MLB American League Preview: No. 5 Boston Red Sox

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Updated: April 17, 2015
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2014 Record: 71-91 (last in AL East)

2015 Projected Record: 86-76 (1st in AL East)

The Boston Red Sox have officially finished last in the division twice since 2012. In retrospect, the Red Sox hadn’t finished last since 1992. To underline the significance, the league hadn’t added the “Central” division to either conference in 1992. 20 years of dominance, followed by two seasons the Red Sox would seemingly like to forget.

In fact, 2014 had them finishing with the sixth worst record in all of baseball, even with David Ortiz eclipsing the 30-home run mark for the millionth time. Any fan could see a major adjustment was necessary, but how would the team respond in the off-season?

New Faces On the Mound

If you looked at the starting rotation for the Red Sox in 2014 and compared it to the rotation in 2015, you’d be amazed. They spent the entire off-season essentially renovating their starting rotation and used almost every effort to do so.

Yoenis Cespedes was the first major player to fall victim to the rebuild, as he was dealt to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Rick Porcello. It wouldn’t be long until the team parted ways with Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and Raymel Flores. That trade brought Wade Miley over from the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the addition of Justin Masterson, the Red Sox would finally have their Opening Day rotation set in stone.

From top to bottom, the rotation screams, “ground-ball pitcher.” In fact, the current rotation has an average ground-ball rate of 50-percent, led by Masterson’s 56-percent. After learning that they wouldn’t be able to round out the rotation with Cole Hamels, due to a ridiculous price-point, the Red Sox decided to lean on a group of misfit, slightly above-average pitchers to lead them to the postseason.

Big Names Equal Big Results

Okay, maybe they aren’t completely relying on their starting rotation to win games. However, the quality of a team’s starters influences whether or not they’ll stay within reach of a win on any given night. That being said, the Red Sox spent the other portion of their off-season making-over their starting lineup. If you’re going to give a complete make over in the rotation, you may as well double-up on the lineup, right?

They quickly made waves, bringing in Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval as a couple of veteran presences. Although, the move to play Ramirez in left field may have ultimately prolonged the Rusney Castillo bandwagon, but there’s plenty of time for him to make a permanent impact.

In my opinion, the real “x-factor” this season will be the play of Mookie Betts. Betts has been one of my favorite players to follow since last season, while he spent most the year raking in the minors. In 399 at bats, Betts managed to steal 31 bases and rack up 46 extra-base hits, 11 of them being home runs. If that isn’t impressive enough, Betts announced before the beginning of Spring Training, that he had put on 25 pounds of pure muscle. That just screams “breakout season.”

So far, we haven’t been disappointed. Betts may not be hitting .346 like he did in the minors last year, but he does have 2 home runs and 3 steals in his first 40 at bats of the season. If Betts performs half as well as I expect him to this season, Boston should have absolutely no problem providing their mediocre starting rotation with run support.

 

Projected Depth Chart (via MLB.com with 2014 statistics)

C: Ryan Hanigan — .218 average, 5 home runs, and 34 RBI

1B: Mike Napoli — .248 average, 17 home runs, 55 RBI

2B: Dustin Pedroia — .278 average, 7 home runs, 53 RBI

SS: Xander Bogaerts — .240 average, 12 home runs, 46 RBI

3B: Pablo Sandoval – .279 average, 16 home runs, 73 RBI

LF: Hanley Ramirez — .291 average, 13 home runs, 71 RBI

CF: Mookie Betts — .283 average, 5 home runs, 18 RBI

RF: Shane Victorino — .268 average, 2 home runs, 12 RBI

DH: David Ortiz — .263 average, 35 home runs, 104 RBI

SP1: Clay Buchholz — 8-11 record, 5.34 ERA, and 132 strikeouts

SP2: Wade Miley — 8-12 record, 4.34 ERA, and 183 strikeouts

SP3: Rick Porcello — 15-13 record, 5.88 ERA, and 116 strikeouts

SP4: Justin Masterson — 7-9 record, 3.91 ERA, and 89 strikeouts

SP5: Joe Kelly — 6-4 record, 4.20 ERA, and 66 strikeouts

 

Photo Credit: (Jim Davis/The Boston Globe)

Alex Cole

Alex Cole

Alex is a 23-year-old MLB writer from Phoenix, Arizona. He's a fan of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. You can contact Alex via email at ACole331133@yahoo.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @AlexColeMLBMiLB.

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