Spring Training is done, the regular season is upon us, and the Red Sox quest to repeat begins. No team has repeated since that team won three straight from 1998 to 2000. This shouldn’t scare Red Sox nation, as this team is just as loaded as the 2018 version that won it all. We’ll take a look at the 25 man roster heading into opening day, and who from that roster is going to be crucial in 2019.
The roster was finalized Tuesday, and there was no real surprises. Sandy Leon being waived earlier this week certainly cleared things up, but a couple late injuries forced Dombrowski into adding a couple younger players into the opening day roster.
Which of the two ends up starting is beyond me, but this was clearly the right decision for the team. Leon is the worst offensively from the three catchers, and his defense can only keep him around for so long. Fortunately for Boston he went unclaimed on waivers and will now report to Pawtucket, giving the Sox some catching depth. Vazquez needs to have a better year with the bat to earn the majority of the playing time. Meanwhile, Swihart needs to show he can be: a) a major league hitter and b) a major league catcher. Whichever of the two click faster will likely earn the starting job for the year.
No real surprises here. We all knew Dustin Pedroia was going to start the season on the IL, and it came out earlier this week that Steve Pearce will join him. This gives former top prospect Sam Travis a shot. He’s had a few, and has yet to capitalize. However, this could be his time to shine. Moreland is not an everyday first baseman anymore, so Travis should pick up a start or two before Pearce returns against Arizona. He also provides some pop off the bench, so it’ll be very interesting to see if Travis can finally put it all together. He’s had another hot spring (see below), so here’s hoping it carries over into April.
This is the most consistent part of the lineup for Boston. The first three names will patrol the outfield, left to right, on a nightly basis, with J.D. filling in when necessary. As long as it’s healthy, this is the best outfield in baseball, and I believe they have a legitimate chance to sweep the Gold Glove awards. Jackie Bradley Jr. will also be watched closely by many Sox fans this year. We all saw what he can do with the bat last year in the playoffs, but can he carry that over? He’s never been able to put together a consistent 162 at the plate, and I think he needs to do that this season to earn a long term spot with Boston.
Alex Cora came out today and discussed the order in which he’ll deploy his starters. Chris Sale, obviously, will start opening day in Seattle. Nathan Eovaldi will go after him, followed by Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello & finally David Price. I like the way this is set-up, in an effort to split up the lefties, as opposed to having them 1-2-3. All five pitchers have interesting storylines this season. Porcello will be a free agent following the season, Sale has to prove he can pitch into the second half, and Eovaldi has to show his playoff run wasn’t a fluke. E-Rod is running out of time to prove he can stay healthy and consistently perform at this level. Finally, David Price. This is the one to watch for me. Price balled out in the postseason last year, finally shaking the monkey off his back and now holding all the cards. Can he keep the momentum going into 2019 and make a run at another Cy Young? My fantasy team sure hopes he does!
This will be short and sweet. The bullpen will be fine. I recognize why people have doubts, and why the haters want to hate. However, I see some promise and some upside in these guys. Do I want Bobby Poyner, Durbin Feltman and Darwinzon Hernandez in the pen? You bet your ass I do, but these guys can get it done. Barnes and Brasier are certified dudes, and Workman and Hembree can provide stability behind them. Brewer has pretty good stuff and it’ll be interesting to see how he pans out in the pen. Worst case scenario, Feltman is ready by May.
Team MVP: Mookie Betts
Dark Horse: Andrew Benintendi
Team Cy Young: Chris Sale
Dark Horse: Eduardo Rodriguez
Team Rookie of the Year: Sam Travis
Dark Horse: Durbin Feltman
Breakout Player of the Year: Rafael Devers
Dark Horse: Andrew Benintendi (from All-Star to MVP level)
Most Likely to be the Closer: Matt Barnes
Dark Horse: Durbin Feltman… again
Most Likely Reliever to be DFAd by May 1st: Tyler Thornburg
Dark Horse: Heath Hembree
Most Likely Vintage In-Season Dombrowski Acquistion: Cody Allen
Bold Prediction for 2019: Andrew Benintendi finishes near, or in the top five of MVP voting
Dark Horse Bold Prediction: Jackie Bradley Jr. hits .270 with 20 bombs.
This team certainly has what it takes to go back-to-back. Not many teams retain as much talent from a World Series team like the Red Sox have. There has been no signs of playoff hangover from guys like Mookie Betts, David Price, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale, the latter two of whom both have been adamant about their desire to win multiple rings. I love that mentality and I love where this team stands going into 2019. The offense and starting pitching will ultimately pick up the bullpen, and the Red Sox will not only win the AL East, but at least a round in the playoffs.
Buckle Up Sox Nation, it’s time to do it again.
*Featured Photo from Wikimedia Commons*