2017 BOSTON RED SOX BASEBALL PREVIEW
MANAGER: John Ferrell
2016 RECORD: 93-69
HOME RECORD: 47-34
ROAD RECORD: 46-35
FIVE YEAR WINNING TREND:
2016 BY THE NUMBERS:
Total Bases: 2,615
OPP BA: .246
KEY PERSONNEL MOVES:
LHP Chris Sale
RHP Tyler Thornburg
1B Mitch Moreland
3B Yoan Moncada
3B Travis Shaw
DH David Ortiz
RHP Koji Uehara
The Boston Red Sox are acting like the world will come to an end soon by trading young, upcoming prospects for established All-Star players. Dave Dombrowski made perhaps the biggest move in the off-season by acquiring Chicago White Sox LHP Chris Sale for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. This trade made the Red Sox the favorite in the AL East and perhaps the favorite in the entire American League. The Red Sox now have a window of opportunity to bring the World Series back to Boston.
ROTATION: Boston has perhaps the BEST rotation in baseball now that Sale is on board. Sale will join former Cy Young Award winner David Price and current Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello to form the best top three in any rotation. Sale is perhaps the best of the three now that he is working on four straight top-five finishes in the Cy Young voting but has yet to win the award. Price will look to improve on his average 2016 season in which he went 17-9 with an ERA of 3.99. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez should be the fourth starter with knuckleballer Steven Wright fighting it out with Drew Pomeranz for the fifth spot.
BULLPEN: Manager John Ferrell didn’t have very many good options for a late-inning reliever after losing Koji Uehara went down with an injury. Uehara has since left for the Cubs via free agency. Now the Sox have former Brewers set up man Tyler Thornburg along with holdover Joe Kelly. Thornburg went 8-5 with an ERA of 2.15 in 2016. They will set-up for All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, who allowed several big hits to produce questions about his reliability in October. The rest of the bullpen will need some sorting out in spring training, then into the season. Fernando Abad and Heath Hembree are also options.
MIDDLE INFIELD: The Red Sox may be as strong of the team up the middle as anyone in major league baseball. Former MVP 2B Dustin Pedroia is joined by emerging star Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. Pedroia is coming off one of his best seasons, hitting .318 with a .825 OPS and finished as a finalist for a Gold Glove. Bogaerts tailed off in the second half of the season, but still won his second straight Silver Slugger award. He is steady enough defensively, but looks to return to his 2015 form.
CORNERS: Hanley Ramirez was criticized for his disappointing 2015 season and responded with a huge 2016 campaign by hitting 30 homeruns and driving and 111. He will get more at-bats at designated hitter this year, with Gold Glover Mitch Moreland getting the start at first base against right-handers and Ramirez against lefties. The biggest question will come at third base after the Red Sox traded prospect Michael Kopech to the White Sox for Sale. Underachieving veteran Pablo Sandoval is looking to regain his starting job and erase the terrible memories over the last two seasons in Boston. The question is whether Sandoval is up to the task, but he did show more commitment in the off-season.
OUTFIELD: Boston may be the envy of baseball because of the talent they have in their outfield. Right fielder Mookie Betts won a Gold Glove and finished second in MVP voting during his breakout 2016 campaign. Betts finished with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 214 hits and 26 stolen bases. Center fielder Jackie Bradley started the All-Star game and finished with 26 home runs and a slugging percentage of nearly .500. Then there is youngster Andrew Benintendi, who many scouts believe could win a batting championship in the future. He is also a center fielder by trade, which will give the Red Sox more options with his range and athleticism.
CATCHING: There are many questions at this position for 2017. 2016 starter Sandy Leon hit .458 in the first month of the season and tailed off to .204 over the last month. Leon spent 10 years in the minors and may not be the long-term answer in Boston. Christian Vazquez has a tremendous arm and reputation for excellent defense, but is a very average hitter. Youngster Blake Swihart is very athletic, and will return to catching after a disastrous experiment in the outfield. He is season ended with an ankle injury. Look for Leon and Vazquez to open the season at the big-league level.
DH/BENCH: Boston faces a monumental task of replacing designated hitter David Ortiz, who walked into the sunset with perhaps the greatest final season in baseball history. Ortiz hit .315 with 38 homeruns and 127 RBI. Those numbers will be very difficult to replace. The bulk of his at-bats will likely go to Ramirez, who is a lifetime .331 hitter with an OPS at 1.014 at designated hitter. The rest of the bench will consist of outfielder Chris Young, Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge.
SCOUTING REPORT: Losing David Ortiz is significant, and they must sort out the catching situation and hope that Pablo Sandoval can be the Pablo Sandoval of old when he was with San Francisco. That is all they really have to worry about. Getting Chris Sale without giving up Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley or Xander Bogaerts was huge. Yes, they gave up to valuable prospects, but that is the history of Dave Dombrowski. When he gets a chance, he goes for it. Sale will be the number one starter, allowing David Price to be more of a number two, where many believe he’ll be better off. When you put Rick Porcello in the mix, that is going to be hard to beat. Dustin Pedroia is a great leader, and Hanley Ramirez finally bought in to being a professional last year. Catcher Christian Vasquez deserves the chance to be the guy behind the plate.