2014 Preview: Boston Red Sox

What will the Red Sox get from Xander Bogaerts this year?
Right now, there are a lot of good things that people are saying about Xander Bogaerts and there is a lot of reason for that. He is a big, strong kid (yes, kid — he is only 21) and he will only grow into his body more and more as time goes on. Many can say that Bogaerts strikes out way too much for a middle infielder, but he is also not your typical middle infielder, as people see 25-plus home run potential from Bogaerts. Also, his walk rate has stabilized in the 10% range, and that is good for a young hitter. As for this year, Bogaerts should grab the shortstop position from the departed Stephen Drew. An average around .270 and somewhere between 15-20 homeruns with a very incongruent fielding season should be a good rookie campaign out of Boegaerts. That would make him about the same value to the Red Sox in 2014 as Drew was in 2013, but in the grand scheme of things, a top 3 Rookie of the Year performance will be a huge boost to the future of the Red Sox.

Who will be the 5th man in the Red Sox rotation by the end of the season?
On the onset of the season, the Red Sox have a very volatile rotation other than Jon Lester. Between the inconsistency of John Lackey and Ryan Dempster and the injury history of Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz, it is very difficult to say if the Red Sox will have an elite staff like the one that led them to a World Series title or if the injuries and inconsistency will lead to a lot of round trip journeys to Pawtucket. By the end of the season, for one reason or another, Matt Barnes will sneak into a consistent fifth starter in the rotation. The first pick by the Red Sox in the 2011, Barnes has had some issues with walks throughout his minor league career, but he has blown hitters away at each level since being drafted and will prove his worth in AAA before he makes it up to the Boston roster. This is not an indictment of Allen Webster or Henry Owens, but rather it is an endorsement of the skills of Barnes over them. As stated previously, the Red Sox are set up very favorably in the near future with those three ready to join the rotation with Lester and Buchholz.

Will the Red Sox miss Jacoby Ellsbury?
This could be very simple and to the point, Jackie Bradley Jr. should be worth about two wins less than Jacoby Ellsbury this year. That is very cut and paste and that should be enough to say that the Red Sox will miss Ellsbury. This is not the whole story though. There is the fact that Ellsbury has been hurt throughout his career very frequently and his production has been incongruent. Considering the amount of money that the Yankees paid to get him to come to New York, it is not a shock that the Red Sox let him leave. In a vacuum, the Ellsbury move was one that was bad for Boston, as they do not have a sure thing in Bradley and there is nothing in Bradley’s history that shows that he will be anything better than just above average.

When you look at all of the factors, though, the move is a bit better for Boston. The easiest reason to say that the Red Sox will be fine is that all of the money that would have been spent on Ellsbury can now be given to other players and that the Red Sox do not need to pay an aging veteran a lot of money in the next five years. Also, even though the Red Sox are coming off of a World Series win, the team is looking to build for the future with guys like Bradley and Bogaerts and want to see what they have for the future and want to see if they have in house players that could fuel another run and a profitable future.

What should the Red Sox expect out of Clay Buchholz?
A couple times in this post, I have mentioned Clay Buchholz and I feel like I could write 2500 words just explaining him and the enigma that he is as a player. Throughout his minor league career, Buchholz was a big time strikeout guy and looked that way during his brief call up in late 2007. He also pitched a no-hitter late in the 2007 World Series winning season. Since that time, Buchholz’s entire career has been an elevator and at any time that he seems to figure it out, bigger questions are created; specifically looking at his two best seasons, 2010 and 2013.

In 2010, Buchholz was 17-7 and had a 2.33 ERA which were stellar numbers for a 26 year old, making the Red Sox look at him as the ace for the future. He also, though, only had 6.22 K/9 and 3.38 BB/9. There were good numbers that led to the solid “baseball card” numbers of 17 wins and a 2.33 ERA, but none of that was sustained in 2011 and 2012, although there were moments in 2011 when Buchholz was a good player before he got injured.

Suddenly, in 2013, Buchholz was better than ever, posting a career high in K/9, a career low in BB/9, and minimizing home runs, leading to a sub-2 ERA. Unfortunately, this was done in just over 100 innings pitched and his strand rate was at a career high while his BABIP was at a career low. For the 2014 season, the median should be the norm, as Buchholz’s ERA should be in the mid 3’s and he should be able to contribute 25-28 starts for the Sox. As for the walk and strikeout rates, it is probably best for Buchholz to pitch to contact a bit more and let that walk rate get into the high 2’s per 9. A wise suggestion for his future would be to get a bit more sink on his fastball, as his ground ball rate is alarming low for a pitcher obviously focusing on pitching to contact a bit more.

Why are the Red Sox going to win 86 games?
The 2013 Red Sox were a team on a mission, both to run the table in the AL East and to win the World Series. This year, though, there are some big question that are still similar from the onset of the 2013 season. No one knows about the health of Clay Buccholz or Jake Peavy or even Shane Victorino or Mike Napoli and a team with those many injury questions cannot be seen as a force going forward. That being said, there is a very strong case for the Red Sox exceeding what the predictions say, as John Farrell is a very good manager. As shown last year in the juggling that was done and all of the correct platoons that Farrell played, there is no reason to expect that the Red Sox will be under 90 wins. It is a catch-22 to say that the same reasons that the Red Sox may succeed is why they may fail, but the Red Sox cannot expect guys like Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp, and Daniel Nava to perform at the same level that they were at during the 2013 season and that is why there is a dose of pessimism in the the forecast for the Red Sox.

5 You Know:
1. David Ortiz
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Mike Napoli
4. Jon Lester
5. Clay Buchholz

5 You Will Know:
1. Matt Barnes
2. Henry Owens
3. Rubby De La Rosa
4. Allen Webster
5. Brandon Workman

5 You Should Remember:
1. Bryce Brentz
2. Garin Cecchini
3. Blake Swihart
4. Trey Ball
5. Mookie Betts

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dan albano
10 years ago

bogaerts @ss middlebrooks@3b will be fine for the left side of the infield.bradley did not look good in his brief trial and he is at best only a singles hitter. outfield should be victorino in cf nava/gomes platoon in left field and try brentz & carp in right field. get rid of peavy & dempster.starters: lester,buchholz,lackey,doubront & workman. bullpen: uehara, tazawa, mejica, andrew miller, breslow,badenhop. boston will repeat in 2014.gradually bring up trey ball, dela rosa, barnes,britton,owens.

10 years ago
Reply to  dan albano

Dan Albano… Middlebrooks isn’t on the team anymore

Jonah Pemstein
10 years ago
Reply to  tony

Yes he is…

10 years ago

You have the Red Sox at 86 wins, the Rays at 89, and the Yankees at 93, that’s pretty laughable

10 years ago

Clutch hitting is not a repeatable skill, and the Red Sox do not need clutch hitting. They are already much better than the Rays and Yankees. Look at the projected standings, the Red Sox are projected to be the 2nd best team in the majors. Why can we not expect Jonny Gomes to be as good? He was way better in 2012. The rotation is not a question mark at all. We have 6 solid starters already, plus Brandon Workman who is probably better than the Yankees #5. Then we have the stacked AAA pitching depth. Also, Will Middlebrooks should rebound in a huge way, as he had a .263 BABIP and a wrist injury last year . Mike Carp might regress, but he was a backup last year. Nava’s BABIP might regress a little, but his career BABIP is .332. The Red Sox have just as many stars as the Yankees + way better depth, and an above average player at every position. You say there are questions for the Red Sox, but there are far more questions for the Yankees. If the Red Sox win 86 games and the Yankees win 93 games, everything went right for the Red Sox and wrong for the Yankees. Projecting the Sox to be 7 wins worse than the Yankees is crazy.

10 years ago

The Red Sox did not rely on timely hitting last year. They had the best run differential in baseball which does not take into account when the runs were scored. They underperformed their pythag. How are the Yankees players projected better? What system are you using? Because here on Fangraphs, the Red Sox are projected to be the 3rd best team in baseball, and the Yankees are projected to be a little bit above average

10 years ago

Where did you get the idea that the Red Sox had very timely hitting?

Red Sox overall wRC+ last year was 115
wRC+ with RISP was 110
wRC+ with high leverage was 105

The Red Sox were worse with runners in scoring position and in high leverage situations. There is nothing that suggests clutch is a repeatable skill, but the Red Sox did not have timely hitting last year. In fact, their hitting was slightly un-timely

10 years ago

Okay, what is the method for the projections? Do you weigh the recent years correctly? Are they subjective projections? Because in the projections on this site, which have taken lots of research to make, the Red Sox are better than the Yankees.

10 years ago

Okay, so teams get bonus points for performing better than their pythag? Because if so, that’s very wrong, as I have never seen a study that shows that teams can consistently outperform their pythag. Are the player projections calculated by weighing the past 3 years 5/4/3. Or declining by 20%? Almost all of the projections do not make the formula available to the public, but in order to know if these projections are valid, we have to know a rough idea of how they are calculated.

10 years ago

ok that’s wrong. Just because if the Yankees played like a 60 win team, and won 85 games doesn’t mean they should play 15 games better than their talent next year. That’s luck

james wilson
10 years ago

I’m a serious baseball fan, a Red Sox fan (oxymoron), and a pretty good former player who has been 180’d by stats geeks a time or two and likes it.

Anyway, the Red Sox, 2013 style, are a one and done type which we see now and again (it’s a good thing), but Cherington knows this because it was Cherington who did the balancing act pretty much on his own. No one knows how he’ll deal his cards this year because he doesn’t even know his hand yet, especially where it counts most, pitching. Pretty much what you said. Except Lackey. There is no reason to think he will not continue to be good post surgery. And Ortiz. He is crucial to their success, and he is one injury away from being a very old ballplayer.

The Sox will be competitive without giving away the farm and even the fans are on board for that. The Yankee’s are causing no envy the way they continue to do business.

james wilson
10 years ago

I’d be surprised if Buchholz ever pitched 150 innings again. So, I imagine, would Cherington. And I know he wont be surprised if Uehara comes up lame.

10 years ago

I’m surprised that Trey Ball, though infinitely talented, made the “you should remember list” and Anthony Renaudo was left off. I would think the ball is at least 3 years away and Renaudo should be up at some point in this season.

10 years ago

Agreed about the upper level pitching prospects. Even more significantly I have never seen a Red Sox organization loaded on every level from Lowell to Pawtucket with potential top level pitching prospects. Even if the the league norm of 1 in 4 pitching top prospects making an impact on the major league level holds true they will producing at least one top pitching prospect every year for the next 5-6 years. Thats a lot of young potential talent without having to break the bank with expensive free agents or extensions.