Red Sox's Biggest Red Flags Early in 2022 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2022

Red Sox's Biggest Red Flags Early in 2022 Season

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    Since starting the season with a 10-19 record, the Boston Red Sox have been playing much better in recent weeks, though they hit a bump last week when they lost three of five to the Baltimore Orioles.

    It's going to be fascinating to see how the front office handles things if they are still hovering around the .500 mark when the trade deadline rolls around, or if they will make a definitive move toward contending or non-contending in the coming weeks.

    The biggest red flags on the roster right now stem from a lack of production by the outfielders, a shaky late-inning relief corps and some durability questions surrounding the starting rotation.

    Ahead, we'll dive a bit deeper into the issues the Red Sox will need to navigate as the 2022 season continues to unfold.

The Durability of the Starting Rotation

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    Michael Wacha
    Michael WachaAdam Glanzman/Getty Images

    The Red Sox rotation has been solid this year with a 3.94 ERA that ranks 13th in the majors, and that's with ace Chris Sale watching from the sidelines as he recovers from a stress fracture in his rib.

    Veterans Michael Wacha (40.2 IP, 2.43 ERA) and Rich Hill (39.0 IP, 4.85 ERA) have been solid bargain signings, while Rule 5 success story Garrett Whitlock (38.2 IP, 3.49 ERA) has shifted into the rotation after opening the year in the bullpen once again.

    The question is how many innings the team can reasonably expect to get out of that trio.

    Wacha has not topped 150 innings since 2017, Hill is 42 years old with multiple abbreviated seasons under his belt in recent years, and Whitlock has never thrown more than 120.2 innings at any level over the course of his pro career.

    Prospects such as Brayan Bello, Connor Seabold, Josh Winckowski and Brandon Walter could play a pivotal role before the season is over, and the same goes for Tanner Houck who is currently filling a multi-inning role out of the bullpen.

An Underperforming Group of Outfielders

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    Enrique Hernandez
    Enrique HernandezMaddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    The trio of Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are again producing at a high level, but the rest of the Red Sox lineup has been hit and miss.

    That's especially true of the team's starting outfielders.

    • Alex Verdugo: 190 PA, 68 OPS+, .227/.263/.335, -0.7 WAR
    • Enrique Hernandez: 219 PA, 71 OPS+, .203/.269/.340, 0.2 WAR
    • Jackie Bradley Jr.: 160 PA, 73 OPS+, .219/.278/.336, 0.4 WAR

    While Bradley was one of the worst hitters in baseball and a negative WAR player last season, both Verdugo (107 OPS+, 2.2 WAR) and Hernandez (107 OPS+, 4.9 WAR) are coming off strong years and were expected to be key pieces of the puzzle once again.

    There is reason for optimism in Verdugo's batted-ball data and Hernandez continuing to provide value with his glove, but getting that trio going would be a major boost, and it might be time to give Jarren Duran another extended look if they continue to struggle.

No Reliable Ninth-Inning Option

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    Matt Barnes
    Matt BarnesMitchell Layton/Getty Images

    The Red Sox have 12 blown saves in 20 opportunities this year, and the eight saves they have managed to nail down have come from six different pitchers as they continue to search for answers in the late innings.

    With 2021 All-Star Matt Barnes struggling to a 7.94 ERA in 20 appearances, Hansel Robles on the injured list and Garrett Whitlock shifted into the starting rotation, it has fallen to Jake Diekman and surprise standout John Schreiber to handle late and close situations of late.

    Schreiber, 28, has a 1.42 ERA, 0.55 WHIP and a 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12.2 innings, and he has two wins, four holds and one save in 12 appearances.

    Whether he winds up being the answer going forward, a healthy Robles moves back into the role or Barnes gets on track, the Red Sox need to figure out how to protect leads.