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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Boston Red Sox

Wild on Sports
MLB 2014 Team Preview: Boston Red Sox
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Doorman

2013 Overview: The World Series Champion Red Sox had a major surprise turnaround, thanks in part to a lucky amount of short-term payoffs from free agents, but how quickly everyone forgot that the Red Sox were already blessed with an impressive core of talent. Stars like Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury enjoyed bounceback seasons. Boston’s talent on the farm began to make an impression at the big league level as well; they plugged some holes in their bullpen with home-grown arms (Junichi Tazawa, Drake Britton) and were able to turn prospects into Jake Peavy, the kind of reliable arm they sorely missed during the 2011 meltdown.

Winter Grade:  A
Coming: Edward Mujica, AJ Pierzynski
Going: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Alfredo Aceves, Stephen Drew???,
Boston didn’t do very much, other than let some free agents depart (Stephen Drew remains a candidate to return as he has yet to sign a new contract). Boston made the right choice by keeping Mike Napoli, a reliable bat during a time when the offensive talent pool at first base is remarkably thin (even with Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera moving there next year). Losing Ellsbury won’t hurt as much as people assume, as Boston has plenty of rookie depth to provide cost-effective production(see below). Many World Series teams suffer from overvaluing their champions, but few can match Boston’s deep talent base. But perhaps their biggest change this winter was to finally stop trading away talent (Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, etc) for under performing relievers (Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon) and just sign a usable arm in Mujica.

Wild Card(s): Will Middlebrooks has strong power potential, but if he can’t take more pitches he’s just a poor man’s Pedro Alvarez.

Key Contract years: Jon Lester, David Ortiz, (Pierzynski)

Xander Bogaerts will play everyday next year for Boston, either at shortstop, or third base if they re-sign Stephen Drew. He should provide instant power and plate discipline, and his offensive profile includes everything except speed. He could be a star from day one. Temper your expectations more for Jackie Bradley Jr., Ellsbury’s replacement in center, if only because he struggled initially last year when he made the Opening Day lineup. Bradley can still be expected to set the table for Boston, and his minor league pedigree is actually more impressive than Ellsbury’s was initially. At least a half dozen pitchers, including Allen Webster, Tony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and maybe even Henry Owens (their best pitching prospect) could show up and eat innings in the rotation, or more likely, Boston will see if any can dominate in a relief role while their veterans earn their money.

Key Questions:
How many games will Clay Buchholz be able to start?
Is Jake Peavy still an ace, or just an unreliable no. 3?
How much longer will David Ortiz maintain elite offensive production?
How quickly will Boston’s rookies establish themselves?

Farm System Overview: BLUE (Elite)
Boston has arguably the most impressive collection of near-ready talent in baseball, and boasts great pitching depth among all levels. They’re still benefiting from the rules that allowed unlimited draft spending before 2012, as high-bonus players like Bogaerts, Ranaudo, and Mookie Betts had huge seasons last year. They also have several interesting catchers who will compete to replace Pierzynski after this year. Most prospect lists (BA, ESPN, etc) show last year’s top pick, lhp Trey Ball, barely cracking the top ten, due to their stacked system.

Prognosis: Strong Contenders Big Papi’s not done yet!


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