Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014 Red Sox Predictions

2014 Red Sox Predictions

The Boston Red Sox opened up their World Series defense against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday with a 2-1 loss but right now, I'm here to talk about my predictions for the 2014 season for the team.  There's a lot more pressure on this team to succeed then there was last year.  Last year, they were coming of one of their worst seasons in 50 some odd years with expectations about as low as I've ever seen for a high profile team in a big market that plays with a big payroll.  This year, after an unbelievable run all the way to the a World Series ring, everyone will be expecting this team to get back there again...and it's always harder when you have that big target on your back each and every game of a grueling 162 game season.

Without further ado, here are my predictions for this season, along with what happened with my predictions from last year.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: The Bullpen
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Hitting & Bullpen

This Year: Bullpen

It may not be the sexiest thing to start the predictions off the same way as I did last year, but after the Red Sox bullpen was the strength of last year's team, it's actually stronger this year.  Koji Uehara was third in line for the closer's job at the start of the season.  All he did was have one of the best closer seasons in MLB History.

After basically using a 3-man bullpen in the playoffs last year of Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji, the Red Sox have added depth to the relieving core this year through the additions of Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica.  With Andrew Miller back after only pitching 30.2 innings last year due to injury, the Sox now have the option of flame throwers from the left and right side with Miller and Mujica.  

Breslow starts the season on the DL but with the maturation of Brandon Workman at the end of last year and the addition of Badenhop, the bullpen looks loaded to start the year.  The relieving core lost 4 members from last year's squad last year but I don't think they're going to hurt much.

Here's the 4:

Franklin Morales, who couldn't be trusted in any situation once Boston got to the playoffs.
Andrew Bailey couldn't stay healthy.
Neither could Joel Hanrahan.
Matt Thronton was brought in a low risk/high reward move to see if he could have a return to form from a couple years back.  He was terrible in his short time with the Sox but that didn't stop the Yankees from giving the 37 year old a 2-year deal.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Power Hitting
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Back-End of the Starting Rotation
This Year: Inexperience in the Starting line-up

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that the Red Sox system is so strong and that we have so many promising prospects coming through the ranks, buuuuut, it's hard to trust guys that haven't shown that they can consistently produce.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. came into last year on the opening day roster and almost immediately looked overwhelmed by everything and forgot how to hit.  I have my fingers crossed that it was more of a Dustin Pedrioa-like start where it's such a small sample size that will soon be looked back fondly on, but it does give me some hesitation to trust him right away.  Unfortunately, with Shane Victorino already on the DL, JBJ is back up with the big league squad and gearing to go.

The Red Sox are going to find out once and for all whether Middlebrooks can consistently hit through the year as he's going to be the starting third baseman for the team even after struggling so badly at times last year that he was sent back down to Triple-A.  There's an outside chance that the team could re-sign Stephen Drew if Middlebrooks starts off so poorly again and shift Xander back over to third, but my guess is that the left side of the infield with Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts is what the Sox are going to roll with.

That makes for three young potential starters for the Red Sox, at least until everyone gets healthy.  As we see each year, depth is one of the most important things a MLB roster can have.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Stephen Drew
Last Year FINAL: Stephen Drew
This Year: Grady Sizemore

I've already been talking about how much I'm expecting to love Grady Sizemore, so it should be no surprise that he's my pick to supplant the Drew family as my new favorite player.

And just like that, he hit an Opening Day blast to start his time with the Red Sox.

If Grady can stay healthy, he's going to be an absolute gem for Ben Cherington to add to his collection of low risk/high reward free agents.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: John Lackey
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Not John Lackey
This Year: Jackie Bradley, Jr.

This is a case of me having to choose one player for the category.  If JBJ ends up playing a lot of games and struggling really hard, I think I'm going to easily get frustrated with him.  I feel like he has a chance to be one of those players who may think about himself more than the team, however hard that is for me to say.  He seems like a guy who would take extra time coming back from an injury and turning on the fans if they ever boo him for anything.

Do I have any evidence to support these claims.  Nope.  But I'm making them anyway.

And get rid of those cornrows.  It didn't work for Bronson Arroyo and it doesn't work for you.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Johnny Gomes
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Koji Uehara
This Year: Grady Sizemore

Do I think that Sizemore is going to get back to his top-10 MVP caliber self?  No, probably not.  But I think he can get back to an almost All-Star level and if the Red Sox re-sign him after this year, I think he can get to that All-Star level.  I have faith in Grady Sizemore and that's all there is to it.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Ryan Dempster
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
This Year: Will Middlebrooks

I just have a bad feeling about Middlebrooks producing without the comfort of Jenny Dell by his side after she got demoted from sideline duties.  That's not really the reason but I think he was getting a little jack-happy with his swing last year.  He can get hot at times but when he gets cold, not only is he not hitting home runs, but he's not getting on base either.  This Red Sox team is built around good at bats, working the count, and getting on base.  Sometime it seems like Middlebrooks forgets that and swings for the fences too much for my liking.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Mike Napoli
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey.
This Year: Shane Victorino

Shane is already on the 15-day DL and with how hard he plays, has a propensity to get ticky-tack injuries all year long.  Not to mention the fact that he's on the top of the list of hit batsmen every single year.  One of these times it's just going to hit him the wrong way and break a finger or something.  It's bound to happen, let just hope he never gets hurt after he comes back from his current stint on the DL and can do this again when he's called upon in a big moment.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Mike Napoli or Johnny Gomes
This Year: Grady Sizemore

Am I getting carried away with Sizemore?  Maybe.  But here's two things to keep in mind.

1) He's replacing Jacoby Ellsbury.  Ellsbury went to the Yankees so Red Sox fans are already going to have animosity towards him whenever they play New York.  Anytime Sizemore does anything well in those games it's going to be amplified because of that.

2) He's a good looking dude so he's going to easily win over the female fan base. 

Done and done.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Dustin Pedroia
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Koji Uehara & David Ortiz
This Year: David Ortiz

If you want to be the man who still picks against Papi, go ahead, but that man is not going to be me.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: Daniel Nava
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: Will Middlebrooks
This Year: Chris Capuano??

If I have to pick somebody, why not the potential number 5 starter for the team right?  I mean whatever.  I hope he does well but he would have the least impact on the team if he somehow was absolutely terrible this year, so yeah, let's pick him.

New Category
This Year: Grady Sizemore again, but also A.J Pierzynski

Even if I'm not loving the fact that we have two 37-year old catchers, they're really just a quick stop gap until one of our numerous catchers in the minors is ready for the big leagues, and there are a few.

Ryan Lavarnway was on the team last year and is solid but it looks like they might be converting him to a DH this year.
Christian Vazquez is the starting catcher for Pawtucket and is just as skilled offensively as he is defensively (his home-to-2nd pop up time is an INSANE 1.8 seconds).  He might be the first to see time if there's an injury.
Dan Butler may be the odd man out with all their catching prospect depth if Lavarnway can prove he's ready for the big leagues now, otherwise Lavarnway is probably the one they'll try to move.
Blake Swihart seems to have all the tools to become a star down the line but at just 22 years old, is inexperienced right now.  His ceiling is sky high though.

A.J. will fit right in with the veterans on the team and he's been really good friends with Papi for years. He's a guy that badly wants another ring and will stand up for his teammates.  I can get behind that.

New Category
This Year: Stephen Drew

Sorry Jacoby and Salty but I stay true to the Drews #DrewCrew

I would love to see the Sox pick him back up on something around $3M-$4M to add depth to the left side of their infield but we'll see what happens.

Last Year Pre-Season Prediction: 2nd Place in the AL East (Wild Card)
Last Year FINAL VERDICT: World Series
This Year: 1st Place in the AL East

I don't see any reason why the can't come out with the best record in the AL this season and be on the same track for the playoffs as the last one.  They have veteran leadership, great chemistry, pitching, a great bullpen, depth, clutch hitting, and great fans.  Baseball is great, isn't it?