Red Sox 2016 Preview

After winning it all in 2013, the Boston Red Sox have finished at the bottom of the AL East in each of the following two seasons. The departure of key players in 2014 left some huge holes to fill in the lineup. In 2015 some thought the could go from worst to first like they previously did in 2013. They thought the problems were solved with their off-season moves heading into last year. With the lack of production offensively, alongside some injuries and a mediocre pitching staff that struggled to perform, it drove the team too far back to be able to recover in time to potentially steal a wild card spot. Boston has made some moves and possibly more to come in the near future. However with the good finish they had, having some good depth within the organisation, do they currently have a shot to be a serious World Series contender?

First there is their pitching. Last year it was the weakest part of their team. They ball club added an All-Star starter as well as an All-Star closer. Did they do enough to better their pitching staff to help them succeed?

Left handed pitcher David Price who signed a monster deal to be the Red Sox ace that they desperately needed. He is expected to perform the way he did since he acquired by Toronto. As for the rest of the starters they are expected to better.Clay Buchholz will look to be dominant like he was before his surgery right after the 2013 post-season. The Sox would be happy if he were to perform the way he did prior to his injury last year, he is the solid number two guy. This can be a successful one two punch that they did not have last year. Youngsters Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens have shown that they can be dominant in the majors. If Joe Kelly can come back to how dominant he was in the last month and a half of the season before his injury. Rick Porcello will look to bounce back from a rough year while lefties Rodriguez, Owens and newly acquired Roenis Elias will look to take that last spot in the rotation with the departure of Wade Miley.

As for the relief pitchers the Red Sox have improved the back end of their bullpen. The acquisition of All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel allows Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa to come in a little earlier. It also takes some of the workload off Uehara who is nearing the end of his career, they have the ability to frustrate opposing batters.

Carson Smith is another name added to the solid righties the team has but what about the lefties. Boston does not have a solid left handed pitcher out of the bullpen. They do have Robbie Ross Jr but that will not be enough. They do have lefty starters to fill up spots as well as a couple of other average relievers that might not find room to start off with the big club. It is not a priority as of now to find one but maybe in the future depending on how things work out.

Next question that needs to be answered is their outfield. Last year their outfield consisted of Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Shane Victorino. Victorino was traded to the Angels while Ramirez will no longer be playing in the outfield after not being able to adjust to left field this year.

Mookie Betts will be the only returning Boston outfielder from the start of last year. He will Be joined by Jackie Bradley Jr and Rusney Castillo. Boston also added free agent outfielder Chris Young to be the fourth outfielder. The Red Sox also have utility man Brock Holt who will be able to come in if needed.

Although their outfield has talent, we don’t know for sure if they will be producing offensively. Rusney Castillo signed a big contract to join the Sox after previously playing in the Cuban League. They are expecting him to contribute in a big way. Jackie Bradley Jr struggled with the bat for the greater part of his stints with the big club. The second half of last year saw him find his game showing that he can hit the ball and make people pay with his speed. Chris Young is the veteran leader in this group. He is expected to be an example for the other outfielders. He is a guy that can do damage to left handed pitchers and needs to put up average numbers on both sides of the ball. Everyone know what they are going to get out of Mookie Betts. He is a great defender and a leadoff batter with some power. The outfield mainly has good speed and great defensive abilities. It is the offence that is going to be looked at, Boston had one of the worst offensive producing outfields in the league last year.

Hanley Ramirez is a natural shortstop. but with Xander Bogaerts occupying that position he was moved to left field. He was supposed to be another power bat to compliment David Ortiz but got injured and was out for the year. During his rehab the coaching staff was turning him into a first baseman.

With Ramirez playing first what will happen with Travis Shaw. Shaw who can also play third, came on to the scene with some great production hitting behind Ortiz. Shaw could potentially be the Sox first baseman if they decide to trade Ramirez but his contract is a problem. If Ramirez struggles playing first then that is when a trade might happen. They could even keep him and turn him into a DH when Ortiz retires.

As for the other corner outfield position, third baseman Pablo Sandoval needs to have a better year.After signing a big contract he is expected to be effective on both sides of the ball. It was a disappointing season offensively as he had his problems switch hitting. Sandoval need to prove that he is the same player the he was when he was playing for the Giants. He needs to be the force he always was especially in the postseason.

For the middle infield, the Red Sox have the tandem of 2015 Silver Slugger award winner Xander Bogaerts and 4-time All-Star Dustin Pedroia as they look to live up to what they have done in the past.

Xander Bogaerts is coming off a career year, the 23-year old shortstop showed that he can be the guy going forward for the Red Sox organisation. As well as proving his defensive abilities, he wowed us with what he could do offensively. It is going to be hard to follow up from what he did last year, but he is still expected to put up good numbers. He has shown great talent for a young player.

On the other side of the bag Dustin Pedroia will look to stay healthy and contribute like the player he is. He is one of the best second baseman in the league, putting his body on the line every single time he goes out there. He is a key piece in their lineup and their leader on the field. He is a big time player for the city of Boston and a lot is expected from him. The workload that is put on his plate is never an issue. The issue is can he remain healthy as he has been battling injuries lately.

As for the cathers situation, Christian Vazquez, who was supposed to be the starter last year, was out for the year with an injury. Ryan Hanigan who was brought to be the backup, assumed the role as the starter with Sandy Leon backing him up who is now one of the players invited to to the Red Sox Spring Training this year. Hanigan missed some time with a broken hand allowing Blake Swihart to get an opportunity earlier that Boston had hoped. Swihart made no mistake and is now part of a complicated decision to see which two catchers make the 25-man roster to begin the year.

Vazquez, Hanigan and Swihart are all deserving of a spot. It is not clear who has a spot locked up at the moment but if I were to guess it would be Vazquez because of the fact that he was going to be the one last year. Hanigan could easily be traded or Boston could send either Vazquez or Swihart to the minors. It all depends on how they perform during Spring Training.

Finally there is David Ortiz. Ortiz is ready to retire at season’s end, that is not only used as motivation for himself but also for the team. He can only hope for many good things to happen this upcoming season.

Boston’s team looks like they can be on the rise again, competing for the division and the World Series. Can they do it? Many said last year that they could but many underachievement helped them sink to the bottom. This year is another year that people will say they can. In my opinion they absolutely can. An upgraded pitching staff as well as some likely bounce back season and a young outfield that may have its problems. On paper things look good but you will never know what will or will not be good until you see it in action. Once the season gets underway that is when a more accurate prediction will be made but for now the questions still need to be answered.

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