Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 MLB Preview: Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox got off to a miserable start in 2011, played well from May to September, then experienced the worst September collapse in baseball history. They also lost Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, who helped bring two championships to Boston. The Red Sox also lost longtime closer Jonathan Papelbon, and John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka will miss much of the season due to Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox go into 2011 with more question marks than in years past.

Their lineup is one of the best in all of baseball. It starts at the top with Jacoby Ellsbury, who received MVP votes. Ellsbury emerged as one of the best outfielders in the game, and gave the Sox a 30/30 guy at the top of the order. Dustin Pedroia is simply one of the best 2nd baseman in the game, and Adrian Gonzalez blossomed into one of the best players in all of baseball.

The Sox did make some questionable moves, trading SS Marco Scutaro, in what was essentially a salary dump. The Sox also lost J.D. Drew, and Josh Reddick, but I like the idea of a Ryan Sweeney/Cody Ross platoon. I am skeptical of their solution at short, as it appears the Sox will go with a platoon of Nick Punto and Mike Aviles. Here is what I project for their lineup:

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
2B: Dustin Pedroia
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
3B: Kevin Youkills
DH: David Ortiz
LF: Carl Crawford(when healthy)
C:  Jarrod Saltalamacchia
RF: Cody Ross/Ryan Sweeney
SS: Nick Punto/ Mike Aviles

On the outside: Jose Iglesias has been regarded as one of the top prospects in the Sox system. However, he hit just .235 in AAA, but is known for his glovework. It would not be surprising to see him get a look at some point in 2012. The same can be said about catcher Ryan Lavarnaway. The 24-year-old slugged 32 HR's in the minors last year, and could make the team as a right-handed alternative to David Ortiz.

At the top, the rotation is as good as any team in baseball. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett are both solid at the top, and a healthy Clay Buchholz is a solid #3. After that, the Sox rotation has issues. The Sox are going to give stud reliever Daniel Bard a shot in the rotation. Bard has electric stuff, but it remains to be seen if that will translate to the rotation. The Sox signed many veterans to minor league deals, but I would give Aaron Cook the slight edge as the fifth starter. Ross Ohlendorf is also an interesting candidate for the spot as well. Ohlendorf, a former Yankee and Pirate, was a decent starter in '09 and '10, before imploding in 2011. The Sox rotation should look like this:

SP: Jon Lester
SP: Josh Beckett
SP: Clay Buchholz
SP: Daniel Bard
SP: Aaron Cook

The Sox replaced Jonathan Papelbon in the closer's role by trading for Andrew Bailey. I really like the move for the Sox, but it remains to be seen if he can get it done in the AL East. The Sox also acquired Mark Melancon from Houston, to facilitate the 8th inning role. He looked decent in what little I saw of him in 2011. The Sox could definitely use another established arm in the pen.

Kevin Says:  The Red Sox have one of the best lineups in the game, but the pitching staff is flawed. If Buchholz's back problems linger, the rotation looks rather thin. The bullpen could be dicey as well, and it would not surprise me to see the Sox acquire more depth before the season starts.

Projected Finish: 91-71, 3rd in the AL East.

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