Starting Pitchers: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront
Just like the bullpen, Boston's rotation was an integral part of their success in 2013 and should be considered the same this upcoming season.
Any likely prediction, like the one provided by Ben Buchanan of SB Nation, would tab the listed rotation as all but guaranteed heading into 2014.
Now that veteran pitcher Ryan Dempster is slated to miss all of this season, Boston's rotation is virtually locked into place.
Jon Lester is the bona fide No. 1 ace on the staff and is backed up by the resurging John Lackey who turned his Boston tenure around in 2013. There is the brilliant, yet oft-injured Clay Buchholz in the 3-slot with veteran righty and former Cy Young recipient Jake Peavy behind him. Rounding out the rotation is the up-and-coming Felix Doubront.
As far as Lester is concerned, the Red Sox ace should enjoy another solid year atop the rotation. There is no reason to expect otherwise.
Lackey and Peavy are different stories however. Consistency and age combine here to draw some questions. Yet with both pitchers entering the final year of their respective contracts—Lackey has a conditional option for 2015—it is safe to assume the Red Sox are looking to their farm system for their eventual replacements.
Still, Lackey and Peavy should be expected to receive their places on the 25-man roster to open up the 2014 season.
Buchholz commands a number of questions on his own. Can he stay healthy over the course of an entire season? Since coming into the majors in 2007, Buchholz has started 20 or more games only twice in his career—2010 and 2012.
When he is healthy and pitching effectively, Buchholz has some of the best stuff on the mound. Yet injuries have hampered what could have been a remarkable start to his career.
As it stands, the Red Sox appear poised to prepare for another possible long-term absence from Buchholz in 2014. The team can count on young prospect Brandon Workman—who I do not predict will make the Opening Day roster—to be called upon to spot start.
The addition of Chris Capuano this offseason also provides a viable option.
Felix Doubront could be the starter to watch in 2014.
Eric Wilbur of Boston.com sums up some of the expectations that fans should have surrounding Doubront. He writes:
The major question that needs to be addressed is [Doubront's] maturity and physical state of affairs, both of which seem to have taken a 180 this spring. With Lackey signed only through next season (and frankly, whether or not he wants to pitch for the league minimum or simply retire should be a story line worth watching), Peavy up after the season, and only a resigned Lester and Buchholz regarded as mainstays in the rotation, Doubront has a chance to cement his spot in Boston, as Allen Webster, Workman, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo, and Henry Owens await in the shadows of the 95 Express to McCoy.
At 26 years old, Doubront should be reaching his prime and how he translates that, in combination with his effectiveness, shall determine how the Red Sox view him as a commodity moving forward.
If there is any shaky spot in the rotation—aside from injury—regarding a pitcher losing his job, Doubront appears to be the guy if Wilbur's assessments are correct. Still, the job is Doubront's to lose and it is hard to fathom him not being a part of the Red Sox's plans, at least in 2014.
If you have done the math, you will notice that there are 26 players on this 25-man roster. The biggest question that remains to be seen is what transpires between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore.
With the Red Sox carrying over four outfielders from 2013 and adding a fifth this offseason, it is hard to suggest the team will employ the services of both Bradley and Sizemore.
There is nothing to state the team will not do this, but personally, I would place more emphasis on Boston's bullpen than I would to excessive outfield depth. Thus, by subtracting the player that loses out in the competition for center field gives us the final 25-man roster at the end of this list.
Also, I must not forget some of the other players to watch in 2014 but do not make the initial Opening Day roster. It is hard to overlook pitchers like Workman and, to a lesser extent, prospects like Webster, Barnes and Ranaudo.
Positional prospects like Garin Cecchini, Bryce Brentz, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart should also be on your radar.
As it goes, 25-man rosters change all the time over the course of a regular season. Teams almost never carry over the same players employed on Opening Day.
But for an initial prediction for the Red Sox, this is about as good as it is going to get.
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise stated. Contractual information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.