In 2012, the Boston Red Sox had one of the worst records in baseball. After losing 93 games and finishing in last place, Bobby Valentine went down as the worst manager in team history. At best, the 2013 Red Sox were expected to be competitive but what transpired not even the best storyteller could have written. A team of misfits centered around an aging legend went on to win the World Series. Repeating is the hardest thing to do in baseball however with Big Papi as hungry as ever to add to this ring collection, the Red Sox are poised for a deep October postseason.
Jon Lester is the unquestionable ace on the roster. A former cancer survivor, the hard-throwing lefty is a prominent figure in the clubhouse. He has earned respect from his MLB colleagues for his penchant to come up big in clutch moments. He has won at least 15 games in five of his six full seasons. He averages almost a strikeout per inning and is one of the better control pitchers with a 1.29 WHIP. A fastball in the low 90s, Lester relies heavily on hitting the corners. He knows how to pitch in the hitter-friendly Fenway Park and gets even tougher on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .237 batting average. Lester tabled a long-term contract until after the season but is motivated by the figures given to Sabathia, Tanaka and Verlander. He should make a strong case for the Cy Young award and a huge payday. Since leaving the Angels, John Lackey was thought to be a bust in Boston. Prior to 2013, he had missed a full season due to Tommy John surgery and had a 5.26 ERA as a Red Sox. He was also one of the most disliked players by the fans. But without Lackey it is hard to imagine the Red Sox would have won the title last year. He returned to form with a 3.52 ERA but was even bigger during the playoffs. He won three games including posting a 2.57 ERA in the World Series. He also made his first relief appearance in nearly a decade, asking into the eighth inning of the pivotal Game 4. When he’s on, Lackey is one of the more clutch pitchers. He should enjoy a solid season of 15 wins. Jake Peavy joined the Red Sox via trade before the July deadline. The former Cy Young winner has always had one of the best fastballs and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning for his career but is consistently injured. Peavy has missed time in each of the past six years. It is hard to bank on him staying healthy. When he is on the mound, he can dominate hitters.
The Red Sox lost speedy leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury as he bolted to the rival Yankees but countered signing Grady Sizemore. The former All-Star, one of the most electrifying players with the Indians, has missed the past two years due to injury. He looks good this spring and has put up solid numbers to earn a roster spot. If incumbent Jackie Bradley Jr. falters, look for Sizemore to takeover the every day role. When healthy, he is fun to watch as Red Sox fans will hope for the best. Former MVP second baseman Dustin Pedroia is a mainstay in Boston. The pesky hitter has earned respect throughout the league for playing through pain and his clutch homers. He is one the most recognized players in team history. With two World Series rings, Pedroia is slowly crafting a Hall of Fame career. AJ Pierzynski replaces Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate. Pierzynski should enjoy a good offensive year peppering the Green Monster in left field. Since the Red Sox parted ways with superstar Nomar Garciappra, there has been a revolving door at the shortstop position for the past decade. Stephen Drew chose against taking $14.1 million in arbitration in hopes for a long-term contract. After a strong showing during the playoffs, Xander Bogaerts takes over as the starting shortstop. The rookie looks as a fixture in Boston for a very long time. What Jeter is to the Yankees, Bogaerts has the potential to be the same for the Red Sox. He has the talent and should flourish under manager John Farrell’s tutelage. David Ortiz returns in his role as the greatest DH and has engraved his name in Red Sox history. The organization has seen many great players put on the jersey but none has had the impact as Big Papi. The future Hall of Famer enjoyed a resurgent year posting 30 homers and 103 RBIs during the regular season. At 37, he put up the best World Series numbers ever. He destroyed Cardinals pitching en route to a .688 average (that would have been higher had Carlos Beltran not robbed him of a grand slam) including eight walks and the World Series MVP. Ortiz’s presence changes the entirety of the lineup. He enters spring in the best shape of his life and is poised to be the first 38 year-old to win the regular season MVP since Barry Bonds did with the Giants.
For the moment, Ryan Dempster decided to forfeit his $14 million salary and sit-out the 2014 season. As the Red Sox gear up for the playoffs, look for GM Ben Cherington to give Dempster a call to add pitching depth. The loss of Ellsbury can be mitigated if Sizemore stays healthy but that is to be seen. The Red Sox pitching is thin but Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront will need to step up for the organization to go deep in the postseason. As long as Ortiz avoids the DL, the Red Sox are the best team in baseball. His playoff numbers are similar to what people display in a video game. He is a superhero in Boston and is geared to ‘Hulk Smash’ his way to another championship year.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ .