So I’m assuming the rotation will be
Not sure ?
Red Sox sign IN/OF Marwin Gonzalez to a 1 year deal
Getting anxious to see what kind of team we will have this year.
“He is who he is. He’s going to be a part of this organization for the rest of his life. I know it was great for him, which is very important . I’m glad he was available and he was part of it.”
Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training Wednesday, and expectations are … mixed. Some statistical models suggest the Red Sox are at least playoff contenders, while the fan base consensus seems less than enthused. There are any number of unpredictable elements to this roster, from obvious health issues to performance uncertainty to depth chart questions.
Acknowledging there’s no right way to do this, we attempted to rank the 20 most important Red Sox players for this season. We’re looking primarily for those players who could lift them to new heights, as well as those who could cause the whole thing to fall apart.
20. (tie) Bryan Mata/Connor Seabold
Ready and waiting
The lowest spot on our list could go to Martín Pérez (stability in the rotation) or Matt Andriese (jack of all trades in the pen) or Jeter Downs (a prospect who might not even play in the majors), but we’ll go with Mata and Seabold because they represent something the Red Sox clearly need: young rotation depth. In recent years, the Red Sox’s depth has been tested, and it failed miserably last season. At some point, the Red Sox are going to need at least one of these two, and they might very well need them for more than a spot start.
19. Hunter Renfroe
Opportunity for the taking
This was the Red Sox’s first big addition of the offseason, and at the time he seemed to be a smaller domino just waiting for a bigger domino to fall. Two months later, though, the Red Sox still haven’t added another outfielder, and so the right field job seems to be Renfroe’s for the taking. Based on the current roster, it sure seems the Red Sox are banking on Renfroe being more than a platoon player.
18. Darwinzon Hernandez
Wild card in the bullpen
When he debuted in 2019, Hernandez struck out nearly 17 batters per nine innings, but he also walked more than 7.5 batters per nine. He was in some ways dominant (the strikeouts and a 2.75 FIP) and in other ways problematic (a 4.45 ERA with a 1.75 WHIP). Hernandez’s arm is so electric, there’s reason to believe he could be a difference-maker either in the late innings or across multiple innings of relief, but he’s also wild with a minor league track record that suggests big league success is no given.
17. Enrique Hernandez
Something to prove
He’s only twice gotten more than 300 at-bats in a season and only once started more than 60 games at any one position, but Hernandez signed for only $2 million per year less than Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong. He’s a crucial part of the Red Sox solution to their two most glaring holes: second base and center field. He could hit his way into everyday playing time at second, but he also brings much-needed balance and depth in the outfield. After the Andrew Benintendi trade, Hernandez’s role in the outfield might have grown.
16. Nick Pivetta
Second chance at a first impression
An interesting note from Peter Gammons, who wrote this week that the Rays also were trying to get Pivetta last season. “We think he can be another (Tyler) Glasnow,” one Rays official said. Such a comment speaks to Pivetta’s potential after an ugly ending in Philadelphia. He was quite good as recently as 2018, and he’s now out of options, meaning he’ll almost certainly make the Red Sox roster in one role or another. He could get the first chance to lock down the last spot in the rotation.
15. Christian Vazquez
Steady and reliable
Only eight catchers had 450 plate appearances in 2019. Vazquez had 521. Only nine catchers had 160 plate appearances last year. Vazquez had 189. He is a rarity these days, a true everyday catcher who doesn’t really share the job with anyone. He’s long been touted for his defense, but his bat has become valuable the past two years. Vazquez is a fairly reliable part of the equation. If he misses significant time, can Kevin Plawecki and perhaps Connor Wong pick up the slack?
14. Franchy Cordero
Boom or bust
Before the trade, I had Benintendi in the top 10 of this list, but it’s harder to know what to make of his replacement. Cordero could be a non-factor given his injuries and limited track record, and he could be little more than a platoon player given his career splits, but he just might be a difference-maker considering his loud tools and the potential of a full, healthy season. He’s about as boom-or-bust as it gets.
13. Tanner Houck
How good is he?
Even the most diehard believer has to admit that Houck is not going to repeat his 2020 results. He made three starts last year and pitched to a 0.53 ERA. That’s not sustainable. So, what is he really? He can be useful if he provides depth, but he can have real impact if he settles into a lasting role in the middle of the rotation. The question with Houck is not only how well is he going to pitch, but also how often is he going to pitch and in what role?
12. Bobby Dalbec
How much is too much?
Dalbec ranks higher than Houck because he’s more likely to have a key job out of camp. Also, Dalbec doesn’t get the credit he deserves for last season. He was fourth among all rookies in slugging percentage and third in wRC+. Even when he struggled for a few days at a time, he always seemed to get going again. He does strike out a lot, but his power is enormous. So, how many strikeouts can he withstand, and how many cold spells can the Red Sox weather? There’s a lot of boom-or-bust potential in every at-bat.
11. Adam Ottavino
10. Matt Barnes
Can one of these two take over the ninth?
The FanGraphs projections for Barnes and Ottavino are remarkably similar, except the site expects Barnes to get the bulk of the saves. One way or another, it seems these two are the crucial pieces of the Red Sox bullpen. Even if they add a closer — or a closer candidate, like Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, who agreed to a deal with the Red Sox on Wednesday — Barnes and Ottavino will be late-inning weapons with a giant say in whether late leads become Red Sox wins.
9. Nathan Eovaldi
8. Garrett Richards
What to make of this pair?
They’re not identical, but Richards and Eovaldi are approaching this season from similar lanes. Both had strong 2020 seasons. Both have dealt with injuries. Both have unquestionably good stuff. Neither is a sure thing to pitch like a No. 2-3 starter, but it’s possible they both will. If the Red Sox go from an awful rotation to a pretty good one, it might be because these two fortified the middle.
7. Jarren Duran
There’s a job waiting for him
Look, Duran might not be important at all. He’s not on the 40-man roster, and we can’t say for certain that he’ll take a single at-bat in the big leagues. In some ways, this is an absurd ranking. But the Red Sox did not sign an everyday center fielder, and Duran’s stint in winter ball became a real showcase of his potential as an everyday player. (You can bet Alex Cora was paying attention.) Whether it’s on Opening Day or sometime in the middle of the summer, the potential for Duran to emerge as a solution in the outfield is just too great to ignore.
6. Xander Bogaerts
There is no Plan B
How do you rank the importance of the most dependable player on the roster? It’s hard to see Bogaerts as a pure difference maker because his baseline is factored into our expectation, but if he doesn’t play reasonably well, the whole thing could fall apart. The importance of Bogaerts, really, is in the lack of alternatives. If he gets hurt or somehow falls flat, there’s not another everyday shortstop on the roster. Who would even get the first crack at it? Hernandez? Downs? Christian Arroyo? The Red Sox are not necessarily asking Bogaerts to reach new heights, but they do need him to be himself for 150-plus games.
5. Eduardo Rodriguez
So many questions
For four years, Rodriguez seemed to answer questions little by little. He became more durable, threw more innings, more consistently pitched deep into games, and his ERA went down season after season. His 2020 should have been a chance to really cement his status as a dependable front-end stater, but his season was lost to COVID-19 and a heart issue. Now the questions are back. Is he healthy? Can he stay healthy? Are his innings restricted? Can he pitch like he did in 2019?
4. Chris Sale
Making the second half count
It’s hard to put Sale any higher on this list, since it seems inevitable he’s going to miss about half the season. But it’s hard to put him any lower because, if the Red Sox can stay in the hunt for the first two or three months, Sale could be a game-changer in the second half. How many teams can expect to add a pitcher of this caliber mid-season? The key, of course, is getting Sale healthy and productive. He doesn’t have to be at his absolute best, but if he’s pretty good for 100-or-so innings, that could be huge.
3. Rafael Devers
A chance to be a star
Two years ago, Devers led the league in doubles and total bases. For more than a month last season, he was among the top 10 hitters in the game. No other Red Sox player has this kind of superstar potential, and Cora’s ability to coax it out of him could be a game-changer. Even with some inconsistency, Devers seems to be reliably a good player. It will make a big difference he can become a reliably great one.
2. J.D. Martinez
Unlocking the lineup’s potential
There’s no way the Red Sox offense can be at full strength without a productive Martinez in the middle of the order. For six years, he’d been one of the best all-around hitters in the game. Last year, he was literally the least productive player in the majors (lowest WAR among qualified hitters, according to FanGraphs). Maybe it was a fluke of the unusual season, and if it was, then the Red Sox offense is instantly better with Martinez back to form. But if it wasn’t, then the Red Sox are missing a bat they can’t possibly replace.
1. Alex Verdugo
Can he do it again?
Verdugo was the Red Sox’s most consistent, most passionate and most valuable player last season, but now comes the challenge of repeating that performance while moving to center field. Heightened expectations, a key role in the lineup, and a position change are what put him at the top of this list. There’s still time for that defensive assignment to change with a new addition, but it’s vital that Verdugo be more than a complementary player. If he’s the leadoff hitter and center fielder, it’s possible he’ll be the important cog at the plate and in the field.
We still have enough talent to be a top ten offense. It’s th e pitching that is the biggest question mark.
Can’t wait!!! Getting closer guys!
Neat. One of my favorites!!! Season (training) under way tomorrow!! Getting impatient. However Oilers are killing it right now so that has kept me entertained !
There’s another thread about the broadcast schedule but it was hard to
read. Monday I get to watch the Sox
- Monday, March 1: vs. Braves, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Saturday, March 6: vs. Twins, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Sunday, March 7: at Braves, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Saturday, March 13: vs. Braves, 1 p.m. (NESN+)
- Sunday, March 14: at Twins, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Friday, March 19: vs. Rays, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Sunday, March 21: vs. Pirates, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Wednesday, March 24: at Orioles, 6 p.m. (NESN)
- Thursday, March 25: vs. Twins, 6 p.m. (NESN+)
- Sunday, March 28: vs. Twins, 1 p.m. (NESN)
- Tuesday, March 30: vs. Braves, 1 p.m. (NESN)
Unable to watch today but feels great to have baseball back!!