Saturday, March 30, 2013

Boston Red Sox 2013 Preview

Last year the Red Sox went 69-93 and finished last in the American League East.  That won't happen again this year.  Boston acquired closer Joel Hanrahan from Pittsburgh and signed reliever Koji Uehara, outfielders Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino and catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli.  These transactions alone won't make them a division contender but for Boston this is a "rebuilding" season so fans can't expect the moon. 
 
Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront will anchor the starting staff.  Collectively this looks great on paper but as last year shows that means little when the games are played.  None of these pitchers had an ERA less than 4.56, Beckett's was over 5 and Lackey didn't play due to injury.  Lots of questions.  I believe they have to be better than last year when the best any starter did was 11 wins.  Even if the starting pitchers aren't their old great selves they should at least be better than last year and I expect Lester and Bucholz to have solid years reminding fans why they have hope.
 
The bullpen is anchored by Hanrahan at closer.  His transition to the American League will be key.  If he doesn't cut it the bullpen could be in trouble.  Andrew Bailey is the closer in training and could step in but he is an unknown at this time.  Koji Uehara was signed away from Texas and had a great year with a 1.75 ERA, .64 WHIP, and .160 batting average against.  He is 37 so I have to hope this won't be the year he plays old.  Otherwise the bullpen has decent talent but they don't blow opponents away.  My hope is they can be solid and the additions make big contributions.
 
David Ortiz is back and DH but won't start the season due to injury.  He is always solid as long as he can stay healthy this year.  Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks will anchor the infield.  All are solid players and they must play good defense and keep the bat on the ball for Boston to succeed.  Jose Iglesius will play short until Stephen Drew returns from injury so this could be a negative for a time. 
 
Jackie Bradley Jr. is the darling coming out of spring training after a great March.  Hopefully he can prove he belongs when the stats really count and keep his spot on the team when players start returning from injuries.  Jacoby Ellsbury had a sub par season in 2012 but there is no reason to believe he can't stay healthy and bounce back.  Shane Victorino will be the other outfielder and brings much needed energy and speed.  He fits well though it is a wonder why Cody Ross left for Arizona for about the same amount of money.  Jonny Gomes will provide depth and possibly start if Bradley Jr. falters early. 
 
I like the hiring of John Farrell as manager.  Bobby V. was the worst choice EVER and it was obvious from the start of last season.  My hope is Farrell, previously the Red Sox pitching coach, can return the pitching staff to above average form.  As always the American League East is competitive.  New York is ailing but they still have talent.  Baltimore will have to show they can do it two years in a row and Toronto replaced everyone except the mascot with high profile signings/trades.  I actually think Boston can take 2nd place this year with the Blue Jays winning the division.  I don't think they make the playoffs.  That would take everyone playing at their best and that may be too much to ask for though Red Sox fans will not be happy with anything less.  I think they can compete for the division title but that may be too optimistic.  They just need to get on the right track and should be one of the powers that be in the coming years as some of their minor league talent is ready for the big show.  

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