By Mark Paulette,
Hope springs eternal. Nine days ago, maybe not so much. The identical team that was bounced after four games in the ALDS a season ago reported to Ft. Myers and there seemed to be significantly less excitement at the prospect of Red Sox baseball than in recent years.
But then “Nuney” re-signed and the winter-long tug-of-war between Scott Boras and the Red Sox came to an end with J.D. Martinez’s (not-yet-official) signing. Now, hope doesn’t simply spring eternal; no, hope SPRINGS ETERNAL.
With the Red Sox opening Grapefruit League play later this afternoon against the Minnesota Twins, I have your full cheat sheet for the 2018 Sox, before even the mighty Alex Cora knows.
Here are your full projections for the 2018 Boston Red Sox…
Projected Opening Day 25-man roster:
SP – Chris Sale (L)
SP – David Price (L)
SP – Rick Porcello (R)
SP – Drew Pomeranz (L)
SP – Steven Wright (R)
RP – Craig Kimbrel (R)
RP – Carson Smith (R)
RP – Joe Kelly (R)
RP – Matt Barnes (R)
RP – Robby Scott (L)
RP – Heath Hembree (R)
RP – Brian Johnson (L)
Explanation – 11/12’s of this list should surprise no one. Boston’s bullpen is copy and pasted from last season, minus Addison Reed’s two-month spell in Beantown, and Fernando Abad, who was largely forgotten by last September. When originally penciling in the 25-man roster, Brian Johnson was nowhere near the forefront of my mind, until it became evident that the 27-year-old is out of minor league options, and so is the business of baseball. If the Sox don’t trade or DFA Johnson during camp, he’ll be on the Opening Day 25 because, well, he has to be. And they need someone to serve as a swing man should Wright’s knuckler flutter haplessly like last April.
Just missing the cut – Austin Maddox, Hector Velazquez, Brandon Workman.
All three of these men could conceivably be on the roster when the Sox break camp, but their biggest detractors is the fact they all fall victim to option eligibility. Maddox pitched his way onto the postseason roster last season, Velazquez proved a worthy swingman out of the pen –and frankly one I trust more than Wright—and Workman was a key fixture of Boston’s pen in the second half of 2017. Unfortunately, all three will have to wait their respective turns in Pawtucket until injuries or poor performance forces Alex Cora to dip into the reserves.
Opening Day disabled list – Eduardo Rodriguez and Tyler Thornburg.
In late October, it was announced that E-Rod underwent a procedure on his anatomically ‘inside-out’ knee and would miss six months, placing his return likely somewhere in early-May. When he is finally healthy, the soon-to-be 25-year-old will find his way back to Boston, though the team would be wise to stash him in Pawtucket for several starts just to make sure he’s indeed ready to go. As for Thornburg, who the hell really knows? On the off chance he’s healthy to begin the year, there’s no way you could elevate him to the major league roster after missing all last season. If a time comes that Thornburg passes the physical test, it will make for some hard decisions and tinkering on Cora’s part, but that’s something to worry about in the future. Meanwhile, Travis Shaw continues to mash in Milwaukee, but I digress.
C – Christian Vazquez (R)
1B – Hanley Ramirez (R)
2B – Eduardo Nunez (R)
3B – Rafael Devers (L)
SS – Xander Bogaerts (R)
LF – Andrew Benintendi (L)
CF – Jackie Bradley Jr. (L)
RF – Mookie Betts (R)
DH – J.D. Martinez (R)
1B – Mitch Moreland (L)
C – Sandy Leon (S)
C/OF/IF – Blake Swihart (S)
UTIL – Brock Holt
Explanation – There are zero starting spots up for grabs and Mitch Moreland is a lock to make the team, but the final three bench spots aren’t nearly as cut and dry. Blake Swihart, while likely to make the team due to the fact he’s out of minor league options (a blessing for he and Johnson both), could also prove to be a wild card for this team. Should Swihart not only exceed overall expectations, but specifically at the catcher position, he could make Sandy Leon and his $2-million salary expendable, opening the door for someone like Marco Hernandez. However, this scenario is unlikely, as Leon’s greatest attribute is being the personal catcher to Chris Sale. The other power play Swihart could force is if he proves to have what it takes to fill a super utility niche. Brock Holt could then be viewed as redundant, especially following Pedroia’s return in mid-to-late May. Yet, after wasting much breath, all you need to know is Swihart has no options, Holt > Hernandez and Deven Marrero, and Sale likes Leon, making him safe.
Just missing the cut – Marco Hernandez, Sam Travis, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo, Jeremy Barfield.
Hernandez was an everyday starter last April before injuring his shoulder and ending his brief stay as the team’s utility man. Sam Travis didn’t live up to the hype in the second half of ’17 and will have to pray for the release of Hanley Ramirez to have a shot in Boston. Marrero may be trade bait because he has no place in the organization’s clogged infield depth chart. Castillo is too expensive, which is unfortunate, considering he was a Triple-A All Star last year in Pawtucket and it would be nice to see if he could make the most of a third crack at ‘The Show.’ That leaves Jeremy Barfield, who may be this year’s sexiest pick for ‘non-roster invitee to make the team’ (a la Steve Selsky last season). Barfield, a power hitting corner outfielder, hit .288 with 27 homers last year in Double-A Portland, though his spot on an opening day roster would certainly mean an injury has occurred to a member of the outfield or a bench bat like Moreland.
Opening Day disabled list – Dustin Pedroia.
Pedey is expected back in mid-May with a knee full of brand spanking new cartilage. He’ll undoubtedly retain his spot at 2nd base and likely slot into the two-hole in the lineup, no matter what Nunez produces in the interim.
- Mookie Betts: .294/26/106, RF
- Dustin Pedroia: .298/8/41, 2B
- Andrew Benintendi: .285/23/101, LF
- J.D. Martinez: .300/36/100, DH
- Hanley Ramirez: .273/19/60, 1B
- Xander Bogaerts: .291/14/74, SS
- Rafael Devers: .271/23/71, 3B
- Christian Vazquez: .266/6/39, C
- Jackie Bradley Jr: .250/21/72, CF
– Mitch Moreland: .257/11/41, 1B
– Eduardo Nunez: .292/8/39, IF
– Sandy Leon: .233/4/25, C
– Brock Holt: .267/3/23, UTIL
Extended 40-man –
– Blake Swihart: .250/3/14, C/UTIL
– Deven Marrero: .200/1/9, IF
– Sam Travis: .275/1/6, 1B
– Marco Hernandez: .282/0/4, IF
- Chris Sale: 18-6/2.83/269, L
- David Price: 16-8/3.31/200, L
- Rick Porcello: 14-11/3.85/174, R
- Drew Pomeranz: 12-9/3.59/168, L
- Eduardo Rodriguez: 5-6/3.83/109, L
– Steven Wright: 4-6/4.24/67, R
The only bullpen guy whose stats anyone cares about –
– Craig Kimbrel: 2-2/1.96/98/34sv, R
While the Yankees’ bats should rightfully be feared, this Red Sox team, at least on paper, is no slouch. If the killer B’s play to their potential, and the questionable P’s (Price, Porcello and Pomeranz) can solidify the middle of Boston’s rotation, there’s no reason to believe the Sox shouldn’t be able to compete for a pennant. That being said, I am going to place my official record projection at 94-68, good for 2nd in the AL East, one game behind the Yankees. (The rivalry is always better when the Sox enter as the ‘dogs, and after all this is baseball, I don’t dare tempt the Gods of Superstition and proclaim Boston AL East champs for a third-straight year.)
Mark Paulette is the senior producer of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show