't seen a lot of time during spring training, but Valentine will need a left-hander coming out of the bullpen and Miller is a better fit than Franklin Morales. Miller was thought to be in contention for a spot in the rotation, but was later ruled out.
Miller started 12 games for the Red Sox last season and came out of the bullpen in five, totaling 65 innings in 17 appearances.
His ability to start when necessary is also a plus and gives him a big advantage over Morales, who is limited to one or two innings per night.
Alfredo Aceves, Relief Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 0-1 (four games), 7.50 ERA, 12 IP, 11 K, 1 BB
Here is another touchy decision—but after getting crushed by the Philadelphia Phillies, I think Alfredo Aceves is on his way back to the bullpen.
Aceves, one of the final candidates for a spot in the starting rotation, pitched three good games this spring and one awful one. He has shown great command, striking out 11 batters in 12 innings but getting hit hard, so late in the spring will really hurt his chances.
Last season, Aceves pitched in 55 games (51 out of the 'pen), but did go 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA in 114 innings. He was a work-horse for the Red Sox in 2011, which opened up the potential opportunity to start in 2012.
Mark Melancon, Relief Pitcher
Spring Statistics: 0-1 (six games), 7.50 ERA, 6 IP, 4 K, 2 BB
The former Houston Astros closer has been a little shaky since coming over to Boston in a deal over the offseason.
In six appearances this spring, Melancon has really only been good in two or three of them, getting hit hard in his last outing against the Orioles even though he only gave up one run.
With my decision to keep Bard and Aceves in the bullpen, a lot of pressure will be taken off of Melancon's back, as they can both be reliable late in the game. Hopefully that will help his overall game.
Andrew Bailey, Closer
Spring Statistics: 0-1 (six games), 4.50 ERA, 6 IP, 7 K, 2 BB
The new Boston closer also hasn't been as good as many of us would've liked to see, but he should settle down as the regular season approaches. Andrew Bailey was the main piece in a trade between the Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics during the offseason.
Bailey's main job will be to replace the void left by former closer Jonathan Papelbon, who chose to sign with the Phillies. Bailey has had success in his three seasons as a major leaguer, converting 75-of-84 potential save situations.
Last season he only pitched in 41.2 innings for the A's, citing injuries, but did save 24 games in 26 chances.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Catcher
Spring Statistics: .211 (4-19), 4 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Even though Jarrod Saltalamacchia was the starting catcher last season, long-time catcher and former captain Jason Varitek is now retired, and Salty will basically be on his own for the 2012 season.
He hasn't had the strongest offensive spring, but is building a better rapport with the pitchers that should make him a more effective catcher for the upcoming season.
In his first season with Boston last year, Saltalamacchia hit .235 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI in 103 games behind the plate.
Adrian Gonzalez, First Baseman
Spring Statistics: .310 (9-29), 5 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI
No surprise here, as Adrian Gonzalez will be the starting first baseman for the Boston Red Sox for the second straight season.
It might seem concerning to some since the power numbers really aren't there this spring, but Gonzalez has been hitting the ball well and does have four doubles to his credit.
Gonzalez had an MVP-caliber first year with the Red Sox, hitting .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBI while playing a great first base. Gonzalez was a Gold Glover as well as a Silver Slugger last season.
Dustin Pedroia, Second Baseman
Spring Statistics: .273 (9-33), 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI
Dustin Pedroia has had a somewhat disappointing spring training compared to the last two, where he hit .350 and .305, respectively. Regardless, he's still Dustin Pedroia and still the hardest worker in the organization.
Pedroia was hit on his wrist the other night and was removed mainly as a precaution, but it doesn't appear to be a serious injury.
The former MVP hit .307 with 21 home runs and 91 RBI while scoring 102 for Boston in 2011. He also took home his second career Gold Glove at second base.
Mike Aviles, Shortstop
Spring Training: .333 (15-45), 6 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI
The main, offensive, spring positional-battle has been at shortstop, and Mike Aviles has run away with this one, easily taking prospect Jose Iglesias and veteran Nick Punto out of the conversation.
Aviles is averaging a hit every three at-bats and has doubled seven times in the 14 games he's played in this spring.
Last season he was used as a utility player, but is now emerging as the starting shortstop for at least the start of the 2012 season. In 38 games with the Red Sox last year, Aviles hit .317 with 17 runs, two home runs and eight RBI.
Kevin Youkilis, Third Baseman
Spring Statistics: .214 (6-28), 1 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI
There's no question that Kevin Youkilis has struggled this spring and that his time as the starting third baseman may be coming to end within the next few months, but for now he's the starter.
Be on the lookout for how Will Middlebrooks does at Triple-A before Boston decides on what to do with Youkilis. Middelbrooks had a good spring but still needs time in the minor leagues before making the jump, while Youkilis only has one extra-base hit in 28 at-bats this year.
Youkilis played in 120 games for the Red Sox last year, hitting .258 in the middle of the lineup with 17 home runs and 80 RBI.
Cody Ross, Left Fielder
Spring Statistics: .355 (11-31), 7 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI
Even if Carl Crawford wasn't going to start the season on the disabled list, Cody Ross would still be one of the three Boston starting outfielders. The only difference is that instead of starting the season in right field, where he's expected to spend most of the season, he'll be starting in left field.
Ross has had an unbelievable spring offensively, really showing off his power to left field. He's hit two bombs and could find himself in the middle of the Boston lineup going forward.
Last season, playing for the San Francisco Giants, Ross hit .240 in 121 games with 14 home runs and 52 RBI.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Center Fielder
Spring Statistics: .282 (11-39), 3 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI
There isn't any question as to where Jacoby Ellsbury will be playing in 2012, but there is some question as to where he hits in the Bobby Valentine lineup.
Ellsbury has hit leadoff for most of his career, but his outstanding power numbers in 2011 could put him in the three-hole at some points during the season.
Ellsbury won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger last season after hitting .321 and setting career-highs with 119 runs, 32 home runs and 105 RBI.
Darnell McDonald, Right Fielder
Spring Statistics: .467 (14-30), 5 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI
If there was an award for the best spring training player, it would be given to Darnell McDonald. Talk about a guy who not only wants a spot on the team, but a guy who will probably start the season as the starting right fielder—at least until Carl Crawford comes off of the DL.
McDonald has been an offensive powerhouse this spring with his .900 slugging percentage, claiming eight extra-base hits in 30 at-bats over 14 games for the outfielder.
Last season, McDonald was used as the backup outfielder, hitting .236 with six home runs and 24 RBI in 79 games during his second season with the Red Sox.
David Ortiz, Designated Hitter
Spring Statistics: .206 (7-34), 5 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI
It's been another average spring training for David Ortiz, but if he's as consistent as we'd like to think, it should be another great season for the best designated hitter in baseball.
Big Papi has had a tough time getting on base in the 12 games he's played in this spring, but has shown a little bit of power, hitting two home runs and driving in four RBI.
Last season, Ortiz hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBI. He has now hit at least 29 home runs in every season since coming to the Red Sox in 2003. The left-handed slugger added his fifth Silver Slugger award to his mantle as well.
Kelly Shoppach, Bench
Spring Statistics: .190 (5-21), 4 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Boston signed this veteran catcher to back up Jarrod Saltalamacchia and be the guide that he might need now that Jason Varitek isn't in the picture anymore. The problem is that Kelly Shoppach has been very bad offensively in 12 games this spring.
If he doesn't start the season on a good note, Boston could easily hand the job to Ryan Lavarnway to take over and then move Shoppach.
Last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, Shoppach hit an embarrassing .176 in 87 games, with 11 home runs and 22 RBI.
Ryan Sweeney, Bench
Spring Statistics: .182 (4-22), 1 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI
Speaking of bad, Ryan Sweeney has been very bad this spring, which could be due to an injury, but he still isn't doing himself any favors. In the eight games he's appeared in, he has yet to register an extra-base hit and is easily losing the job for the fourth outfielder spot.
Since Carl Crawford won't be ready for Opening Day, Sweeney sneaks onto the 25-man roster, but it will be very interesting to see if he's still on it once Crawford returns. Darnell McDonald is making a case for himself that might be hard to take away.
Sweeney came over from Oakland in the Bailey deal this offseason. He played in 108 games for Oakland last year, hitting .265 with only one home run and 25 RBI.
Nick Punto, Bench
Spring Statistics: .280 (7-25), 3 R, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Nick Punto has been exactly what many of us expected him to be—a very average, powerless hitter who will be the utility infielder. Personally, I didn't think prospect Jose Iglesias would give him that big of a run for his money but, for now, Punto gets the nod over Iglesias, who will start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Punto can play nearly every infield position, whereas Iglesias would primarily be the shortstop. Having Punto on the roster gives the Red Sox a lot of different options late in the game.
Last season, Punto played for the World champion St. Louis Cardinals, appearing in 63 games and hitting .278 with one home run and 20 RBI.
Ryan Lavarnway, Bench
Spring Statistics: .455 (15-33), 4 R, 0 HR, 4 RBI
I think that Ryan Lavarnway will win the final spot on the 25-man roster to start the season after having a great spring.
He's shown that he can hit big-league pitching, but what's holding him back is that it's illogical to keep three catchers on the roster. If he can keep hitting the way he has over the past few weeks, he might be able to take away Kelly Shoppach's job.
In a brief, late-season stint with the Red Sox last season, Lavarnway went 9-of-39 with two home runs and eight RBI. He is one of the key pieces to the future of the Boston Red Sox, and his time to get started will be sooner rather than later.