Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #13: Boston Red Sox

Greetings all... chicken and beer for everyone (that's my last clubhouse joke)...


C - Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B - Adrian Gonzalez
2B - Dustin Pedroia
SS - Mike Aviles
3B - Kevin Youkilis
LF - Carl Crawford
CF - Jacoby Ellsbury
RF - Ryan Sweeney/Cody Ross
DH - David Ortiz

In the midst of all the off-season foolishness about the collapse, the locker room, and the managerial change, I think we've all forgotten just how scary this lineup is. The Ellsbury/Pedroia/Gonzalez/Ortiz/Youkilis top-5 is the best in baseball IMO, and when you had in that there's a strong likelihood of a Carl Crawford rebound, this is scary. Gonzalez was one of the best hitters in the majors last year, posting a .338 BA with 27 homers and an OPS near 1.000. Elsewhere, Pedroia is the 1b to Cano's 1a as far as elite second basemen go, Ellsbury had his breakout season last year (32 homers, 39 steals, .928 OPS), and Ortiz is still chugging along at advanced age (29 homers, .953 OPS). Kevin Youkilis took a small step back in 2011, but is 100% healthy entering the season, and still managed to post solid numbers at a weak position of 3rd base. The key to everything is Crawford, who, after signing that gigantic contract, had the worst season of his career in 2011 when his OPS slipped under .700 and stole only 18 bases all year. His baseline previously had been an OPS over .800 and 45-60 steals per season, and even if he splits the difference between those two, he's a very good player. The 7 through 9 spots leave a bit to be desired, however. Salty had a good year with 16 homers in 350 ABs and if he can bring that level of production from the catcher spot, that's better than average. The real weak spots are at shortstop and RF where Mike Aviles and the Ross/Sweeney duo take up residence. The Sox curiously let Jed Lowrie go AND dealt Marco Scutaro to hand the job to Aviles, and that choice could either pay dividends (if he hits like late last year or in 2010 with KC) or could be disastrous if he gets injured as he's prone to do. At any rate, there would need to be a giant collapse for this not to be an elite lineup.


1 - Josh Beckett
2 - John Lester
3 - Clay Buchholz
4 - Daniel Bard
5 - Alfredo Aceves/Dice-K

Beckett and Lester are givens. At various levels, both are staff aces, and with Beckett's 2011 level and Lester returning to form, that's a ridiculous 1-2. After that? A bit more dicey. Buchholz has been good the last 2 seasons (sub-4.00 ERA), but has injury concerns, and they need him to be solid. Daniel Bard had been their "closer of the future", but they've decided to move him to the #4 starter spot as his electric stuff seems to translate. No one knows how he'll be, but his numbers have been unbelievable in the minors. Aceves was fantastic (2.61 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) in 114 innings between the pen and a flex-starter role, and this year, he'll reportedly be used as the 5th starter in order to keep him stretched out. I don't think he's as good in a starter role as the 2011 numbers indicate, but he'll be solid in that role.


Andrew Bailey takes the reins from the jettisoned Papelbon, and his career 2.07 ERA in 174 innings as a closer shows that he's very, very effective when healthy. They got him on the cheap thanks to a semi-checkered injury past, but there's no indication he's not 100% and he'll produce if he is. Elsewhere, they brought in Mark Melancon from Houston to set-up and he's been very good the past 3 years. The depth is a bit lacking after Matt Albers and Franklin Morales, but this is an area where Boston could flex its financial muscles later in the season if it becomes a glaring need.


90-72, 2nd in AL East, Wild Card #2

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