As the 2015 campaign kicks off, there are some key enhancements over a Boston team that disappointed Red Sox Nation in their title defense last season. While there are enhancements; some questions remain on other players; each of which will play a key role in determine the team’s fate this year.
Provided below is expected everyday lineup, key reserves and pitching staff; with projected individual player contributions.
CF – Mookie Betts: .278 BA – 12 HR – 53 RBI – 34 SB
2B – Dustin Pedroia: .309 BA – 16 HR – 67 RBI – 10 SB
DH – David Ortiz: .263 BA – 27 HR – 95 RBI
LF – Hanley Ramirez: .291 BA – 23 HR – 88 RBI
3B – Pablo Sandoval: .276 BA – 18 HR – 79 RBI
1B – Mike Napoli: .259 BA – 21 HR – 73 RBI
RF – Shane Victorino: 269 BA – 6 HR – 40 RBI
SS – Xander Bogaerts: 248 BA – 14 HR – 51 RBI
C – Ryan Hanigan: 231 BA – 5 HR – 29 RBI
After a disastrous 2014 campaign, the Red Sox made significant investments to their batting order. Pablo Sandoval may not stand out as a “big number” player, he has demonstrated the composure to produce in the most intense situations. Couple his arrival with a former shortstop (Ramirez) coming in to play left field for the first time shows how valuable his bat can be. These two additions now provide Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz the lineup protection they have needed. Budding young star Mookie Betts has delivered late in 2014 as well as in Spring Training this year. Without a long track record, there is still a chance that Betts will struggle once pitchers adjust to his plate approach. Should that not be an issue, expect the dynamic centerfielder to be a top of the lineup igniter that will provide many RBI opportunities for his teammates.
While Mike Napoli will be a big producer as the team’s first baseman again this season, what the Sox get from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino will help shape this team as a contender or pretender in 2015. The loss of Christian Vazquez (elbow – 60-day DL) puts a lot of pressure on unproven veterans. Both Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon are solid receivers but offer little at the plate. If the bottom three in the lineup falter, Boston will need to make moves if they hope to play in October.
Daniel Nava: .285 BA – 10 HR – 48 RBI
Allen Craig: .266 BA – 5 HR – 39 RBI
Brock Holt: .289 BA – 2 HR – 31 RBI
Sandy Leon: .179 BA – 3 HR – 27 RBI
Daniel Nava will see the most playing time among the reserves due to the fragility of Victorino’s back/hamstring. He is a consistent plate producer and will benefit more from consistent playing time. Should Victorino fall to injury again in 2015, Boston is well suited to plug Nava in to the lineup and not skip a beat. Brock Holt proved to be a solid infielder with better-than-expected plate production. Filling in on three infield positions (2B, SS, 3B), the diminutive infielder will get plenty of opportunities to produce. The reserve catching position is shaky; as is the starter. At present, Leon offers MLB experience and is a solid receiver. With an above average arm, there is a strong likelihood that the former Washington National gets up to speed and will split plate duties by May.
Clay Buchholz: 14-6 – 2.49 ERA – 158 IP – 149 SO
Rick Porcello: 15-9 – 3.61 ERA – 209 IP – 197 SO
Wade Miley: 12-10 – 4.38 ERA – 197 IP – 138 SO
Justin Masterson: 10-9 – 4.64 ERA – 127 IP – 108 SO
Joe Kelly: 11-7 – 4.15 ERA – 135 IP – 119 SO
There is depth in the rotation but no one the Sox can turn to as a dependable ace at this juncture. If he can remain healthy, Buchholz has proven to be an extremely talented pitcher. A full season from the slender righty (questionable) would solidify the top of the rotation. Rick Porcello arrived in Boston as a proven middle of the rotation starter, with the potential of being more. As a durable producer (178 IP average over 6 seasons), having him as a solid #2 pitcher who can toe the rubber every five days is critical for the team’s success.
Wade Miley has been durable and consistent while playing in a unpressurized Arizona market. Should another 200 IP season play out in 2015 will mean the intense Boston atmosphere has not impacted him. Should the Red Sox get the 2013 Justin Masterson they will have found a bargain (even at $9.5 million). Before injuries derailed his season in 2014, Masterson was though to be an ace in waiting for the Indians. Not needed to do nearly as much in Boston, his ability to deliver an occasional brilliant start will be just what the doctor ordered. Joe Kelly brings heat along with a promise to be a solid starter for this franchise. Currently on the DL, Boston would be wise to make sure Kelly is fully healed before bringing the fire-baller back to the rotation.
Koji Uehara: 1.59 ERA – 24 SV – 60 IP – 83 SO
Craig Breslow: 4-3 – 2.96 ERA – 4 SV – 60 IP – 49 SO
Junichi Tazawa: 6-2 – 2.19 ERA – 2 SV – 70 IP – 76 SO
Edward Mujica: 2-5 – 4.89 ERA – 4 SV – 63 IP – 39 SO
Alexi Ogando: 5-7 – 5.01 ERA 49 IP – 41 SO
Robbie Ross Jr.: 3-3 – 4.78 ERA – 37 IP – 29 SO
Tommy Layne: 2-4 – 2.66 ERA – 27 IP – 16 SO
Anthony Vavaro: 2-2 – 3.01 ERA – 35 IP – 31 SO
Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa are known commodities and should produce in 2015. Depending on a 40-year old to be the closer (signed to a two-year $18 million contract) without a viable back-up plan seemed odd. Make no mistake, Koji Uehara has been as good as anyone one could have hoped since early 2013; and has one of the more impressive SO-BB ratios ever seen; only having Mujica with past extensive closer experience (along with his big struggles in 2014) makes late-game scenarios very shaky as the Boston kicks off the 2015 campaign.
A host of new faces and a returning situational lefty fill out the relief corps. Alexi Ogando will compete with fellow Texas newcomer Robbie Ross Jr. to be the team’s reliable long reliever. Ogando (6.84 ERA) and Ross Jr. (6.20 ERA) must improve greatly on poor 2014 seasons to keep the Sox in games when training in the middle innings. Layne will likely not replicate his 2014 campaign (30 App – 0.95 ERA), but should fill in well as the team’s second lefty reliever. Situational reliever Anthony Vavaro rounds out the staff coming off consecutive solid seasons with Atlanta (combined 6-4 record 2.83 ERA).
There is much to be excited about as the 2015 Red Sox pursue their fourth championship in 12 seasons. With proven stars in place and some promising young talent, the offense should be much improved over last season. Even though the pitching staff lacks a stud ace, there is depth in place to contend. The relief corps is perhaps the greatest concern with several newcomers in the fold and an aged closer being relied on to finish off opponents. If there is an area where much turnover will occur, look no farther than the bullpen.
Should any player falter, the Red Sox have proven in years past to remedy the situation via trade as well as call-ups from a good farm system.
As the team stands today, Boston is again poised to contend for the division crown and play late in October.