Rebuilding mode has commenced for the Red Sox and John Farrell has turned a new leaf in Boston.
While past players and managers have fallen off the tree, new talent and growth is beginning to bud. However, a heavy burden still lies on the players to turn the organization around and prove that the fundamentals of baseball are more important than big, fancy contracts.
Here are five players that have the ability to create a positive or negative impact on the field.
As of now, John Lackey is the weakest link in the Red Sox starting rotation.
Feb. 23 marked the right-hander’s first day back on the mound since Sept. 25, 2011. He claimed that he felt no pain after throwing competitively post Tommy John surgery. According to ESPN, he threw 20 pitches, 10 of which were strikes and one fastball (88-89 mph).
While the Sox are in a rebuilding stage, they need to become a threat on the mound like they once were. With rookies and struggling veterans all in need of a good year, the Sox need Lackey’s LAA stats.
When Jacoby Ellsbury is healthy, he is making a difference offensively—key word: “when.”
In 2011, Ellsbury was the runner-up for the AL MVP with a .321 BA, 32 homers, 105 RBI and a .928 OPS. His absence last season did not go unnoticed as Red Sox Nation sat through 79 long games and over 711 miserable innings without the lefty.
Ellsbury's speed, agility and swing are not only a factor in the success of the upcoming season, but also what uniform he will wear in 2014.
Will Middlebrooks’ mental game is the most important facet of his performance in 2013. He has to have the confidence to not fall into his sophomore slump.
Middlebrooks was given his chance to shine when Bobby Valentine gave Kevin Youkilis the boot. In 75 games the third baseman notched 15 homers and 45 RBI. However, ESPN's scouting report notes having Middlebrooks on the roster means the Sox are hoping he can produce in clutch situations, not day-to-day batting averages.
Great resources surround the rookie, with David Ortiz as his mentor and former third baseman Mike Lowell as a part-time coach.
Middlebrooks said, in his blog on ESPN.com, the biggest difference between the spring training last and in 2013: “I’m no longer stuck in the corner of the locker room scared to open my mouth. I’m not sure if you’d say I have a voice or not in here, but I know I won’t get thrown into a trash can if I speak now.”
Here’s to hoping a second-year slump bypasses Middlebrooks.
Things just have not been the same lately with Dustin Pedroia.
Think of when things start to go awry with your significant other, you want to fill the void they use to occupy, but the two of you have not been syncing lately.
Pedroia is still a beloved commodity in Boston but the former AL MVP and three-time All-Star has been in a slump—seeing drops in slugging numbers and in OPS. While almost every player is given a pass for last season because—well just because—he failed to rise to occasion and lead his team in the right direction, despite disputes with Bobby V.
While age is catching up to soon-to-be 30-year-old, the Red Sox need his Gold Glove and slugging proficiencies, not only for the stats, but for the motivational hoist within in team.
Signing Mike Napoli was like buying a used luxury car. You know it looks great and has the fancy features you have always dreamed of, but the mechanics could be a hassle to fix, especially when they come at such a high price.
Thankfully, the Red Sox bargained their way into more of a “test drive” with the former Texas Ranger by avoiding a nearly $40 million contract and only signing the first baseman for a one year, $5 million deal.
Napoli's mechanical issues entail a hip condition, Avascular Necrosis. While the season’s success does not solely lie on Napoli’s health, he was signed for his power hitting. If Napoli’s hip permits, he could have a positive impact on the Sox’s box score.