With new blood, Sox looking to October
The 2017 season may be as easy as 1-2-3 for the Boston Red Sox. They can enter many three-game series this season able to start pitchers in each game who could be staff aces anywhere, or almost anywhere.
The opening day starter is Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young Award winner, a 28-year-old righty in the prime of his career and coming off a 22-4 season in 2016.
It won’t get easier for other teams after that.
The Red Sox traded during the offseason for lefty Chris Sale, the former Florida Gulf Coast University standout who was 17-10 for the Chicago White Sox in 2016. They had to give up four minor-league prospects to get him. In that carload of prospects was infielder Yoan Moncada, recently ranked the second best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.
Then the team’s third ace is former Cy Young Award winner David Price, who was 17-9 for the Red Sox last year.
While the starting rotation appears excellent Red Sox fans may wonder just a little bit about the offense. Oh, it’s still loaded with outstanding talent but David Ortiz, arguably the greatest DH ever, retired after last season.
At the age of 40 in 2016 he hit .315 with 38 homers and 127 RBI. It may have been the best walk-off season ever.
Replacing that production from a younger hitter is tough but this is a powerhouse team.
The Sporting News 2017 Baseball Yearbook projects the Red Sox to win the American League pennant and then lose the World Series to the Chicago Cubs.
The Red Sox have won three World Series since 2004 and appear primed to contend for more October highlights again in 2017.
This is a team with a mix of young and veteran talent.
Right fielder Mookie Betts, 24, is a dynamic player who hit .318 with 31 homers, 42 doubles, 26 stolen bases and 113 RBI in 2016. He led the league with 359 total bases.
But Mr. Betts is more than an offensive force. He’s a total player. He won the 2016 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award as the best defensive player at any position in baseball.
Although Mr. Ortiz is gone from the lineup, the Red Sox signed a productive replacement DH – Mitch Moreland. Although no David Ortiz, in each of his past three full seasons Mr. Moreland has slugged more than 20 homers.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, 33, is the team leader, a sparkplug who after 11 seasons with Boston is still a top-flight player, coming off a season in which he hit .318 with 15 homers and 74 RBI. The four-time Gold Glove winner has been around so long that he has cracked the Red Sox list of all-time leaders in career at-bats. He is now 10th in franchise history in at-bats, 5,594.
His double-play partner is shortstop Xander Bogaerts, only 24 and coming off a season in which he hit .294 with 21 homers and 89 RBI.
The corner infielders have some questions. The first baseman is Hanley Ramirez, a professional hitter who hit .286 with 30 homers and 111 RBI last year. His defense? Not so good.
The third baseman is Pablo Sandoval, who has battled injuries and weight problems. He has reportedly slimmed down and at 30 is still young enough to again be a fine player.
Catcher Sandy Leon enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, hitting .310 in 78 games. The year before he hit only .184 in 41 games.
Joining Betts in the outfielder are two young and dynamic players and former first-round draft picks.
Centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., 26, is a defensive whiz and has also figured out big-league pitching. He hit .267 with 26 homers and 87 RBI last year.
Left fielder Andrew Benintendi came to the big leagues in 2016 and hit .295 with 11 doubles and 14 RBI in 34 games. He was recently named Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect, just ahead of Mr. Moncada, who slipped to No. 2.
Rounding out the rotation behind the Big 3 could be Steven Wright, Drew Pomaranz and Eduardo Rodriguez.
The closer is Craig Kimbrel, who had 31 saves last year. Red Sox fans likely know that was a career low for Mr. Kimbrel and his 3.40 ERA was a career high. There are concerns with all teams but the 2017 Red Sox appear loaded.
Even without David Ortiz, it is one that could play deep into October. ¦