Saturday, April 8, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Boston Red Sox


The Boston Red Sox saw the retirement of one of their all-time greats in David Ortiz in 2016.  Will 2017 be a let down year, or will it see the emergence of the next generation of all-time Red Sox greats?

My 2016 Predictions
2nd in AL East
David Price will spend time on the DL in 2016.

2016 Results
93-69, 1st in AL East, lose in ALDS
The Red Sox had a great season in 2016.  After a disappointing finish in the cellar in 2015, the team bounced back, led by a farewell campaign from David Ortiz that Hollywood couldn't have written.  Led by their 40 year old slugger, and some young new stars, the Red Sox won the division.  Once in the playoffs, they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Cleveland Indians.  As for my Fearless Prediction, it appeared to just be premature.  I said the workload of David Price was going to catch up with him.  After leading the league in innings pitched in 2016, Price is starting the 2017 season on the DL which might result in Tommy John surgery.

Additions / Subtractions
The biggest subtraction is obviously the loss of David Ortiz.  Despite what many people hoped, he did indeed retire.  He has been replaced in the lineup by Mitch Moreland, a defense-first first baseman that allows Hanley Ramirez to inherit the DH spot.  Otherwise, the lineup didn't change much.  As far as their pitching goes, the Red Sox once again won the lottery.  After signing the biggest fish last season in David Price, they traded for the biggest fish on the market this year in Chris Sale.  They gave up a good portion of their farm system to get him, but get him they did.

Most Important Hitter
Pablo Sandoval
The success of Pablo Sandoval's season might be more important to Pablo Sandoval than the Red Sox.  After signing a big free agent contract with the Red Sox a few years ago, Pablo Sandoval has been an epic disappointment.  His 2016 season was defined by being overweight, breaking his belt on a swing, and a season-ending injury that dd the Red Sox a favor because now they had an excuse not to play him.  After several attempts to fill the third base hole last season did not work as well as they had hoped, the Red Sox are giving The Artist Formerly Known as Kung Fu Panda one more chance to show why they paid him so much money.  If this season goes well, Sandoval will be a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.  If this season goes poorly, not only will the Red Sox move on, but Sandoval's career will most likely be over.

Most Important Pitcher
Rick Porcello
Entering the 2016 season, everyone was talking about how the Red Sox signed David Price.  However, it was Rick Porcello that got the headlines by the end of the season, winning the AL Cy Young.  Now the Red Sox have added Chris Sale to the top of the rotation, giving them three established aces.  At least that is the hope.  More times than not, when a top-notch pitcher changes teams the first season is a bit of a letdown.  At the same time, David Price is on the shelf with no guarantee that he pitches at all this season.  Rick Porcello is going to be counted on as the stabilizing force in that rotation to hold it together no matter what happens with Sale and Price.  For someone who just had his first elite season, that might be too lofty a task for Porcello.

Player to Watch
Andrew Benintendi
This is an easy one.  The only reason he still qualifies as a rookie was an injury last season that kept his game total down below the limit.  However, Benintendi burst on the scene in 2016, showing he was ready to break out and be a star.  This season, he is the Opening Day rightfielder for the Red Sox.  He will not only be a fun rookie to watch, but he is being counted on to join their young core of Betts, Bogaerts, and Bradley.  Add Benintendi to that ... talk about the new "Killer B's!"

2017 Prediction
1st in AL East, win the World Series
This team is loaded.  Their lineup is possibly the best in the league, led by Mookie Betts, who has the potential to join Mike Trout as the two best players in the league.  Their pitching is elite and deep, even if David Price ends up not pitching this season.  This new core of stars had a taste of the postseason last year, and now they are ready to take it all the way.  If they are able to stay together, this might be the making of a dynasty.

Fearless Prediction
Chris Sale will win the AL Cy Young.  Mookie Betts will win the AL MVP.
Sale's career has been building to this.  He has been on this slow rise to dominance, but has yet to break through as the best pitcher in the league.  I think the biggest reason for this is the fact that he has yet to play on a team good enough to support him.  The White Sox have yet to contend since Sale's career has taken off.  Now he is on one of the most talented rosters in the league.  Combine that with Sale's dominance in the prime of his career, and this could be a special season for Chris Sale.  For Mookie Betts, his career has been building as well.  Last season, he took second in the MVP voting to Mike Trout, however he is close to eclipsing and possibly passing Trout.  Winning Cy Young, MVP, and the World Series is rare, but not a far-fetched prediction considering the circumstance.

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