5 Surprising Players Who Will Be Big Impacts for the Red Sox in 2013
The Red Sox had several surprising players who made big impacts for the team in 2012.
Will Middlebrooks emerged as a promising, power-hitting third baseman during Kevin Youkilis’ struggles.
Cody Ross hit very well at home and against left-handed pitching, as he outperformed his inexpensive one-year, $3 million contract.
Junichi Tazawa dominated out of the bullpen and posted a mere 1.43 ERA last season.
Franklin Morales was a great middle reliever and stepped up as a spot starter toward the end of the season.
Lastly, Pedro Ciriaco crushed the ball against the Yankees and rose to the occasion during the flux of injuries to the infield.
Five more players will rise to the occasion and outperform their expectations in 2013. None of them are high-profile players, but they will make a big impact for the Red Sox this upcoming season.
1. Andrew Bailey
For the second straight season, Andrew Bailey will not be the closer the Red Sox traded for.
Bailey was supposed to replace current Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon in 2012, but he missed the first four-and-a-half months of the season due to thumb surgery.
The former Athletics reliever was expected to finally close games in 2013, but the Red Sox traded for two-time All-Star Joel Hanrahan instead.
Although Bailey is not expected to be the team’s closer, he will still make a big impact as a late-inning reliever in 2013.
The 28-year-old made just 19 appearances in 2012 and finished the season with a 7.04 ERA, 1.89 WHIP and a .318 BAA. However, those numbers were inflated due to a horrible final stretch.
Through September 4, Bailey had two saves, a 1.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over nine appearances. Through September 18, he had four saves, one win, a 3.09 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 14 appearances.
Then, in the final five appearances of the season, the closer posted a 22.50 ERA and 4.09 WHIP.
Bailey has proven to be very effective when healthy in his career. Before joining the Red Sox, he averaged a 2.07 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 in his first three seasons. He recorded a 3.24 ERA in 2011, a 1.47 ERA in 2010 and a 1.84 mark in 2009 with the A’s.
If Bailey is healthy throughout 2013, he will demonstrate why the Red Sox traded Josh Reddick for him. Last season, Reddick hit two fewer home runs (33) than Cody Ross, Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford combined (35) in 167 fewer games.
Bailey will thrive in his new role as a setup man. He will still make a big impact for the Red Sox in 2013, despite losing his spot as the team’s closer.
2. Jonny Gomes
Jonny Gomes had an average season in 2012. He hit .262 and slugged .491 with 18 home runs, 47 runs batted in and a solid .377 on-base percentage over 99 games.
However, he will outperform his new two-year, $10 million deal with the Red Sox.
That is, if he can stay healthy.
Like Cody Ross last season, Gomes could be the team’s best signing this offseason, given his low price and potential performance.
Gomes and Ross have posted similar numbers throughout their careers. However, Gomes signed a contract for just $5 million per year, while Ross signed a contract for $8.7 million per year this offseason.
Ross’ best numbers since his first full season in 2008 include a .288 batting average, 24 home runs, 90 RBI and a .488 slugging percentage. Gomes’ best numbers during that span include a .267 AVG, 20 HRs, 86 RBI and a .541 SLG.
Both right-handed batters hit well against left-handed pitching. Gomes has only played seven less games in his career, and he posts the exact same career average (.284) versus LHP as Ross does.
Both right-handed hitters also have pull power. Ross took advantage of the Green Monster in left field, slugging .565 and hitting 25 doubles at home. Gomes will likely do the same in 2013.
The two 32-year-old outfielders are separated by just 31 days in age. The biggest difference between the two is that Ross has played in at least 120 games in each of the last six seasons, while Gomes has only done that twice during that span.
Red Sox Nation shouldn’t expect Gomes to finish with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Hitting 25 HRs and 90 RBI might also be a stretch too.
But for $16 million less than Ross, Gomes will outperform his inexpensive contract thanks to his bat and clubhouse personality. He should put up similar numbers to what Ross had in 2012.
The animated outfielder will be a surprise and make a big impact for the Red Sox both on and off the field in 2013.
3. Ryan Lavarnway
Ryan Lavarnway is listed as the backup catcher, but he will get increased playing time in 2013.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia posted career-high numbers in home runs (25), runs batted in (59) and slugging percentage (.454) in 2012. However, he hit just .222 with a very low .288 on-base percentage.
Salty hit 24 of his 25 homers against right-handed pitching, and he posted a low .170/.211/.283 line against southpaws.
That’s where Lavarnway comes into play.
The 25-year-old Yale graduate struggled in the majors last season and hit just .157 with a .211 OBP and .248 SLG. He also hit just .180 and slugged .280 versus LHP.
However, the catcher was named the “Best Power Prospect” in the International League in 2011 and the “Best Defensive Catcher” in 2012, according to Baseball America.
In 2011, he hit .295 and slugged .612 with 18 doubles, 18 homers and 55 RBIs in AAA. He also crushed LHP with Boston that season, going 5-for-17 (.294) with two homers, a .647 SLG and .980 OPS.
The right-handed hitter’s numbers tapered off in both the minor league and major league levels in 2012. But given Salty’s horrible walk-to-strikeout ratio, low on-base percentage and poor numbers against left-handed pitching, Lavarnway should see increased playing time in 2013.
Lavarnway will live up to the hype and show off his power in 2013. He will contribute as both a backup catcher against left-handed pitching and maybe even as a designated hitter on David Ortiz’s days off.
The once highly touted prospect will break out in 2013 and prove he could be a long-term option for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia will enter free agency in 2014, and Lavarnway will be playing for the open starting catcher’s position.
That is, if he doesn’t get traded during the season because of the surplus of catchers on the roster.
4. Clayton Mortensen
Clayton Mortensen is another lesser-known reliever the Red Sox traded for in 2012. Before last season, the former Rockies reliever was acquired in exchange for Marco Scutaro.
The lanky, 6’4” and 185-pound reliever breezed through AAA before getting to the professional level last season. He recorded a 1.17 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, allowing just three runs, two home runs, 13 hits and seven walks over 23.0 innings with Pawtucket.
The Red Sox first called up Mortensen to the majors on May 2. The soon-to-be 28-year-old posted career-best numbers in ERA (3.21), WHIP (1.21), BAA (.212) and K/9 (8.8) in 2012.
The Idaho native also thrived at Fenway Park and posted a 3.00 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .213 BAA and 10.1 K/9 in front of the home crowd.
However, Mortensen was abysmal in the final three months of the season.
The Red Sox closed out July with a 54-51 record, and Mortensen had a 1.17 ERA at the time. Then, the team won just 15 of its final 57 games, and the reliever posted a 5.68 ERA over that span.
When the team did well, Mortensen did well. The Red Sox should have a .500 record or better this season, and the lanky pitcher should post an ERA below 3.00 this year.
Mortensen had a breakout season in 2012, and he will be a major contributor in the bullpen on an improved Red Sox team in 2013.
5. David Ross
It's strange to have two catchers on this list. But with so many catchers on the 40-man roster and Jarrod Saltalamacchia possibly on his way out, two backup catchers could make a big impact in 2013.
David Ross was a cheap free-agent signing for two years and $6.4 million.
His biggest contribution to the team will not be his bat, but his defense.
Ross has a career .238 AVG and .444 SLG. He’s played fewer than 80 games in all but two of his 11 professional seasons.
On top of that, he has averaged about 57 games played, five homers and 21 runs batted in per season since 2008.
However, his defense and pitch calling will be a major help to the starting rotation, which posted an awful 5.19 ERA in 2012.
Since 2009, Ross has a .992 fielding percentage, throws out base runners at a rate of 40 percent and has not recorded a catcher’s ERA greater than 4.00. The soon-to-be 36-year-old had a 3.43 CERA in 2009, 3.15 CERA in 2010, 3.11 CERA in 2011 and 3.59 CERA in 2012.
During that span, Salty has a .988 fielding percentage, throws out just 25 percent of base runners and has not recorded a catcher’s ERA better than 4.00. On top of that, he’s allowed 163 stolen bases over the last two seasons.
Fellow B/R writer, Andrew Martin, strongly makes the case that the Red Sox should even start Ross over Saltalamacchia for his much better defense and slightly better career OBP and SLG numbers.
I couldn't agree more. Ross' defense and ability to help the starting rotation is more valuable than Salty's bat.
The addition of Ross is similar to why the Red Sox held onto Jason Varitek for so long. Neither rank as great hitters, but both provide great defensive value.
For a low price, Ross will make a major impact with the Red Sox for his defense and ability to call games behind the plate.
He will be one of the most underrated players on the team in 2013.
Statistics used and developed through Baseball Reference.