Red Sox 2017 Season Preview
The city of Boston and its residents are trying to fight off winter’s last stand as it throws frozen temps, ice and even nor’easters our way. But along with winter’s last breath comes the promise of spring, sunshine and of course, Red Sox baseball.
The Sox have already headed south to Fort Myers, Florida, where they have made their home at JetBlue Park (it has all the characteristics of Fenway including a Green Monster too) as they travel up and down the coasts of the sunshine state. They currently sit at 7-10 in the Grapefruit League, but one should put any stock in this record given the split squads, increased prospect playing time and the World Baseball Classic taking shortstop Xander Bogaerts and first baseman Hanley Ramirez away to compete for their countries. Nevertheless, Bostonians have plenty to be excited about with this year’s team. Though some familiar faces are gone, the core of the team mostly remains and with some exciting newcomers, Boston is poised to chase the American League crown and a World Series birth.
The first thing all fans will have to adjust to is life without Big Papi. For the first time in 15 years, David Ortiz won’t be suiting up at Fenway. What Papi did for the offense will surely be missed and will be nearly impossible to replace, but the Sox had the best offense in all of baseball last year and with guys like Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland and more peppered throughout the lineup, Boston will have plenty of firepower on offense. For as much as Big Papi will be missed at the plate, the leadership he brought to the Red Sox will be almost equally hard to replace. Manager John Farrell will be looking to players like Pedroia to fill the leadership void from a veteran’s perspective.
The baseball world took notice when the Red Sox orchestrated a trade for one of the game’s best pitches in left-hander Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox. Sure, Boston had a give up some of their best prospects including Yoan Moncada to land Sale, but they got back a proven pitching star. Sale, along with current Sox pitchers David Price and Rick Porcello, now gives Boston two Cy Young winners and one of the most feared left-handers in the front half of the rotation.
Speaking of Price, he gave Boston fans quite a scare when the news broke of discomfort in his elbow. Price saw doctors and determined that no surgery was needed – an encouraging sign – but there was no timetable set for him to begin throwing again or when he’d be back and able to pitch. Price recently spoke for the first time after seeing the doctors and he said his elbow felt “good.” The lefty has been prescribed plenty of rest given that he doesn’t need surgery and it seems only time will tell when Price can take the mound again.
Boston might have a “Big 3” on the pitchers’ mound, but it may have an even “Bigger 3” in the outfield. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi (I guess you could call them “Killer B’s” too) might be the best outfield in baseball when it’s all said and done. Betts hit 31 home runs and added 113 RBI to finish second in the AL MVP voting last year. Bradley won’t have those kinds of numbers at the plate, but his defense in the outfield will prove valuable. Though Benintendi played in 34 games last season (and man did he impress) he is still considered a prospect , and by some the best prospect in all of baseball. It looks like he feels right at home at the plate and in left field. If he picks up where he left off last season, he could be in line for AL Rookie of the Year.
Third base will be another popular topic of discussion this spring. Pablo Sandoval has reported to spring training and looks much slimmer than he did in years past. The Panda’s first season with the Sox in 2015 came up short on expectations and last year he played in only three games before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Third base will be Sandoval’s to lose this season as there aren’t really any other players on the current roster ready to play at the hot corner.
If you are tuned in to all of the Sox spring games and are looking for a position battle, look no further than the one behind the plate. Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart all have a shot at landing the starting job. At this point, it’s too early to tell who has the lead with all three bringing something valuable to the position.
The Red Sox begin the 2017 regular season on Monday, April 3, with a three-game home stand against the Pittsburgh Pirates.