The Runner Sports

2014 Boston Red Sox Season Preview

World Series - St Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox - Game Six

After their worst season in a 162 game schedule in franchise history, the Boston Red Sox shocked the world of baseball, and came out with the best record in baseball en route to winning their third World Series in the new millennium. Now with the title of defending World Series Champion the Red Sox will be in the spotlight early on, and will be expected to be serious contenders this season. The AL East will be good again, so it’ll take another spectacular season to make it happen.

Key Acquisitions: Edward Mujica, AJ Pierzynski, Chris Capuano, Grady Sizemore

Key Losses: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Red Sox Nation was shocked early in the free agency when lifelong Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury not only bounced town, but went and joined the rival Yankees. His production at the top of the order is going to be vastly missed for this team. His MLB high 52 stolen bases, and team high 92 runs will not be easily made up.

Luckily for the Red Sox, that’s really the only thing they lost from their World Series roster. Ryan Dempster is taking a year long hiatus, but the rotation should survive without him. They bring in Edward Mujica, the bullpen specialist from the Cardinals, they replace Salty with AJ Pierzynski, sign another reliever in Chris Capuano, who’s low risk but has a ton of potential, and sign Grady Sizemore. The roster has some youth in it, and overall depth is a bigger concern than it was in 2013, but this team should remain winners in 2014.

Manager: John Farrell

You can attribute success to where you want to, but you cannot deny that John Farrell played a pivotal role in the turn around of this team. It was highways robbery for him not to have gotten AL Manager of the Year. All because he “should win that many games with that roster”. Well ask Bobby Valentine about that. Farrell brought back a great work ethic into the clubhouse, and it was evident early on. He’s rebuilt the chemistry of this team, and is willing to take chances to chase success.

Lineup: 

Runs:1st;853  BA:2nd;.277  OBP:1st;.349  SLG%:1st;.446

Looking at the numbers it should be very evident that the Boston Red Sox had no problem scoring in 2013. It’s rarely a problem of theirs. They were consistent in getting runs scored in games in 2013, where in 2012 they would go on massive scoring sprees before getting shut out and held to under two runs the following two games. This years lineup should not face many shutouts, and is almost as offensively dangerous as their championship lineup in 2013.

C: AJ Pierzynski: (TEX) .272/.297/.425 70 RBI 17 HR 503 AB 134 G .998 FLD 33% CS

The Red Sox are losing a fan favorite in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but bring in a pretty good replacement in AJ Pierzynski. The Red Sox have faith in the number of prospects they have brewing in the minors, and weren’t up to give Salty the three-year deal he was looking for. Pierzynski brings with him an upgrade defensively. Runners will not take second so freely under his watch. AJ does not strike out as much as Salty does, but also draws less walks. Otherwise the numbers are very identical. Opposing players might not like him much, but you never hear anything about teammates hating the guy.

- David Ross: .216/.298/.382 10 RBI 4 HR 102 AB 36 G .997 FLD 26% CS

Ross platooned behind plate for a lot of 2013. He missed a chunk of the season thanks to a concussion, but wound up stealing the starting role in the World Series thanks to his defensive upgrade over Salty. He doesn’t bring any amazing feats with him, but he proved to the team last year that he’s a guy you can count on behind the plate, which is something you want in a backup catcher.

1B: Mike Napoli: .259/.360/.482 92 RBI 23 HR 498 AB 139 G .994 FLD

Mike Napoli might have struck out for a team high 187 times, but what he does well quickly makes you forget about that. Napoli is an essential piece in the lineup, he provides additional power, but more importantly he protects David Ortiz. Napoli might strike out a decent amount of times, but that doesn’t mean he’s an easy approach for pitchers. One mistake and this guy WILL take you yard. He’s got the power, and his upward Viking like chop gives his ball a lot of loft. Left field in Fenway is not deep, and his loft actually means he’s got the height to clear the Monster regularly, or at least play pepper with the wall.

-Mike Carp: .296/.362/.523 43 RBI 9 HR 216 AB 86 G .992 FLD

The Red Sox depth was a huge factor in keeping the runs streaming in, while keeping their players healthy. Mike Carp is a big guy in that equation. He won’t get starts daily, but when he does he provides plenty of offensive production. Not to mention his ability to come off the bench cold and produce was huge in 2013. He’s a solid utility player who covers a number of different roles, which makes him an asset to this team.

2B: Dustin Pedroia: .301/.372/.415 84 RBI 9 HR 724 AB 160 G .993 FLD

Pedey will be playing second base for many years to come in Boston, thanks to his big extension last season. Pedroia does a little bit of it all. He bats efficiently, with modest power that can get him an average of 16 HRs a season. Hopefully the repairing of the ligament in the thumb will help bring back a little more power, as the homerun numbers undoubtedly dropped in 2013. Pedroia is a top of the order guy because of his speed. He won’t be sent to steal regularly, but has the speed to pick up a bag when needed, he was 17-of-22 on steals last year. Dustin is also one of the most sure handed second basemen in the game currently, which brings a lot of ease to the infield defensively.

- Jonathan Herrera: (COL) .292/.336/.364 16 RBI 1 HR 195 AB 81 G 1.000 FLD

One of the more interesting projects to keep an eye on in 2014 will be the growth and use of utility infielder Jonathan Herrera. Herrera didn’t have much of a place to play in Colorado due to their deep infield roster. When he has taken the field he’s shown good signs. The Red Sox don’t need huge numbers from him, but they do need consistency. The left side of the infield is very young, and Herrera is without question going to need to play games in both the SS and possibly 3B roles. He’s batting .231 with 4 RBIs in Spring, which is exactly where you’d wanna see him.

SS: Xander Bogaerts: .250/.320/.364 5 RBI 1 HR 50 AB 18 G 1.000 FLD

Bogaerts has long been a highly touted prospect and finally got to prove to the MLB why he was. He only made his appearance after the September roster expansion but played well enough to earn a starting role at third base in the World Series. He has a great plate presence with a tremendous amount of maturity and patience. He’s a guy they expect to develop into some power too, he had a few hits in 2013 that showed why that’s what is believed. He’s only 20, and has a decent amount of growing yet to do. Due to their infield situation the circumstances have Bogaerts as the starting shortstop, but for how great he looked in October, you can’t help but wonder if he would benefit from starting the year in the minors to find his form before returning to Boston. You don’t want a young kid to come in with the pressure that will be surrounding him and get into an irreversible funk.

3B: Will Middlebrooks: .227/.271/.425 49 RBI 17 HR 348 AB 94 G .957 FLD

A lot of people were displeased with Middlebrooks’ up and down season. If he’s going to remain as the everyday starter, Middlebrooks needs to establish some consistency to his offense. He flashed weeks of greatness like the tear he went on in Toronto last season where he had 4 HRs and 5 RBIs in a three game series. He followed that series up with a frustrating downward spiral that eventually lead to a visit to the minors in July. His swing was much better after the stint, but still left a little to be desired. His batting average never dipped below .200 after his return from the minors, but it wasn’t enough to save him from being benched for Bogaerts. The pressure to compete isn’t there for Middlebrooks which could cause him to get complacent seeing as there is no immediate replacement for him.  Which doesn’t bode well.

OF: Jonny Gomes: .247/.344/.426 52 RBI 13 HR 366 AB 116 G .992 FLD

Platooning in left field turned out to work very well for Gomes. He really began to establish himself as a hitter for the Sox in mid to late June, after which he was a crucial piece to the daily lineup. Gomes is a huge factor in the turn around of the team mentality, going from the entitled stench that left the locker room foul after 2012, to the winning crowd of goofballs in 2013. His presence even on the bench is a very positive one for the Red Sox, and when he isn’t contributing on the field, you can bet he’s working his magic on the bench to keep everybody fired up.

Jackie Bradley Jr: .189/.280/.337 10 RBI 3 HR 95 AB 37 G .983 FLD

At the beginning of 2013 it was thought that we would see a lot of Jackie Bradley Jr., but after a slow start, JBJ was sent down to the minors, only to make a few cameos before rejoining the roster in September. He wasn’t really needed and wound up benefiting vastly from his everyday play in Pawtucket. Without Jacoby Ellsbury around JBJ was being groomed into the starting center. The only thing stopping that from happening is a good showing from Grady Sizemore in Spring, which has been the case. On Friday John Farrell announced that Sizemore would be the starting center, and Bradley would start the year in Triple A. JBJ would benefit from a platoon role potentially, he needs the at bats, but isn’t quite there in terms of readiness to be the everyday starter. Roster space is the problem with this venture, and if Sizemore is healthy and playing well, JBJ might be in the minors for most of this season as well.

Grady Sizemore: (CLE ’11) .224/.285/.422 32 RBI 10 HR 268 AB 71 G .984 FLD

Sizemore was a low risk high reward signing for the Red Sox this offseason. He hadn’t played baseball since 2011 due to recurring injuries, and it wasn’t known if he would even be able to do well enough to make the roster let alone get the starting role. Sizemore came into Spring like a man freshly emerging from the fountain of youth. He looks to have every aspect of his game returned to him. He’s got some wheels in the field and is committing his body to getting balls out of reach (which comes with its fair share of winces) but most importantly he’s hitting the ball. Through Spring he’s got a .333 BA with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Nothing to drool over, but for a guy who hasn’t played in the time frame of his, it’s a very promising number. If healthy, the Sox have a good outfield roster that can platoon some of the responsibilities in center, which should keep him from becoming over exerted.

Shane Victorino: .294/.351/.451 61 RBI 15 HR 21 SB 477 AB 122 G .990 FLD

Victorino was a godsend for the Sox last year. He helped create a very speedy top of the lineup with a one, two punch lead off in him and Ellsbury that yielded a lot of runs. He’s got modest power that was good enough for 15 long balls in ’13. Victorino will likely take the reins of the lead off role for most of this season. He no longer has blinding speed on the bags, but is capable of stealing a few, and turning hits into extra bases. Without Ellsbury in front of him, expect to see Farrell experiment in sending Shane a little more than we saw last year. He provides a useful switch hitting stance in the lineup. Last year there were a couple of instance in which Victorino attacked the wall a little too violently, and dealt with some back and hamstring injuries. None kept him off the field too long, but fans would surely rejoice not seeing such injuries make an appearance this year.

Daniel Nava: .303/.385/.445 66 RBI 12 HR 458 AB 134 G .985 FLD

Nava was another crucial piece to the platoon duties of the outfield. He actually saw the most field time tied with Ellsbury last year in terms of games played, but is far often too forgotten about. Nava doesn’t have great speed, in fact to credit him with much speed at all as an outfielder might be false advertisement, he’s pretty slow. He’s got good power, and drives the ball well. He’s capable of double-digit homeruns, and when the ball doesn’t leave the yard, he can at least get the ball into gaps or the wall and pick up extra bases. Nava won’t ever be the first vote for All-Star or MVP, but what he contributes on the field is beneficial nonetheless, he plays a vital role in the depth of this outfield.

DH: David Ortiz: .309/.395/.564 103 RBI 30 HR 518 AB 137 G 

The Boston favorite David Ortiz is coming off a sensational year. Things looked worrisome after a nagging Achilles injury had bothered him the last few seasons, but Ortiz shot out of the cannon in mid April and never looked back. We know what Ortiz provides the team, sensational power that is utterly game changing. He got a nice little extension that should keep him motivated and playing without the worry of having to earn a new contract. Ortiz was in the zone last season, and especially in their World Series run through the playoffs. If he can come back and even slightly just under perform his yesteryear self, he puts this team in good standings.

Starting Pitchers

Jon Lester (L): 15-8 3.75 ERA 177 SO 1.294 WHIP 213.1 IP 33 GS

Just on Thursday the Red Sox announced that Jon Lester would be the opening day starter, which should come as little surprise to anybody. He had a great 2013, and was phenomenal in the postseason. So far in Spring, Lester has allowed just 1 run in 12.2 IP with 14 strikeouts. The team still hopes to get him locked up into a long term deal prior to the season’s start on Monday, and those talks seem to remain very productive. Expect Lester to be signed to a long-term extension no later than mid April.

John Lackey (R): 10-13 3.52 ERA 161 SO 1.157 WHIP 189.1 IP 2 GS

A lot of doubts hung over John Lackey’s head at the start of the 2013 season. Most people (including myself) never thought he would come back from Tommy John Surgery, and that his stint as a dominant pitcher was over. Which would have been a bummer because Boston had never gotten a great season out of him since acquiring him in 2010. Lackey silenced critics after a shaky start. He had the best ERA on the team (not including Buchholz), but rarely received run support. Lackey shined in the playoffs where he won duels against David Price, Justin Verlander, and Michael Wacha. Spring has looked a little worrisome for Lackey so far, as his arm has not seemed to come out from Winter hibernation as of yet. He’s got a 6.27 ERA through 18.2 innings pitched.

Felix Doubront (L): 11-6 4.32 ERA 139 SO 1.429 WHIP 162.1 IP 27 GS

Felix Doubront has yet to peak at the Major League level in my opinion. His mechanics still need some fine tuning here and there, but more importantly his consistency. Doubront is a frustrating pitcher because one game he can come out and be unhittable, but his following outing have none of his stuff working. A lot of his issues are boiled down to lack of intensity, as you can see he’s mostly uninspired on the mound. When you can get emotion out of him, fire him up, you can see how much better he performs. To be a better pitcher in 2014, Doubront has to do a better job of getting ahead in the count. Far too often he gets behind early and works himself into hitters counts. He threw a first pitch strike just 53.3% of the time in 2013, a number that needs to improve.

Jake Peavy (R): 4-1 4.04 ERA 45 SO 1.160 WHIP 64.2 IP 10 GS

Jake Peavy was a big signing that helped power the Red Sox starting rotation through mid summer into the playoffs. He might have collapsed a little bit in the playoffs, but there is no reason to think this former Cy Young winner is anything to worry about this year. Peavy is a solid back of the rotation kind of guy, he isn’t going to be lights out on a daily basis, but when he’s on, can put up very good showings. Even when he’s off Peavy is still capable of rounding together wins.

Clay Buchholz (R): 12-1 1.74 ERA 96 SO 1.025 WHIP 108.1 IP 16 GS

Clay Buchholz was piecing together a Cy Young worthy year in the early months before a questionable shoulder “injury” kept him off the field until late September. He was a mess in the playoffs though, and his great season on the mound was quickly forgotten about. We all know what Buchholz can do when healthy, and he is an asset to the team when so. However this year is big for Buchholz, who needs to show some durability to his management. Buchholz has never pitched 30 games in a season in his 7 years in the league, and that’s a mark you want to aim for. But it’s worse that he has only broken 20 games twice.

Bullpen: 

Koji Uehara (R): 4-1 1.09 ERA 21 SV 101 SO 0.565 WHIP 74.1 IP 73 G

Uehara stepped up after two failed closers, and pitched lights out for the Sox. Uehara doesn’t mess around, and comes right at batters. He throws a first pitch strike 70.2% of the time, and the rest of the at-bat isn’t much different. He’s got a nasty splitter he racks up strikeouts with. Last season Uehara retired 37 straight outs at one points, a streak that stretched from early July into mid September. Age is a big concern here though, Uehara will be 39 this season, and pitcher’s arms don’t usually last as long as hitters. There was tension in the dugout when deciding to use Uehara in back to back nights, and it’s clear the team is going to do everything they can to prolong the good thing they’ve got going here. A lot of questions remain if Uehara can repeat his 2013 success.

Edward Mujica (R): (STL) 2-1 2.78 ERA 37 SV 46 SO 1.005 WHIP 64.2 IP 65 G

Edward Mujica is big strengthening of the bullpen. He adds assurance behind Uehara as a proven closer in 2013. Mujica took over as closer of the Cardinals after a list of injuries derailed their plans. Mujica was great well into September before some consecutive iffy games lost him the outright closer role as the Cards made their playoff push. Despite a few blown save opportunities, Mujica still finished the year with a sub 3.00 ERA, and will find a decent role within a Sox bullpen dying for some mid inning stability. 

Junichi Tazawa (R): 5-4 3.16 ERA 72 SO 1.200 WHIP 68.1 IP 71 G

Taz had his highs and lows in 2013, but was overall a very reliable arm in the bullpen. He remained healthy for the full year, and provided a high volume of innings as a middle reliever/setup man. Taz may get bumped down into appearing into the 7th innings as opposed to opening for Uehara with the signing of Mujica, but nonetheless will remain a crucial figure in the pen.

Craig Breslow (L): 5-2 1.81 ERA 33 SO 1.123 WHIP 59.2 IP 61 G

Breslow represents a crucial left hand in the bullpen. There are aren’t many the Sox will see regularly this year, so his presence is a big one. Breslow had a bit of a meltdown in the World Series last year, and is coming into this season on the DL with a strain in his throwing arm. He will spend some time in the minors before he rejoins the roster. It’s uncertain as to if we will see a revitalized Breslow, or if what we saw in the Series was just a sign of things to come.

Brandon Workman (R): 6-3 4.97 ERA 47 SO 1.416 WHIP 41.2 IP 3 GS 20 G

Workman was a budding star last season. He was brought up for a few starts which he did well enough in, but due to an already packed starting rotation found himself a home in the bullpen where he performed exceptionally. In the playoffs Workman pitched 8.1 innings where he stuck out four, and didn’t allow an earned run. The Sox will likely continue to try to build him into a starter, but his stint in the bullpen will help him get the Major League experience he needs. Expect a few starts from him this season as well. Spring has not been overly kind to him, he’s pitched in 14.2 innings and has given up 9 runs. He’s walked only 2, with 15 strikeouts, but the balls that are being put into play from him are not looking good. Whether it’s a mental thing or fine tuning his location still, Workman has got some improving to do. But hey it’s only March, so we will see how the next month comes together for him.

Chris Capuano (L): (LAD) 4-7 4.26 ERA 81 SO 1.410 WHIP 105.2 IP 20 GS 24 G

I was personally a big fan of the Sox bringing in Capuano. He’s a New England kid with a lot of heart, who has never really thrived at the Major League level. Maybe making his way back home and into the American League is just what he needed. He’ll be another vital left arm in the bullpen for now, but if injuries piled up in the rotation he is a guy who can start in an emergency. The team gave him plenty of innings this Spring (11.0) where he allowed 3 runs and struck out 5. He hasn’t wowed, but he’s shown that he can at least be a guy that can eat some innings. He is a long relief candidate. Besides there are worse players to have in the bullpen…..*Alfredo Aceves* cough cough.

Other bullpen names on roster:

Andrew Miller, Alex Wilson, Drake Britton, Allen Webster, Steven Wright (DL), Burke Badenhop.

Prospects to watch: 

Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Henry Owens, Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts, Matt Barnes, & Trey Ball

 

The Red Sox bring back a very similar team as their World Series roster, and there is a lot of reasons to like them to at least make a push for a repeat. They lost a lot of production at the top of the order from the departure of Ellsbury, but still have a lot of power in the lineup to cause big time damage. The left side of the infield is very young and a lot of questions remain between what we will see from them on a daily basis. The AL East is going to be very good again, and it’ll take a great season to walk out on top. The Sox are a playoff team when healthy, but have a lot of ticking time bombs that could cause this season to come end over end in a fiery blaze.

Author: Tyler Arnold

My name is Tyler Arnold, I am the founder, a co-owner, and editor-in-chief of The Runner Sports. Sports have been my life since I was young, so here I am doing the only sensible thing, making a career of it. I love it all, and will watch any and every game I possibly can. Thanks for your readership.