The Boston Red Sox are falling well short of expectations in the early goings of the 2015 MLB season. A club picked by many to represent the American League in the World Series is struggling to maintain even a .500 record.
Can the Red Sox right their ship and become a postseason contender? Here are three bold predictions as to what lies ahead for Boston.
The Red Sox Will Hit .300 as a Team in June
In the month of April, Boston's club batting average was .245, the 15th-best in baseball. Through 12 games in May, the Red Sox are hitting a pathetic .200, which ranks 29th out of 30 MLB squads.
On the season, no Red Sox player is batting over .300, and only Dustin Pedroia, Brock Holt and Pablo Sandoval have averages higher than .265. Leadoff man Mookie Betts and No. 3 hitter David Ortiz are hitting .234 and .226, respectively.
Something's got to give.
The collective batting average across the majors so far this year is .251. Through 34 games, Boston's is just .230. Considering the Red Sox's offense was widely regarded as one of the best in baseball heading into the season, it's hard to fathom it can remain among the league's worst for much longer. A regression to the mean is likely.
The Kansas City Royals hit .306 in April but are batting only .244 in May. Conversely, the Washington Nationals posted a .236 average in April but are hitting an MLB-best .296 this month. Who's to say Boston won't bounce back with a red-hot June?
A Player Currently in Triple-A Will Have a Huge Impact
One potential answer to the Red Sox's offensive issues lies down on the farm in Triple-A Pawtucket. Outfielder Rusney Castillo is 9-for-27 over his last seven games for a .333 batting average. Although he suffered a minor ankle sprain on Wednesday, Castillo appears to be recovering nicely from his earlier shoulder injury.
Via Mass Live's Christopher Smith, Boston general manager Ben Cherington recently said the following regarding a possible promotion for Castillo, whose base salary is $10.5 million:
I think he's close to just kind of being a normal player again and we'll let him be a normal player for a little while down there: play, get some more at-bats. But this guy's a talented player who we believe in. We believe he'll have his opportunity here in the big leagues at some point. I don't know when but I'm fully confident he's going to help us win games at some point.
The Red Sox have used five players in right field this season—Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Allen Craig. Combined, they are 14-for-118 while playing the position, an average of only .119. Castillo could serve as a major upgrade.
In addition to Castillo, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson and Henry Owens are all candidates to bail out Boston's disastrous pitching rotation. With four of the Red Sox's five starters posting ERAs of 5.60 or higher, Boston fans may hope for all three prospects to get the call. Don't be surprised if at least one of them becomes a major contributor on the big league level in 2015.
Only Two of Five Starting Pitchers Will Stick in the Rotation
As of Wednesday, one member of the Red Sox's starting staff is already on the outs. Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes:
Call it fatigue, call it poor pitching or just chalk it up to the Red Sox no longer being able to afford patience. Regardless, Justin Masterson will take the bullet with a likely trip to the 15-day disabled list.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said yesterday that Masterson would certainly miss his next scheduled start against the Mariners on Sunday due to fatigue Farrell has seen over Masterson’s last two starts, in which he’s allowed 10 runs over 6 2⁄3 innings.
In his last start, Wade Miley pitched 6.2 scoreless innings to lower his ERA from 6.91 to 5.60. However, he put nine men on base and had to work out of trouble in each frame. Miley's WHIP stands at 1.50, and he's thrown only 35.1 innings over seven starts, roughly five per outing.
Neither Clay Buchholz nor Joe Kelly is performing much better. Buchholz owns a 5.73 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP, while Kelly has a 6.35 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. They're each showing moderate signs of encouragement, though—Buchholz has 43 strikeouts over 37.2 innings, and Kelly is holding opposing hitters to a .237 batting average.
Rick Porcello remains the only Boston starter with anything resembling decent numbers. Porcello is 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP.
Despite all of their troubles, the 16-18 Red Sox are just 4.5 games out of first place in the American League East. If they can hang around in contention through midseason, one has to think Boston will pursue trades to bolster its pitching staff. Team president and CEO Larry Lucchino said as much in a radio interview at the end of April.
The Red Sox are likely to acquire a starter or two in a deadline deal, promote one or more from Pawtucket or possibly even both. By season's end, Porcello and either Buccholz or Kelly may be all that's left of the original rotation.
Mark Vandeusen is a Featured Columnist covering the Boston Red Sox for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @LucidSportsFan. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via RedSox.com and contract information via Spotrac.com.