AL EastAnalysis

2020 Boston Red Sox Season Preview

After a long offseason filled with change both on and off the field, the Boston Red Sox are going to get experimental during the filled-with-oddities 2020 season.

Following a disappointing performance in 2019, the Red Sox are hoping for sustained individual improvements during the 60-game season. With such a shortened season, team outcomes may be odd, but for the Red Sox, most analysts don’t project much success in 2020.

New additions

During the almost nine-month offseason, Boston brought in lots of new faces for both their staff and player roster. After Alex Cora stepped down from his position of manager, the Red Sox implemented bench coach Ron Roenicke as the interim manager for 2020. Dave Bush was also hired as the new pitching coach after Dana Levangie took a spot as a scout within Boston’s organization.

Along with coaching staff changes, the Red Sox also hired new pieces for the front office. Longtime Rays Vice President of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom was hired as the Sox Chief Baseball Officer in late October after Dave Dombrowski was fired in September.

Change on the field was big for the Red Sox as they brought in 10 new free agents, all on one-year deals. Bloom spent his first offseason with Boston restructuring the top of the Red Sox’ order after the Mookie Betts trade, while also adding pieces to the bullpen.

The Mookie Betts trade

In his first year in Boston, Chaim Bloom’s immediate goal was to get the Sox under the luxury tax threshold to avoid being fined for the third year straight. He accomplished this in February by trading both Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The return from this trade (Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, Jeter Downs, and the Dodgers paying 50% of David Price’s remaining salary) gave the Sox two top prospects and an already established major leaguer. The acquisition of Verdugo also gave Boston a new option for the lead-off spot.

As seen above, having Verdugo in the lead-off spot would be optimal for the Red Sox, based on 2020 projections, though Ron Roenicke has consistently said over the offseason that he plans to have Andrew Benintendi leadoff in 2020. Verdugo is a good option for any spot in the lineup, but if Ron Roenicke and the Sox front office play smart this season, fans could see the new acquisition in the leadoff spot.

Schedule breakdown

In the 2020 season consisting of only 60 games, the Red Sox schedule will look a bit different this year. They will play 40 games against the AL East with the remaining 20 being against NL East teams. Here’s a breakdown of all Red Sox opponents this season:

  • Baltimore Orioles (6 home, 4 away)
  • New York Yankees (3 home, 7 away)
  • Tampa Bay Rays (4 home, 6 away)
  • Toronto* Blue Jays (7 home, 3 away*)
  • New York Mets (2 home, 3 away)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (2 home, 2 away)
  • Washington Nationals (3 home, 0 away)
  • Atlanta Braves (3 home, 3 away)
  • Miami Marlins (0 home, 3 away)

*The Blue Jays did not gain approval from the Canadian government to resume play in their home stadium – their home park is still undecided. While they were rumored to be using Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, indications on Wednesday are that that plan was rejected by the city of Pittsburgh.

Projected starting lineup

  1. Andrew Benintendi (LF)
  2. Rafael Devers (3B)
  3. Xander Bogaerts (SS)
  4. J.D Martinez (DH)
  5. Mitch Moreland (1B)
  6. Christian Vasquez (C)
  7. Alex Verdugo (RF)
  8. Jose Peraza (2B)
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr. (CF)

Projected starting rotation

  1. Nathan Eovaldi (RHP)
  2. Martín Pérez (LHP)
  3. Ryan Weber (RHP)
  4. Brian Johnson (LHP)
  5. Matt Hall (LHP)

(Keep in mind this projection does not include Eduardo Rodriguez, who has rejoined the Red Sox camp after recovering from COVID-19)

Projected bullpen

  • Brandon Workman (CL)
  • Matt Barnes (SU)
  • Heath Hembree (SU)
  • Marcus Walden (MID)
  • Josh Taylor* (MID)
  • Ryan Brasier (MID)
  • Darwinzon Hernandez* (MID)
  • Colten Brewer (MID)
  • Austin Brice (MID)
  • Kyle Hart (MID)
  • Jeffery Springs (MID)

*Indicates time spent on 10 day COVID-19 related IL

ZiPS player projections

  • H leader: Rafael Devers (67)
  • HR leader: Rafael Devers and J.D Martinez (12)
  • RBI leader: Rafael Devers (41)
  • AVG leader: J.D Martinez (.291)
  • OPS leader: J.D Martinez (.911)
  • wOBA leader: J.D Martinez (.373)
  • fWAR leader: Xander Bogaerts (1.6)

After a breakout season in 2019, Rafael Devers is projected to sustain his success this year, as he leads most ZiPS projection categories.

  • W leader: Eduardo Rodriguez (4)
  • IP leader: Eduardo Rodriguez (65.0)
  • SO leader: Eduardo Rodriguez (66)
  • ERA leader: Matt Barnes (3.52)
  • WHIP leader: Ryan Brasier (1.29)
  • fWAR leader: Eduardo Rodriguez (1.0)

Although the projection doesn’t show it, Nathan Eovaldi may be a solid top-of-the-rotation starter for Boston in 2020. A shorter season compensates for reduced injury risk, and Eovaldi has been solid throughout his starts in intrasquad games. Also, be on the lookout for Brandon Workman as he has his first full season in the closer role. Workman was a top reliever in 2019, and if he lowers his walk rates this year, he will be even more lethal than last season.

PECOTA team projections

PECOTA (Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm) is a projection system that predicts the yearly records and overall performance of MLB teams. It has been adjusted accordingly for the 60-game 2020 season.

The PECOTA system has the Red Sox finishing third in the AL East with a 30-30 record. The system also gives them a 12.4% chance of making the playoffs this season.

Final thoughts

With a rotation that still has holes to fill, the Sox offense will really have to step up if Boston is looking to prove folks wrong this season.

I’m not expecting anything spectacular from the Boston Red Sox this season, and neither are most analysts. But, the Sox have blossoming young stars that are looking to defy the odds and continue their growth during 2020. Individual performances will be fun to watch this year, and with a shortened season lying ahead of us, it’s about to get weird.

Avery Hamel

Writing contributor for Sox Sphere, Girl at the Game, and Diamond Digest.

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