Lester is one of several Red Sox players feeling the heat
Following the 2012 season, a year that has been labeled a disaster in almost every sense of the word, the entire Red Sox organization is under pressure to perform at a higher level this coming season.
However, there are several players in particular who will shoulder a great deal of responsibility for the team’s success going forward, whether for contractual reasons or due to their own inconsistencies on the field. Here are four such players who will be in hot water in 2013.
Salty is entering his third season as Boston primary backstop
Saltalamacchia is an interesting case. Since being acquired via trade near the end of 2010, Salty, as he is known in Boston, has caught 225 games for the Red Sox.
Though he won’t be confused with his predecessor, Jason Varitek, Salty's performance thus far has been admirable.
Last year, Salty had the best season of his young career, launching 25 home runs and vastly improving his defense. Salty was even considered a contender to join the All-Star squad.
However, unlike last year, Salty now has some stiff competition for the starting catcher role. Former Braves backup, David Ross, is a significantly better defender and has plenty of pop in his bat.
Former top prospect Ryan Lavarnway will also be a threat to Salty’s job down the stretch, as he has nothing left to prove in the minors. Lavarnway’s defense may be lacking, but his bat is very real. He should hit for power and a decent average once he nails down an everyday position.
Furthermore, Salty will be a free agent after this season, and offensively capable backstops are often a hot commodity on the open market. A strong 2013 performance would go a long way towards earning him a lucrative contract.
However, if he underperforms and loses his job to one of the two aforementioned catchers, it will be a tough offseason for Salty.
Next, we arrive at the most controversial figure currently occupying a spot in the Red Sox clubhouse.
Alfredo Aceves inked a minor league deal with Boston before the 2011 season with little fanfare. Most analysts assumed he would be forgotten somewhere deep on the minor league depth chart.
Instead, he proved to be the most valuable arm in the bullpen, tossing a league-leading 93 innings of relief and posting a cool 2.03 ERA coming out of the ‘pen.
Unfortunately, Aceves failed to replicate that performance in 2012, instead pitching 84 innings to the tune of a horrendous 5.36 ERA, a performance that lost him the closer spot down the stretch.
His regression last year is not the only area of concern. Last season, Aceves revealed his fiery temper in several run ins with former manager Bobby Valentine. His behavior raised the possibility that he may be a threat to the clubhouse culture. Furthermore, his lack of effort during live batting practice this spring is a confirmation of sorts that his character is a negative factor in Boston.
Aceves will be earning $2.65 million in 2013 through arbitration. Another season like 2012 will make him one of Boston’s most overpaid players, and may prompt the Red Sox to trade him.
However, if Aceves can keep his temper quiet and post numbers closer to his 2011 performance, his contract may be the steal of the offseason.
Victorino is the newest Red Sock on this list
Victorino is in hot water for one reason: The Red Sox handed him the largest contract of their offseason.
The switch-hitting speedster does a little bit of everything on the field. He is a lock for Gold Glove-defense and at least 20-30 stolen bases. He has historically hit for average, lead the league in triples twice and has flashed a fair amount of home run pop.
If Victorino can do all those things, he will be an absolute steal at $13 million per year. However, there are several factors that suggest that he may not reach such a lofty goal.
Victorino is on the wrong side of 30, and therefore may never post the All-Star caliber numbers that he once did. Furthermore, his 2012 season, when he mustered a meager .255/.321/.383 batting line is a serious area of concern.
Some may say that his age and weak 2012 season is a sign of more regression to come. However, moving to a hitter’s league and hitter’s park might help Victorino return to his former glory. If he doesn’t, the Red Sox will have seriously overpaid. For these reasons, Victorino will be in hot water this coming year.
Red Sox fans are praying that Lester rebounds in 2013
In all honesty, this slide should truly encompass the entire Red Sox rotation. Every one of Boston’s starting pitchers will be under extreme heat and pressure to perform well in 2013. With any luck at all, Boston might have a few diamonds by the end of the year.
Focusing more exclusively on Boston’s ace, Jon Lester has had a rocky career thus far. Since signing out of high school in 2002, the Red Sox have seen Lester go from an inexperienced thrower, to a superb staff ace, to a decent mid-rotation starter and most recently to a mediocre back-end pitcher.
Lester’s recent regression is somewhat of a mystery. By all accounts, his pure stuff is just as strong as it has ever been and he hasn’t stumbled upon any major injuries to speak of.
It appears that Lester is the same pitcher he was two seasons ago when he led the league in K/9 rate and finished fourth in Cy Young voting.
The Red Sox need their ace back if they hope to come anywhere close to contending in 2013. In fact, one could even go as far as to say that their entire season hinges on whether or not Lester has a rebound season. His strong first spring appearance offers a glimmer of hope for Lester and the Red Sox as a whole.
Thus, Lester is in the hottest water of any player on the Red Sox roster. Will he return to his former glory? Only time will tell. Here’s to hoping that he does.