Boston Red Sox: Predicting All the Team Awards for 2013
To avoid a repeat of last year’s 93-loss season, the Boston Red Sox hope to have a lot of contributors emerge from their overhauled roster. Even though it’s still spring training, it’s never too early to predict who will win Boston’s team awards in 2013.
Opening Day is approaching fast. The Red Sox will play their first regular-season game on April 1 against the rival New York Yankees and hope to give their fans a lot to cheer about.
As spring training winds down, the readiness of various players comes into better focus. Boston’s roster is no different, and it has players who look primed for big seasons while others could be in for major disappointment.
Although the season has yet to play out, it’s always fun to speculate in advance so here are the projected team awards for the Red Sox this season.
Mr. Consistent: David Ross, Catcher
At first glance, it may seem funny to suggest David Ross, who won’t be a full-time starter, will be the team’s most consistent player this season. But that’s a significant reason why Boston signed the catcher to a free-agent contract this past offseason.
The acquisition of Ross was the first move that Boston made in free agency. Manager John Farrell told WEEI’s Alex Speier it was because of the consistency he provides behind the plate.
Boston catchers threw out just 20 percent of attempted base stealers last year. Ross has nabbed 39 percent during his 11-year career and has a stellar reputation for his ability to handle pitchers.
In addition to his defense, he is surprisingly effective on offense (OPS of at least .761 in each of the past four seasons). He should be an incredibly steadying influence on Boston’s pitching staff and returning catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, thus earning him the title of Mr. Consistent.
Best Clutch Player: Dustin Pedroia, Second Baseman
Because of his ability to hit and play sparkling defense at second base, Pedroia may be Boston’s unofficial team captain.
Despite his diminutive stature, he has been the Red Sox’s jack-of-all-trades during his seven major league seasons.
In addition to his .303 career batting average, he has also been the AL Rookie of the Year, won an MVP, two Gold Gloves and been named to three All-Star Games.
He seems to excel at whatever he is asked to do.
Although he has batted second for most of his career, he has adapted when asked to assume a different role.
He’s even been used as the cleanup man in 32 games in his career, responding with a .397 average and 1.117 OPS while batting fourth.
Still just 29, Pedroia should be in the prime of his career and a good bet to continue his track record of clutch play in Boston in 2013.
Biggest Surprise: Mike Napoli, First Baseman
Mike Napoli was the most divisive storyline for the Red Sox this offseason.
He originally signed a three-year, $39 million free-agent contract to be the team’s starting first baseman, but saw that deal go away after a degenerative hip condition was discovered. Napoli and the team ultimately settled on a one-year, $5 million contract, plus possible incentives.
A healthy Napoli has looked good this spring, showing a powerful bat and playing surprisingly adept defense at first.
It’s looking more likely that Napoli could turn in a season more closely resembling what he did in 2011 (.320, 30 HR, 75 RBI) than last year (.227, 24 HR, 56 RBI) for the Texas Rangers.
Napoli was primarily a catcher for his first seven major league seasons. Now freed from that physically demanding position, he’s seeking to prove himself worthy of the large contract he lost.
All of that has Napoli poised to put up a big year in Boston, which would come as a very pleasant surprise.
Biggest Letdown: David Ortiz, Designated Hitter
Davis Ortiz was on his way to a monster season last year, hitting .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI in 90 games.
Unfortunately, it was derailed by an Achilles' injury that prevented him from playing any games after July 16.
Despite missing so much time, Ortiz was able to land a two-year, $26 million extension with Boston this offseason.
Giving the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox such a big contract is starting to look like it may have been a mistake. With spring training coming to an end, he has not played a single inning and only recently started taking swings in a batting cage.
The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported that the left-handed hitting designated hitter will likely start the season on the disabled list.
At the age of 37 and not having played a game in more than eight months, it’s not reasonable to expect Ortiz to return to his dominant self anytime soon, if ever.
Since he was expected to bat cleanup and be a focal point of Boston’s offense, he could be a major disappointment.
Team MVP: Jacoby Ellsbury, Outfielder
The left-handed Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011 season showed he has the ability to be the best all-around player on Boston’s roster.
He finished second in the American League MVP voting that year and hit .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases in 158 games.
Unfortunately, he has not been able to replicate that success partly due to injuries, having missed a total of 232 games because of injury in 2010 and 2012. His inability to stay on the field has prevented the team from seeing if 2011 was an aberration or a sign of things to come.
Finally healthy, the 29-year-old Ellsbury is poised for a big year.
Quite simply, this is the perfect time for Ellsbury to prove his talent and set himself up for a big payday next year, whether that be in Boston or with another team.
He figures to be the team’s leadoff hitter this season, and if he comes anywhere close to the numbers he produced two years ago, he’ll easily be the team’s MVP.
Team Cy Young: Jon Lester, Left-Handed Starter
Entering last year, Jon Lester had been Boston’s ace for the past four seasons, winning a total of 65 games.
In 2012, he was an ace in name only. He struggled to a 9-14 record and a 4.82 ERA in 33 starts in what was, by far, his worst season as a pro.
If spring training stats are any indication, the 29-year-old has regained his stuff and is ready to assume his role as the team’s lead pitcher once again. In 20 spring innings, he’s allowed only six hits and two runs while striking out 16.
The team’s new commitment to having pitchers speed up their tempo between pitches should also have a positive effect for Lester in keeping hitters off-balance.
He also told The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy that he thinks readjusting his attitude and making a few other corrections in his game will get him back on track.
No other pitcher on the Boston pitching staff has the pedigree and track record of Lester. A survivor of cancer, he’s used to beating the odds and should re-emerge as the Cy Young Award contender of the staff this year.
Statistics via Baseball-Reference