AL East Preview: Can the Red Sox Return to Postseason Glory?

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AL East Preview: Can the Red Sox Return to Postseason Glory?

Here's an updated version of a previous article I wrote, with some more details:

As you know, the Red Sox came within one game of going back to the World Series last year, but fell short to the Rays.

In 2009, they are in good contention to go back to the playoffs, but there are issues:

 

Projected Rotation

SP Josh Beckett 12-10, 4.03 ERA, 1.19 WHIP (health issues)

SP Daisuke Matsuzaka 18-3, 2.90 ERA, 1.32 WHIP (strong, but control an issue)

SP Jon Lester 16-6, 3.21 ERA, 1.27 WHIP (gave up most hits of Red Sox pitchers...control could be improved, as well)

SP Tim Wakefield 10-11, 4.13 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (problem with giving up HRs, though)

SP John Smoltz/Brad Penny/Clay Buchholz/Justin Masterson

Strong rotation, but there are concerns whether Jon Lester and Dice-K can repeat the success of 2008, whether John Smoltz and Brad Penny can come back from injuries, and whether Tim Wakefield will be effective. In addition, there are questions about the consistency of Josh Beckett, after a disappointing 2008.

On the positive side, there are many strong arms in the Red Sox system, including Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, and others. Junichi Tazawa's upside is still up in the air, though. In addition, Masterson can be stretched out to be a starter.

 

Bullpen

CP Johnathon Papelbon

SU Takashi Saito (if healthy)

RP Ramon Ramirez

RP Hideki Okajima

RP Manny Delcarmen

RP Javier Lopez

RP Justin Masterson

There are still questions about long relief (if any), and Wes Littleton's role is up in the air, as he is out of Minor League options. In addition, there are some health concerns with Ramon Ramirez and Takashi Saito.

No word on Mike Timlin, but it is expected he will retire.

 

Starting Lineup (Not in batting order.. that is TBD)

CF Ellsbury

2B Pedroia

DH Ortiz

1B Youkilis

LF Bay

RF Drew

3B Lowell

SS Lowrie

C Varitek

Strong starting nine, but there are concerns about the decline of Ortiz and Lowell, along with JD Drew's injuries. In addition, will Jason Varitek's bad 2008 be a sign of things to come for his future? Can Jed Lowrie be a major-league ready shortstop? Are Youkilis and Pedroia's 2008 numbers an anomaly?

 

Red Sox Bench

OF Baldelli

C Bard or Kottaras (Kottaras is out of options)

OF/1B Wilkerson

IF Lugo

ON THE DL: OF/1B Mark Kotsay- out until late April

Nice addition with Baldelli, but can he stay healthy, due to his health problems when he played for the Rays. Lugo is currently owed over $9M in his contract, meaning he will likely be traded if he cannot claim a starting job, with the Red Sox likely to eat salary. Kotsay was to return after some success late last season, but will miss April with injuries. Brad Wilkerson is the likely candidate to fill in.

Still up in the air is the backup catching position, with Bard in decline, Kottaras out of options, and a need for a catcher who can catch Tim Wakefield's knuckleballs. It will likely be Bard catching Wakefield, as has been previously announced.

 

Review

The Red Sox should be strong again, keeping up with the Tampa Bay Rays overall. However, offensive declines in Ortiz and Lowell could be a red flag. In addition, will their pitching stay strong in 2008?

Projected record: 93 wins (may drop if injuries occur).

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