At this point last year, the Boston Red Sox were coming off a last-place finish, had a new manager, and were picked by practically no one to compete for the AL East crown. Now, they're baseball's reigning champion, and fully equipped to make another strong October push.
The last time the Red Sox repeated as World Series champions, Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election under the promise that the United States would not get involved in World War I. Boston's chase for another title consists of a roster mostly unchanged from last year, save for Jacoby Ellsbury's departure for the Bronx. Strong performances will once again be needed from key players such as David Ortiz, Koji Uehara and Clay Buchholz.
However, the team's ultimate success will come down to much more than the play of those three. Young players, including Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., will be asked to take on a larger role. In an effort to rank the order of Red Sox Nation's most important members, there are a number of criteria to consider:
- What is the depth at that player's position? If that player goes down, does it create severe turmoil, or can the team survive?
- Did the player's performance last year help put the team over the top? More so, if that player repeats that performance or regresses, how much will that impact wins and losses?
- Could a breakout season from this player mean a better chance of getting back to the Fall Classic? This player has some question marks, but certainly has the capability of doing big things.
As pitchers and catchers get ready to report to Fort Myers on Feb. 15, let's take a look at the most important Red Sox for the upcoming season.
All statistics used are from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.