The Red Sox are hoping that a lot of offseason changes will lead to a more successful season in 2013.
Although spring training may have just begun, it is never too early to look at early projections for the Boston Red Sox’s final 25-man roster.
With Boston having a 2013 payroll of approximately $162 million, according to WEEI’s Alex Speier, the team is loaded with many veteran players. Despite having such an experienced squad, not every spot on the roster has been locked up.
With emerging talented young players and others returning from serious injuries and/or disappointing 2012 seasons, there are plenty of situations worth watching in Fort Myers.
The Red Sox disappointed many last year with a 93-loss season that had as many behind-the-scenes issues appearing in the papers as box scores. This season, the team is seeking to create a more positive clubhouse environment, which The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham writes is starting with new manager John Farrell.
Through all the training, evaluation and re-calibrating, a final team will be assembled in time for the first regular season game of the year on April 1 against the New York Yankees.
Click through to see early projections for Boston’s 25-man roster as spring games get underway.
The Red Sox look to have much more pitching depth in 2013 than they had last season.
All teams have players who enter spring training without any question regarding their spot on the roster.
The Red Sox have a high number of these players who can rest assured that, outside of injury, they will be traveling north to Boston when the regular season starts.
Let’s start with the pitchers who are assured of a roster spot.
Andrew Bailey, Relief Pitcher: He was injured for much of last season and lost the closer role upon his return, appearing in just 19 games and posting a 7.04 ERA. However, he has made public assurances that he is fine being the setup man this season to new closer Joel Hanrahan.
Craig Breslow, Relief Pitcher: The durable lefty came to Boston in a mid-season trade last year. He has averaged 70 appearances over the past four seasons, prompting the Red Sox to sign him to a two-year contract this offseason.
Clay Buchholz, Starting Pitcher: He has experienced a variety of injuries and fluctuating production during his career before becoming Boston’s most consistent starter over the second half of last season, posting a 3.76 ERA. As long as a recent hamstring injury doesn’t prove to be serious, he will be counted on to be a major piece of the 2013 rotation.
Ryan Dempster, Starting Pitcher: Signed to a two-year free-agent contract this offseason, Boston fans hope that his 5.09 ERA during a 12-start stint with the Texas Rangers last season, his first career AL action, isn’t a sign of things to come.
Felix Doubront, Starting Pitcher: The left-hander was a revelation last season, winning 11 games and striking out 167 before tiring down the stretch. Just 25, the Red Sox will look to him to make another jump in his development in 2013.
Joel Hanrahan, Relief Pitcher: He was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates this past offseason to be Boston’s new closer. It will be considered a great move if he is closer to the pitcher who posted a 1.83 ERA in 2011, rather than the one who gave up eight home runs and 36 walks in 59.2 innings last year.
John Lackey, Starting Pitcher: After disappointing production during his first two years in Boston and missing all of last season, he will look to revive his career in the back of the rotation. He has already started off well by reporting to camp in great shape.
Jon Lester, Starting Pitcher: With a 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA in 2012, the left-hander suffered the most disappointing season of his career. Regardless, he will be looked to as the team’s ace once again this year.
Andrew Miller, Relief Pitcher: Although he is a former top starting pitching prospect, the Red Sox found that he was best suited for relief after two years of trial and error. The team hopes that his career-best 3.35 ERA and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 53 games last season are signs of even better things to come.
Koji Uehara, Relief Pitcher: The 38-year-old Japanese right-hander was signed to a free-agent contract this offseason. FanGraphs.com’s Jack Moore wrote that Uehara has special control, which will come in handy in the Boston bullpen.
The Red Sox are seeking a balanced lineup this season.
Here are the hitters who, if healthy, are guaranteed a roster spot once the Red Sox break camp.
Stephen Drew, Shortstop: Signed to a one-year deal this offseason as a stop-gap until Boston’s top prospect, Xander Bogaerts, is ready to take over, Drew will look to rebound from injury-plagued 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Outfielder: One year away from hitting free agency for the first time, Ellsbury has missed a total of 236 games during the past three seasons. However, the Red Sox will gladly entertain bringing him back long term if he can repeat his 2011 season, which saw him finish second in AL MVP voting.
Jonny Gomes, Outfielder: He was signed as a free agent this past offseason because of his ability to hit lefties (.284 batting average and .894 OPS for his career) and reputation as a positive clubhouse presence.
Will Middlebrooks, Third Baseman: Hopefully, Middlebrooks can return healthy from a broken wrist, which caused him to miss the final two months of his productive rookie season. The Red Sox were 43-32 when he played and 26-61 when he didn’t get on the field last year, showing the potential impact he can have on the team.
Mike Napoli, First Baseman: He had a busy offseason, finding out about a previously undiagnosed hip condition and going through nearly two months of contract negotiations with Boston before settling on a one-year deal. He will be the team’s starting first baseman, the first time he has played the position on a regular basis in his career.
David Ortiz, Designated Hitter: He was having a fantastic 2012 season (.318 batting average and 1.026 OPS) before missing the second half with a heel injury. Nevertheless, the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox inked a two-year extension in the offseason and will look to anchor the lineup.
Dustin Pedroia, Second Baseman: The unofficial face of the Red Sox, the 2008 AL MVP was also identified as the team’s “sexiest” player during the media storm surrounding former manager Terry Francona’s recent tell-all book.
David Ross, Catcher: He was signed to a two-year free-agent contract this past offseason to provide veteran leadership to the team’s catching corps.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Catcher: Despite a number of defensive and offensive deficiencies, the Red Sox love the switch-hitter’s power, which produced 25 home runs last season.
Shane Victorino, Outfielder: The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” was signed to a three-year free-agent contract, which shocked a number of baseball insiders because the switch-hitter was thought to be in decline. He will play right field and hopes to replicate the production he gave the Philadelphia Phillies during their five-year run (2007-2011) of consecutive playoff appearances.
Some players will earn roster spots by what they do on the field this spring.
A number of players will have to fight to make the roster. Versatility will be just as important as talent when it comes down to who will earn their spot.
Pedro Ciriaco, Infielder: His ability to play all over the field makes him a very valuable bench player. Just don’t expect him to match last season’s .293 batting average.
Clayton Mortensen, Relief Pitcher: He posted a very respectable 3.21 ERA with Boston last season. Although there are those who are higher paid or have higher upsides, he will earn the role of long man out of the bullpen with his quiet consistency.
Daniel Nava, Outfielder: The scrappy switch-hitter is currently learning to play first base. That potential versatility, along with a .352 career major-league OBP, will earn him a spot on the bench.
Ryan Sweeney, Outfielder: Back for a second season in Boston, but this time on a minor-league deal, he will earn his roster spot because of his ability to play good defense in all three outfield positions.
Junichi Tazawa, Relief Pitcher: The right-hander returned from Tommy John surgery to post a 1.43 ERA in 37 major-league games last year.
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney recently wrote that David Ross said Tazawa’s splitter ranks among the best he has ever caught, providing another sign that he belongs in the majors.
Despite the hard work, a number of players are disappointed about not making the team each spring training.
Undoubtedly, the Red Sox will have too many talented players for too few available roster spots. However, some of these players who don't make the team out of spring training could very well be seen in Boston before the season is over.
Alfredo Aceves, Pitcher: The team may have been willing to overlook last season’s disappointing numbers (5.26 ERA) and clubhouse issues. However, his bizarre clash with the coaching staff during a recent practice will be a catalyst for his departure from Boston.
Daniel Bard, Relief Pitcher: After his epic struggles last season following a conversion to starting, the Red Sox should take things easy with the flame-throwing right-hander. Although he is already receiving accolades this spring, he still has a minor-league option left, and Boston won’t bring him back unless they are certain he is ready.
Mauro Gomez: First Baseman/Third Baseman: Although he has hit in the minors, he doesn’t offer enough defensive value to be a viable option off Boston’s bench. He may return to Triple-A but could also be a candidate to be dealt to a Japanese team.
Brock Holt, Infielder: He came over in the Hanrahan trade, and while he has a much better bat than Ciriaco, he doesn’t offer enough defensive versatility to beat out the incumbent yet.
Jose Iglesias, Shortstop: The regular playing time he needs to hone the skills necessary to finish his development won’t be available in Boston. There is already a roster spot in Triple-A Pawtucket with his name on it.
Ryan Lavarnway, Catcher: See Igelsias, Jose.
Franklin Morales, Pitcher: This may be the team’s toughest cut. The left-hander pitched well in nine starts after converting from relief last season, but there simply isn’t room for him on the roster in 2013.
Lyle Overbay, First Baseman: Signed to a minor-league deal this past offseason, the 36-year-old veteran’s glove can’t compensate enough for his declining offensive production.
Statistics via BaseballReference