Greetings! It won't be a disaster, but it won't be awesome...
Projected Starters - Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross (C), Mike Napoli (1B), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Stephen Drew/Jose Iglesias (SS), Will Middlebrooks (3B), Johnny Gomes/Daniel Nava (LF), Jacoby Ellsbury (CF), Shane Victorino (RF), David Ortiz (DH)
This isn't your older brother's Boston Red Sox lineup. Gone are the days of Manny and Ortiz (though he's still there) dominating the competition in the middle of the lineup, and they've been replaced by some legitimate questions. We'll start with the positives, and the picture of that is Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia is the 2nd-best second basemen in the majors in my opinion (behind Cano), and his .290 average with 15 homers, 20 steals and great defense from 2012 show that. He's solid as a rock, and there's safety there. After that, the other "stars" have some concerns. Jacoby Ellsbury has a 70-steal season and a 32-homer season on his resume, but I have no idea who he actually is at this point. He was probably the best player in the league in 2011 (32 homers, 39 steals, .321/.376/.552), but he got only 323 PA's in 2012, hitting 4 homers (an 8-9 home run pace) and stealing 14 bases (good for about 30 over a full year). If he's healthy, there's little question that he's a great player, but he's got a laundry list of injury history, and I'm not sure what the baseline is at this point. David Ortiz was great (again) in 2012, hitting .318 with 23 homers in only 383 PA's, but he tore his achilles, and may not make the opening day lineup. Factor that in with age, and he's no sure thing. The Sox brought in Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino as high-priced free agents, so they clearly expect big things, but I didn't love either move. Napoli's production plays hugely behind the plate, but is he really worth the investment as a pure 1st-base guy? He'll likely be bad on defense, and he hit .227 last season in Texas. If he's the 2011 version of Napoli (.320 avg, 32 homers), that would be tremendous, but I'm not sold. Victorino is "solid" but declining. He had the lowest average of his career last season (.255) which likely comes with a slight speed reduction, and he's probably not a 20-homer threat anymore either. He's certainly better than what they had, but the decline could continue. On the bright side, I like the catcher platoon a lot, as both Salty and Ross murder opposing pitchers with their splits, and that should be quite productive. Gomes has a similar profile, and he'll beat up on lefties all season with Daniel Nava hopefully taking the majority of AB's against righties in left field.
Projected - Jon Lester, Ryan Dempster, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, John Lackey/Franklin Morales
Is Jon Lester going to be Jon Lester? If he's not, Boston is in trouble. He struggled to a 4.82 ERA in 205 innings last year, and his K-rate plummeted to only 7.28 K/9. Previous to that, however, he posted four straight years with a mid-to-low 3.00's ERA, and if he's that pitcher again after being reunited with John Farrell as his pitching coach, he's a solid #1 option. Ryan Dempster is safe. He's thrown 200+ innings in 4 of 5 years, and never less than 170 with an ERA averaging in the mid-to-high 3.00's. They brought him in for stability, and he should provide that. The back-end? I have no idea. Buchholz struggled mightily in the mess of last season, finishing with a 4.56 ERA and a K/9 of only 6.13. Since his great 2010 campaign (with some "interesting" peripherals), he's been average at best, and he's not the most durable guy either. They need 180 quality innings, and that's not a shoe-in with him. Doubront/Lackey/Morales fill out the end of the rotation, and each guy has a fairly wide range of outcomes. Morales was much better than Doubront last year (albeit in limited work) and may have the leg up. The wild card is Lackey, who grabbed that massive contract from Boston a few years ago and basically went into the tank. Who knows?
Projected - Joel Hanrahan (closer), Andrew Bailey, Koji Uehara, Daniel Bard, Alfredo Aceves, Craig Breslow, Andrew Miller
After a bullpen disaster in 2012, the Sox brought in Joel Hanrahan to slam the door this year. He has 35+ saves for the last two years in Pittsburgh, and he's done so with good overall numbers. There's no reason to think he'll slip too much in Boston. The good thing for the Red Sox is that they're kind of loaded if he does. Andrew Bailey and Koji Uehara are both very, very good pitchers when they're healthy, and Daniel Bard was an absolute monster when he was in the bullpen before the failed experiment to start him. I also like the Aceves/Miller combination in long relief, and not a lot of teams have that kind of versatility.
It shouldn't be bad in Boston this year. I firmly believe that they'll contend throughout the season for a playoff spot, and if things go right (I'm looking at you Jon Lester, David Ortiz, and company), they could win 90 games. I'm hedging my bets with all of their new pieces and sending them to a 3rd-place finish in the uber-difficult AL East. Hopefully, there's no fried chicken or beer available...
85-77, 3rd in AL East