It had been my original intent to use this space and time to continue my preview of the 2016 Red Sox by keying off of what has been getting the most attention in the Boston media. However, it feels to me that last season was, in so many ways, over so prematurely, and that I have already spent a great deal of time doing this.
Besides, I have this very strong sense the team we finish up with is going to be significantly different than the one we start with, so why waste the time? Although I will still review some of the young talent expected to be part of the action this year, I will also make some predictions as to how I think the team will look by the Fall.
As of right now, I would expect the opening day starters will include few surprises. Hanley Ramirez will be at first, with a hopefully healthy Dustin Pedroia back at his customary second base spot. The left side of the infield will feature the 23-year-old All-Star caliber player, Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, and the still rotund and range-less Pablo Sandoval at third.
The outfield, as currently constructed, will be rather young and very strong defensively. The 28-year-old Rusney Castillo has taken well to left, with the soon to be 26-year-old Jackie Bradley in center. Between the sun and various oddities, right field at Fenway is considered to be a very difficult place to play, demanding athleticism and a very strong arm. Fortunately, the 23-year-old Mookie Betts has both.
The switch hitting, 23-year-old Blake Swihart will likely be the starting catcher, with veteran and Andover, MA, native Ryan Hanigan backing him up. The starting staff should likely go David Price (L), Clay Buchholz (R), soon to be 23-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez (L), followed by right-handers Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly. Of course, DH and soon to be retired David Ortiz, will be looked to to anchor the offense.
Although not exactly set in concrete, I would expect this to be the starting lineup. In fact, Sandoval has struggled with more than just his weight, as he has committed 2 errors in 4 games and has yet to get a hit in 8 at bats. Rodriguez “tweaked” his knee early on doing fielding drills, and as a result, is not expected to be ready for the start of the season. Reports are that infield coach Brian Butterfield has been working Ramirez hard, but it remains to be seen if he’s actually mastered the new position.
It’s my sense that it’s going to require more than just a “good start” to save the jobs of several current members of the Sox. I include, by the way, the manager in that group. I do not belief that the team’s hierarchy is at all pleased with it’s current make up and, unless they get off to a dominating start, I expect to see changes starting by the middle of May.
So, by the time September 1st rolls around, I believe you’ll see a pair of youngsters at the corners, with the 26-year-old Travis Shaw at first and the 21-year-old Yoan Moncada at third. The 6’2”, 205 pound Moncada, who is often said to be built like a linebacker, could be the Red Sox version of Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Although he’s currently a second baseman, I predict we’ll see him at third before the season is over.
I’ll be very surprised if there is not at least one significant trade involving an outfielder, with either/or both Castillo and Bradley being moved. Castillo has yet to prove he’s worth $72 million, and Bradley hasn’t proved he can hit major league pitching with any consistency. It may be a bit early to give up on Bradley, but I could see him included in a package that would help them strengthen the rotation.
The only thing I haven’t figured out is how they get both catchers, Swihart and the defensively superior 25 year old Christian Vazquez, into the lineup. I still expect they’ll make Swihart into a first baseman and either trade Shaw or save him for protection as a back up third baseman/outfielder. As for Ramirez, the only way I see him staying around is if the 40ish Ortiz doesn’t stay healthy. Otherwise, I expect he’ll be gone.
At any rate, I think I’ve done enough damage for now. Next time out I’ll make my prediction to where they’ll finish and how the Ortiz retirement tour will go. So, stay tuned.
- The “Roger That” Edition - February 28, 2017
- The “Nice Ring To It” Edition - February 3, 2017
- The “Shaken, Not Stirred” Edition - January 17, 2017
- The “Malcolms in the Middle” Edition - January 11, 2017
- A “Catching Up, Following Up, and Weighing In” Edition - December 31, 2016
- The “Cannon and Flowers” Edition - December 21, 2016
- The “Farm, for Sale” Edition - December 10, 2016
- The “Tebucky Jones Tribute” Edition - November 13, 2016
- The “World, Serious” Edition - November 1, 2016
- The “Easy Come, Easy Go” Edition - October 18, 2016