The Boston Red Sox are heading into this season looking to accomplish a feat performed only three times in the history of Major League Baseball; that is, to win the world World Series in back-to-back years. Just like last year, the Red Sox lineup is a group of “grinders” with a range of personalities and talents that were able to transform the club from a 69-93 team of overpaid free-agents, to a team that went 97-65 and won the World Series in a year when the city of Boston needed it the most.
With the Red Sox, it was not always about talent last year but they have made some important changes over the offseason, most notably the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury. Now that the injury-prone career of said player has reached it’s conclusion with the Red Sox, they will most likely move Daniel Nava into the leadoff spot hitting ahead of Dustin Pedroia. The late-blooming Nava will be looking to keep up the momentum from last year when he hit .303/.385/.445 with 51 walks and 93 strikeouts in 134 games.
This is actually not as humongous of a loss as it may appear. Ellsbury actually produced lower slash lines at .298/.355/.426 with similar walks and strikeouts, 47 and 92 respectively, in the same amount of games as Nava, while hitting fewer homers and driving in fewer runs, 9 and 53 for Ellsbury compared to 12 and 66 for Nava. That being said, the Red Sox do not appear to have any plans to replace the speed Ellsbury provided for them, as up-and-comers Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. combined for only 12 stolen bases between AAA and the Show last season.
This is not to say that Daniel Nava is just as good of a player overall as Ellsbury, but considering that Ellsbury’s new 7 yr/$153 million contract is paying him roughly $21 million more per year than Nava, the Red Sox are getting good value with this tradeoff.
Another regular that the Red Sox have let go is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who signed with the Marlins earlier this offseason. They have brought in veteran A.J Pierzynski to replace the three year backstop Saltalamacchia. Career-wise, both are mediocre fielders but Pierzynski did finish above the league average of 26% caught stealing at 33%. Pierzynski also brings a Red Sox-esque grit to the clubhouse and should fit in easily as a leader in the clubhouse…as long as he grows to possess the same love for shaving as his new teammates.
One other major addition to the team is Edward Mujica who did a fantastic job closing for the Cardinals last year when Jason Motte was injured. He is very similar to Koji Uehara by the means of the incredible control he possesses of both his splitter and fastball. Last year he had a staggering 9.20 BB/K ratio, while racking up 37 saves as the closer.
The only addition to the Red Sox rotation occurred last season with the Jake Peavey trade. He should add some stability, while giving them some depth by bumping either Felix Doubront or Ryan Dempster out of the rotation.
While they may lack the star power of the AL central champion Tigers or the second place Cardinals, the Red Sox finished 6th in the AL in ERA and 1st in runs scored. So while we might not expect the same magical season as in 2013, anything can happen as long as the BoSox continue to battle every game, every at-bat, and every pitch, like they did last year.
Below is the projected Red Sox starting lineup for 2014 with some additional comments
Bradley Jr. CF
-It should be noted that if Bradley Jr. struggles at the beginning of the season, the beard enthusiast Jonny Gomes can go to left field, moving Nava to right field and Victorino to center.
-We will have to wait and see whether the Red sox will get the 2012 Will Middlebrooks or the 2013 Will Middlebrooks, as this could determine how the bottom of the order shakes up as the season goes on.