Boston Red Sox: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2014 Season
In 2014, the Boston Red Sox will look to become the first team to repeat as World Series champions since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. Boston had a relatively quiet offseason, with its biggest change being Jacoby Ellsbury's departure to New York.
If the Red Sox are going to contend for another title this year, here are five bold predictions that will help them return to the promised land.
Grady Sizemore Will Start in Center Field on Opening Day
Second-year player Jackie Bradley Jr. is expected to take over Ellsbury's starting job in center field. But despite showing signs of potential in 2013, the 23-year-old hit just .189 in 97 at-bats with a .280 on-base percentage.
Yes, Sizemore hasn't played in a major league game since 2011. However he is a career .269 hitter who put together a 33-home run, 90-RBI, 38-steal season in 2008. Sizemore is still just 31 years old, and has the potential to be one of the feel good stories of spring training.
Whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season is an entirely different matter. A regular contribution from Sizemore will go a long way towards filling the gap left by Ellsbury.
An Unexpected Starting Pitcher Will Win 15 Games
Jon Lester is the clear No. 1 starter in the Red Sox rotation, with Clay Buchholz the No. 2. Either could win 15 to 20 games in 2014, and it would come as no surprise. But after that, things get a little murky.
John Lackey posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 29 starts in 2013, his best numbers since 2007. At 35 years old it's hard to imagine he'll replicate those stats again. Jake Peavy has made more than 23 starts only once in his last five seasons, averaging just 21.2 per year in that time.
For Boston to stay atop the American League East, it'll need to lean heavily on another starting pitcher outside of those four. Felix Doubront is a likely candidate, having finished third on the team in both wins (11) and quality starts (16) last season.
Chris Capuano started 20 games and threw 105.2 innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers a year ago. If the Sox could somehow finagle 15 wins out of the veteran from Springfield, Massachusetts, there's a good chance they will still be playing come October.
Daniel Nava Will Be an All-Star
In 2012 Nava hit .243 with a .352 on-base percentage in 267 at-bats. Last season he upped those numbers to .303 and .385 in 458 times at bat. Nava's batting average ranked eighth in the American League, while his OBP was fifth.
Often platooning in left field with Jonny Gomes, Nava was unable to become an everyday player in 2013. But with uncertainty in center field, Shane Victorino may spend some time at that position, leaving an opportunity for Nava in right as well.
Assuming he can stay in the lineup full time and maintain his level of production from a year ago, Nava will have the kind of numbers to be a legitimate All-Star candidate.
Xander Bogaerts Will Play All 162 Games
The 21-year-old Bogaerts burst onto the scene in last year's playoffs, finishing with the highest postseason OBP (.412) and slugging percentage (.481) of any Red Sox player not named David Ortiz. 2013 starting shortstop Stephen Drew remains an unsigned free agent, and the job will now fall into the hands of the promising rookie.
Boston's only other option at short is utility infielder Jonathan Herrera, who started 28 games at the position for the Colorado Rockies last season. If Will Middlebrooks struggles as the everyday third baseman, Bogaerts could also see time over there. Middlebrooks hit just .227 last year while making 10 errors in only 94 games, more than any other Red Sox player.
All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia suited up a team high 160 games in 2013—and Bogaerts may prove indispensable enough to this year's squad to play in all 162.
The Red Sox Will Steal Twice as Many Bases as Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury stole an MLB best 52 bases for the Red Sox a year ago, while the rest of his teammates, put together, swiped a total of 71. But with youngsters Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. set to play major roles, Boston's lineup will get an added injection of speed.
The 52 steals were the second most of Ellsbury's career, as he has often had trouble staying on the field since appearing in only 18 contests in 2010. He's averaged just 96 games played over the past four seasons, and turned 30 years old last September. Ellsbury's best running days are likely behind him.
The Red Sox stealing more than double the number of bases of their former leadoff hitter will be either a sign of their own success in 2014, or possibly the Yankees' lack thereof.