While Major League Baseball’s Opening Day was “officially” yesterday, the majority of the league doesn’t start playing until next week. For the Red Sox, next Thursday is the day. With one week left to go before the 2012 Red Sox officially take the field, it’s time for my annual season preview and a closer look at the lineup. Here we go…
My 2012 Boston Red Sox Lineup—If I was Bobby Valentine, here’s how I’d pencil them in:
1) Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2) Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3) David Ortiz, DH
4) Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5) Kevin Youkilis, 3B
6) Carl Crawford, LF
7) Cody Ross, RF
8) Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
9) Mike Aviles, SS
1) Jon Lester
2) Josh Beckett
3) Clay Buchholz
4) Daniel Bard
5) Felix Doubront
Alfredo Aceves, Middle Relief
Aaron Cook, Middle Relief
Mark Melancon, Setup Man
Andrew Bailey, Closer
Utilty Players/Other Potential Contributors
Nick Punto, Utility Infielder
Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald & Ryan Sweeney, Utility Outfielders
Kelly Shoppach & Ryan Lavarnway, Backup Catchers
Jose Iglesias & Lars Anderson, Minor League Call-ups
Rich Hill, Franklin Morales, Daisuke Matsuzaka & Andrew Miller, Pitching Depth
Now that you have a sense of the role I see each of these guys playing, here are some general “managerial” thoughts, starting with the biggest offseason addition the Red Sox made, Bobby Valentine.
When Bobby Valentine was first hired, I swallowed hard and decided to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He certainly isn’t Terry Francona 2.0, but he does have a track record of turning teams around.
I have been pretty mum on the Bobby Valentine front so far this spring, and to be truthful, the guy will not have been given a fair shake until he gets some games under his belt that actually count.
So what’s my point? The point is, the verdict on Bobby Valentine is still out. That said, I will tell you that as of right now I hate just about everything about this guy. Maybe he’s great with the team in the clubhouse, I don’t know, but he needs to shut his mouth when talking to the media. This whole notion of “there’s nowhere to hide” doesn’t fly with me.
My Starting Lineup
I don’t think there are too many surprises in my starting lineup, with the exception of David Ortiz hitting third. My argument here is simple: I don’t buy into the whole lefty-righty-lefty-righty ordeal as much as most people do.
This lineup is otherwise very strong in that regard, and I think that Ortiz and Gonzalez are true No. 3 or No. 4 hitters, so I want them to hit back-to-back. I think that Gonzalez hitting behind Ortiz will more greatly benefit Ortiz than if the roles were reversed.
The other area of possible contention with this lineup is that I sided with Bobby Valentine (or Ben Cherington, who knows) and started Mike Aviles over Jose Iglesias, who will start the season in Triple-A.
I don’t care if Iglesias is Ozzie Smith with the glove, if you’re hitting .200 in spring training you aren’t Major League ready. You better be hitting .280+ in Triple-A if you even want to smell the big leagues. Give him some time to work on his hitting and move him up when he’s ready—what’s the rush?
The starting rotation has been the big topic of discussion with the Red Sox this spring. I for one am not a fan of Daniel Bard being in the rotation, but I left him in this spot because I think it’s inevitable. That said, the fact of the matter is that Bard struggled, very much so, as a starter in college and in the minors.
While his stuff is devastating, guys that throw that hard are never as tough the second and third time through the opposing lineup. He just doesn’t seem like a great fit to me, but I do love having both Aaron Cook and Alfredo Aceves available for long relief as opposed to starting them.
I am putting my faith in Felix Doubront. He’s a lefty with good stuff, and the scouting report on him actually reads well. The knock against Doubront is that he doesn’t have a devastating strikeout pitch, but he’s young and shows a lot of potential. I’m very happy to give him the opportunity to start in the fifth spot.
This is certainly the short-list of relievers, but these guys will all need to play a big role for the Sox this year. Frankly, Melancon or Bailey could be the closer. Aceves was a stud last year, and I love Cook even though he semi-sucks because I think sinkerball pitchers are valuable in their ability to produce ground ball outs (remember Derek Lowe?).
Utility Players/Other Potential Contributors
Who knows what we’re going to get out of Dice-K this year? He could go 18-3, or he could spend the season folding origami on the bench. Nick Punto does nothing for me, but I think Ryan Kalish and especially Ryan Lavarnway both have large upside if they’re given some time to develop.
Lars Anderson is also an exciting prospect to me, although there’s not much room for him at the moment.
I’m not going to sit here and yell to everyone in Boston about how great the Red Sox are going to be this year. I’m just not. In general, I think this is a wait-and-see season and that’s what I’ll do. That said, I am very optimistic. This team does have a ton of talent, too much to stink unless Bobby Valentine really loses control of the reins.
Do I think the Red Sox will make the playoffs? Absolutely. But I’ll leave it at that, at least for now. I think this season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive seasons in recent baseball history, especially in the American League. The Yankees will be good. Detroit will be awesome. So will the Angels. And as we learned last year, you can never forget the Rays.
This is a big year for the Red Sox after last year’s collapse—it’ll undoubtedly set the tone for the new direction of the club. I for one am looking forward to it.
Geoff Roberts is the Founder & Managing Editor of howiGit.com, a Boston sports blog.