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Boston Red Sox 2014 Season Preview

29 Mar

Standing O Sports is previewing all 30 Major League teams seasons, division by division, team by team. Up next in the American League East is the Boston Red Sox.

What Happened Last Season
The 2013 Boston Red Sox were truly Boston Strong. The Sox shocked the baseball world by winning the World Series one year after finishing in last place in the American League East.  The season turned on April 20th when David Ortiz delivered one of the greatest pre-game speeches in Boston sports history prior to the Red Sox first home game after the Boston Marathon tragedy. Ortiz proclaimed that Boston was “our f—ing city”. The season that followed was truly magical.

As for the baseball side, the Sox had the number 1 offense in the game. Boston led Major League Baseball with 853 runs scored, a .349 on-base percentage, a .446 slugging percentage, and the team was 2nd with a .277 batting average. The pitching, led by Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Clay Buchholz was significantly better than it was in 2012. John Farrell also seamlessly fit in as the teams new manager. Now the Sox face the difficult task of becoming the first team since the 2000 Yankees to repeat as World Series champions.

Offseason Headlines

  • Signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year $8.25 million dollar contract
  • Signed outfielder Grady Sizemore to a one-year deal
  • Extended the contract of David Ortiz
  • Re-signed Mike Napoli to a 2-year $32 million dollar contract
  • Lost center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees, and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Marlins
  • Ryan Dempster announced he would not pitch in 2014
  • Decided not to bring back shortstop Stephen Drew

Take: Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington took a conservative approach to the offseason.  He had no problem letting Jacoby Ellsbury join the Yankees for a ton of money, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia leave for the Marlins.  Cherington replaced Saltalamacchia for the cheaper, and just as effective A.J. Pierzynski.  Red Sox fans will quickly fall in love with Pierzynski’s toughness and grit.  The signing of Grady Sizemore is one of those low-risk high reward moves.  Sizemore has not played in a Major League game since 2011, but when right, is one of the best players in baseball.  Sox fans have to be excited about top prospect Xander Bogaerts taking over as the teams full-time short-stop.  Clearly, winning the World Series had an effect on Cherington’s rather quiet offseason.

Projected Lineup

Shane Victorino (RF)
Daniel Nava (LF)
Dustin Pedroia (2B)
David Ortiz (DH)
Mike Napoli (1B)
Xander Bogaerts (SS)
A.J. Pierzynski (C)
Grady Sizemore (CF)
Will Middlebrooks (3B)

Breakdown: He’s back. Yes, Grady Sizemore is poised to make a triumphant return back to Major League Baseball, not just as a reserve or platoon player, but as the starting center-fielder for the Red Sox.  There’s no way around it, John Farrell is taking a huge risk with this move.

The lead-off spot in the lineup is up for grabs, but John Farrell has made it clear, at least initially, that it won’t be Sizemore.  Look for Shane Victorino to start the season at the top of the lineup. Victorino had two of the biggest hits of Boston’s post-season in 2013. Following Victorino is Daniel Nava who was very effective in his first full season in the Majors. Nava hit .303, and drove in 66 runs in 134 games last season. After them, the lineup looks very strong.  Dustin Pedroia is arguably the toughest player in the sport in the 3-hole, and David Ortiz is solidified  in the clean-up spot.  Mike Napoli was the player who started the whole beard epidemic which ended up paying huge dividends for Boston.  Entering 2014, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is the 2nd best prospect in all of baseball.  That has to make the fan base super excited.  A.J. Pierzynski brings an attitude to the 7th spot. Grady Sizemore bring a ton of upside to the 8th spot. Rounding out the lineup is Will Middlebrooks who’s looking to have a breakout season (even though he won’t have Jenny Dell by his side for every game).

Projected Pitching Rotation

Jon Lester
Clay Buchholz
John Lackey
Jake Peavy
Felix Doubront

Jon Lester returning to ace status for crucial for the Red Sox success in 2013.  Lester improved significantly from his 2012 campaign.  Clay Buchholz dominated in his 16 regular season starts last season.  Then soreness in his neck and shoulder area forced him to miss a great deal of time.  Buchholz came back in time for the playoffs, but was nowhere near the pitcher he was prior to getting hurt.  After missing all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, John Lackey returned in full force in 2013 and Sox fans should be hoping for more of the same from him.  Jake Peavy was acquired mid-season from the White Sox.  Although Peavy struggled, it didn’t stop the Red Sox from taking the title.  Felix Doubront enters the season as the number 5 starter.  Doubront finished up a shaky spring with 5 shout-out innings so Sox fans shouldn’t be as concerned as they once were.

X-Factor: Grady Sizemore

The Red Sox are really putting a lot of faith into a player that hasn’t appeared in a game since the 2011 season.  You would think they would ease Grady Sizemore in a bit, but the Sox are throwing Sizemore right back into the fire hitting playing him in center-field.  Certainly, if he’s right, the skies the limit for him.  All you have to do is look back to Sizemore’s 2007-2008 seasons when he was a 30 home-run hitter, and stole over 30 bases on a regular basis.  That was six-years ago.  If it does work-out, the Sox will be in business.  If not, look for John Farrell to bring Jackie Bradley Jr. up to the bigs and move Xander Bogaerts up in the lineup.

Season Outlook

Everything that could go right, did for the Red Sox in 2013.  It’s highly unlikely Boston enjoys the same luck in 2014.  Still, with the teams starting rotation, and the emergence of Xander Bogaerts, Sox fans have a lot to be excited about this season.

Prediction

Frankel: 91-71 (2nd in AL East)

 
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Posted by on 03/29/2014 in MLB

 

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