Predicting Boston Red Sox's Opening Day Roster Halfway Through Spring Training
The Boston Red Sox had a very long and interesting offseason, and for the last couple of weeks, management has caught a glimpse of the short- and long-term pictures of the organization.
Boston came into spring training with a ton of new faces, no more important than John Farrell, the team’s former pitching coach who will now be making the decisions as the manager. Getting Farrell back was easily the biggest move the Red Sox made all winter long.
Although we’re only halfway through camp, plenty of players have made their mark—whether it is that they deserve a spot on the 25-man roster come Opening Day or whether they’ll soon be ready to make the jump to the big leagues. A handful of prospects have risen to the opportunity to play with some of the projected regulars.
Getting back to the Opening Day roster for a moment, there are a lot of players on the fringe of making the club. Let’s take a look at who I’ve projected to be at Yankee Stadium on April 1 and who won’t be.
Unfortunately, not everyone in Red Sox camp has been able to stay healthy.
In some instances, even, players have yet to take the field for Boston due to pre-existing injuries that carried over from the 2012 season. Here are the players that I think will end up starting 2013 on the disabled list.
David Ortiz, Designated Hitter
I’ve talked a lot about David Ortiz’s health over the offseason, but here’s a brief recap. Ortiz suffered from a strained Achilles tendon last season, and his recovery has taken longer than originally expected.
After an MRI a couple of days ago, Ortiz was shut down because of a sore left heel. About a week ago, I deemed Ortiz’s chances of playing on Opening Day at around 40 percent. Looking at the situation now, I’d say those chances are slim to none.
Franklin Morales, Relief Pitcher
After tossing an inning this spring, Franklin Morales has suffered from back pain that has led to the assumption that he won’t be ready for the start of the regular season.
John Farrell told Rob Bradford of WEEI that the lefty was sent back to Boston to have the issue examined because he hadn’t been making any progress despite resting. The Red Sox will likely only have one left-handed reliever on the Opening Day roster due to Morales and the other disabled list candidate noted below.
Craig Breslow, Relief Pitcher
Craig Breslow has yet to throw a pitch in a game this spring for the Red Sox because of issues with his left shoulder. Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reports that Breslow has thrown from 90 feet, but there isn’t a date set to throw off the mound.
Abraham also speculates that this could be a long-term issue for the left-handed reliever. I agree that the situation is head-scratching, as Abraham points out, because Breslow just signed a two-year deal. If there was something wrong with his shoulder, Boston should’ve caught it.
Boston’s starting rotation has been relatively set in stone since the beginning of spring training.
There have been a couple of young prospects that have looked good enough to at least discuss, but they don’t make the cut for me. Allen Webster was one arm that caught my eye, but I see him making his major league debut later in the season.
Here’s what I think the starting rotation will end up looking like.
Jon Lester, No. 1 Starter
Jon Lester had a horrible, horrible 2012 season. He finished last year with a 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA, the highest of his seven-year career. But that doesn’t mean that we should expect those types of numbers with a clean slate in 2013.
As of now, Lester is expected to be the Opening Day starter for the Red Sox, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. He’s the leader of this group and has earned the opportunity to start the first game of the season. This will be the third straight year he’s started on Opening Day.
Clay Buchholz, No. 2 Starter
Following up Lester will be Boston’s best right-hander, Clay Buchholz. Buchholz didn’t have the best season last year either, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as Lester’s. He finished the year with an 11-8 record and a 4.56 ERA in nearly 190 innings of work.
Buchholz could end up being the No. 3 starter for the Red Sox, but I think it’s better to have him as the No. 2. He’s pitched extremely well in spring training thus far, tossing 8.1 shutout innings across three outings. He’s also struck out seven while walking just two.
Ryan Dempster, No. 3 Starter
Over the winter, the main goal for the Red Sox was finding a veteran starter to throw into the starting rotation. Boston would end up signing Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal, someone who’s had a lot of success in the National League in the past.
Many have expressed concerns since Dempster didn’t perform too impressively after being traded to the Texas Rangers in the middle of last season. In three spring training starts with Boston, he’s allowed two earned runs on six hits in 8.2 innings while striking out six.
Felix Doubront, No. 4 Starter
Felix Doubront wasn’t that bad in his first full season as a starter with the Red Sox, but he wasn’t that good either. He went 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 161 innings and had trouble with high pitch counts. There’s still plenty of time to improve, though, as he’s still young.
I don’t think that Doubront should be the No. 4 starter; I think he should be No. 5. The problem is that I don’t want to line up Doubront and Lester next to each other—the only two left-handers in the rotation. I’d rather have Doubront at No. 4 and split up the starting five.
John Lackey, No. 5 Starter
John Lackey hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game for the Red Sox since 2011, but he’s in line to be the No. 5 starter come Opening Day and try to make his contract look a little less idiotic. Lackey has gone 26-23 with a 5.26 ERA in two seasons with the Red Sox.
After missing all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Lackey hasn’t been too sharp this spring. He’s allowed six earned runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings. He’s walked three and struck out four. Although he’s struggled, I think he’ll turn it around soon.
Boston’s 2013 bullpen isn’t going to look much different than it did last year, but there are a couple of additions and subtractions.
Many of the selections below should be relatively self-explanatory, but I do want to point out one player I left off the team, Alfredo Aceves. As I recently wrote, the Red Sox need to move on from the right-hander, and I’m hoping they do so before the start of the season.
Here are my picks for which players will be pitching in relief to start 2013.
Joel Hanrahan, Closer
In a move that I didn’t expect this winter, the Red Sox traded for closer Joel Hanrahan. I haven’t been impressed with the way Harahan has pitched all spring long, but it appears that he’ll start the year as Boston’s closer. He’s had good success as the ninth inning guy in the past.
Andrew Bailey, Setup Man
Injuries prevented Andrew Bailey from doing much for the Red Sox last season, his first with Boston. He was the team’s closer down the stretch and had varied success. With the addition of Hanrahan, it looks like he’ll be the setup man, getting the eighth inning regularly. He hasn’t been very good in camp either, though.
Daniel Bard, Relief Pitcher
Although Daniel Bard was an absolute disaster last season as a starter and a reliever, I expect him to make the team out of camp. He can be very valuable when he has his head in the right place. Bard has yet to allow a run in three innings this spring, striking out five and walking one. I think Farrell will be a big help to the young right-hander.
Andrew Miller, Relief Pitcher
Due to the injuries to Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales, Andrew Miller is a lock to make the 25-man roster. Miller had himself a nice campaign last year, lowing his ERA by more than two runs compared to 2011. Miller has been hot and cold this spring, allowing two runs in five innings. On the plus side, though, he’s struck out eight batters so far.
Junichi Tazawa, Relief Pitcher
I think that 2013 will finally be the year when Junichi Tazawa is in the big league full-time. Last year, he pitched in 37 games, posting a 1.43 ERA in 44 innings of work. He’s highly effective and has great command. In 5.1 innings in spring training, he’s allowed two runs on six hits while striking five batters out. I don’t see how he wouldn’t make the team.
Koji Uehara, Relief Pitcher
The Red Sox boosted their bullpen over the offseason by signing Koji Uehara. The Japanese right-hander has gotten better every year he’s pitched. In 37 games last year, he posted a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings. He’s been perfect this spring, tossing five shutout innings with five strikeouts so far. If he can continue this hot streak, that contract will be a huge bargain.
Clayton Mortensen, Relief Pitcher
I think that the final spot in the bullpen will go to Clayton Mortensen. Mortenson pitched sporadically in a variety of roles for the Red Sox last season, although he did bounce around between the majors and minors. He has had a rough going in three outings this spring, allowing three earned runs in 4.1 innings of work. Even still, I think he’ll make it.
The lineup is going to look severely different than that of Opening Day last season. Last year, the lineup included Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Sweeney, Cody Ross and Mike Aviles, all who aren’t in the organization any longer or definitely won’t be starting.
Boston made a bunch of changes to its offense over the winter, and it appears that more than half of the starters will be making their debuts in a Red Sox uniform on Opening Day. Here’s how I think John Farrell should align his stars against the Yankees on April 1.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Center Fielder
The Red Sox desperately need Jacoby Ellsbury to stay healthy this season. He’s the obvious choice as the team’s leadoff hitter. He has very good speed and is a consistent hitter at the plate. There’s even the chance he gets to prove that his 2011 power wasn’t a fluke. In the final year of his contract, it’ll be interesting to see what Ellsbury’s number’s will look like at the end of 2013.
Shane Victorino, Right Fielder
Shane Victorino had a poor spring with the Red Sox before joining Team USA, playing for his country in the World Baseball Classic. He hasn’t played well there either, which is somewhat concerning for the time being. He was signed to be the right fielder, and even with the injury to David Ortiz, I would’ve still had him toward the top of the order. I think the No. 2 spot is a perfect fit for the Flyin’ Hawaiian.
Dustin Pedroia, Second Baseman
Dustin Pedroia is the leader of this team, and with the absence of Ortiz, he’ll have to step up and hit in the No. 3 hole to start the season. He is a career .304/.356/.484 hitter in the three-hole with 11 home runs and 40 RBI. When Ortiz eventually comes back, I would expect that Pedroia stays here, although he could move up to the two-spot. Regardless, it should be another good year for the Boston second baseman.
Mike Napoli, Designated Hitter
Mike Napoli doesn’t seem to have any problems with his hips this spring and has put up some nice numbers. He was signed to be the first baseman, but with Ortiz out, it makes sense to have him be the designated hitter. There’s no point in overusing him in the field when the Red Sox don’t have to. He has a lot of power which is why I have him hitting cleanup.
Will Middlebrooks, Third Baseman
Now healthy, Will Middlebrooks comes into 2013 with a fresh start, looking to avoid a sophomore slump. In his rookie year, he was very successful and impressive. He was the main reason the Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis, but in the long-term, that was the best move. Middlebrooks seems like a safe choice to hit fifth in the lineup, protecting Napoli and giving him the opportunity to drive in a lot of runs.
Jonny Gomes, Left Fielder
Jonny Gomes is one of the new characters that will be a regular in Boston this season, manning left field on most days—although the Red Sox could platoon him if he doesn’t get off to a great start. He’ll have fun playing the Green Monster in left field and also has the potential to hit a handful of home runs over that same wall. I think that hitting Gomes sixth is the best spot for him.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Catcher
Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the final repeat Opening Day starter for the Red Sox, joining Ellsbury and Pedroia. The switch-hitting catcher will be sharing time with David Ross this season but will still be the primary starter. He hit sixth the most often last season, but seventh is calling his name this year. In 53 at-bats hitting seventh in 2012, he went 17-for-53 with four home runs and 10 RBI.
Mike Carp, First Baseman
Out of all of the candidates that are in contention to “replace” Ortiz, I’m going with Mike Carp. He’ll end up playing first base a good amount while Napoli serves as the designated hitter. He’s not the best fielder in the world, nor is he a fantastic hitter, but he’s Boston’s best option for the time being. Once Ortiz returns, he’ll likely be coming off of the bench late in games for situational at-bats.
Stephen Drew, Shortstop
Although Stephen Drew is currently battling concussion issues, I feel confident saying that he’ll be fully recovered by the time Opening Day rolls around. I don’t think that Jose Iglesias has what it takes to beat Drew out for the job. Drew is a smart hitter that is valuable at the bottom of the lineup and is a pretty good fielder. Farrell should hit him ninth because he has a great eye and the top of the order can provide the power to get him home.
With four spots left on the 25-man roster, the picks here get a little tricky. Obviously, the Red Sox will need a backup catcher to play behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It’s also extremely likely that Boston will have one infielder and one outfielder available off the bench.
Boston really won’t have a ton of talent coming off the bench, no matter which four players it decides to keep. The depth, however, shouldn’t be terrible. Many of the candidates have been reliable in the past and with four spots, the Red Sox can have a wide variety of players.
Here are the four candidates that I think that Boston should end up keeping.
David Ross, Catcher
The Red Sox signed David Ross over the offseason to play a similar role to that of Kelly Shoppach last season. It appears, however, that Ross will get to play more than Shoppach did. It’s also unlikely that Ryan Lavarnway will be the backup catcher as he still needs some time in the minor leagues. Ross is the easy choice for the first spot on the bench.
Pedro Ciriaco, Infielder
Pedro Ciriaco can play any infield position with the exception of first base. He isn’t having as good of a spring training as he did last season, but unlike 2012, he’ll make the team out of camp. Jose Iglesias could make the team if Stephen Drew isn’t ready due to injury, but that shouldn’t affect Ciriaco. Brock Holt, in my opinion, isn’t any better than Ciriaco is.
Daniel Nava, Outfielder
With Ryan Kalish injured yet again, the fourth outfielder role should go to Daniel Nava. He’s much more versatile than Ryan Sweeney or anyone else that is worth a spot on the bench. It doesn’t make sense to put a young player that needs at-bats each day in this role. Nava knows what his job is, and more often than not, he’s able to do it successfully.
Mauro Gomez, Infielder
Mauro Gomez has had a poor spring, but I think he somehow finds a way onto the roster, likely as the 25th man. The Red Sox need some sort of power coming off the bench, which none of my other three choices really provide. Gomez does have solid power, and he’s probably the player most on the fringe. There just isn’t a regular role for him in Boston.
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