MLB Boston Red Sox

5 Boston Red Sox That Will Shine In 2014

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5 Boston Red Sox To Shine in 2014

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After finishing the 2012 season with a record of 69-93, the Boston Red Sox quickly fired manager Bobby Valentine and hired a new skipper, John Farrell. Little did the sports world know the perseverance the Red Sox would show throughout the 2012-13 offseason and into the 2013 campaign.

After acquiring players such as Koji Uehara, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli in the offseason, the Red Sox were poised to make a comeback in the AL East against division foes New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and the . What amounted in the summer months of 2013 was an emotional and seemingly improbable run to make the playoffs and defeat the St. Louis Cardinals en route to a World Series victory, the Red Sox's eighth in franchise history.

As most of the Northeast is still covered in snow, pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training and the rest of Boston’s team will report in another week. The Red Sox return their powerful offense with some questions as to if they will be able to replicate the production they had just one year ago. With David Ortiz not getting any younger, young position players such as Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley will need to step up their production in 2014. Staples in the lineup, such as Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino, will also have to step up and remain healthy for the entire season, a task that is always easier said than done.

For the Red Sox to be successful, the following five players will need to step up to the plate and manufacture runs for their team, all while playing a full schedule. While the Red Sox can claim one of the top farm systems in the league, it will be these five players that will have to lead them if they are going to make another World Series appearance.

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5. Xander Bogaerts

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Although Xander Bogaerts went on an absolute terror in the postseason, he is still considered a rookie and has recently been ranked the No. 2 prospect overall by ESPN. While appearing in just 18 games during the regular season, Bogaerts batted .250, knocked in five RBI, and had a OPS of .684. These were typical numbers you would expect from a rookie, but in the postseason he caught fire, hitting .296 with an on base percentage of .412 and scored nine runs for the Red Sox. Obviously, those numbers won’t be able to be replicated for an entire season, much less half of one.

One thing is for sure, Bogaerts has the potential to be a star, and the Red Sox lack of depth in the middle infield will provide him opportunities to thrive.

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4. Jackie Bradley

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The second most valuable coming out of the Red Sox farm system has to be Jackie Bradley. With the departure of Jacoby Ellsbury, Bradley will be called upon to fight for a spot in center field, alongside three time All-Star Grady Sizemore.

Bradley’s numbers were unimpressive in his few stints with the Red Sox in 2013, batting just .189 and hitting three home runs in 37 games. However, he has already been rumored to be in Fort Myers, FL working hard to be in shape for the start of 2014. At just 23 years old, Bradley will have plenty of chances to crack the lineup if he doesn’t win the starting spot in Spring Training. After being drafted in the first round in 2011 by the Sox, Bradley has shown promise and the Red Sox will do anything they can to have him realize his full potential.

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3. Koji Uehara

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Koji Uehara proved to be one of the Red Sox's best acquisitions last season, as he took the baseball world by storm and dominated hitters late in the game. Uehara threw 74 1/3 innings and posted an ERA of 1.09 while striking out 101. His .56 WHIP was the best in the majors and he finished seventh in CY Young voting. He can barely speak English, but he is incredibly fluent baseball.

Although he is 39 years old, I think Uehara has one more year left in the tank. He pitched for years in Japan and there is little doubt that he pitched a ton of innings. But that’s what pitchers do in Japan, they pitch a lot of innings and they win; it's like they have noodles for arms or something. If the bullpen is going to have success in 2014, it is going to be through Uehara. His enthusiasm for the game is infectious and there is little reason to believe he can’t be as successful as he was last season.

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2. Dustin Pedroia

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Since coming into the league in 2004, “The Human Laser Show” has been consistent every year he has played with the Red Sox. A career .302 hitter, Pedroia will return in 2014 after coming off surgery on a torn ligament in his thumb from last season. While his numbers weren’t as stellar as they normally are, Pedroia still hit over .300, had 84 RBI, and played in 160 games.

Mr. Dependable will have to have the same, if not, better numbers in 2014, as the Red Sox will be relying more on younger players in their starting lineup. With David Ortiz not getting any younger, Pedroia will have to hit for a little more power in 2014 as well, following a year in which he only had nine home runs, about half of what his typical power production was.

At 30 years old, he may be on the back side of his career, but don’t tell him that. You can bet that he will continue to play with tenacity and fight like a kicking and screaming toddler, which is good for the Red Sox.

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1. Jon Lester

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Jon Lester had a solid 2013 season and an even better offseason. In November, the Red Sox chose to exercise the team’s option on him, paying him $13 million in 2014. In 2013, Lester finished up with a record of 15-8 and an ERA of 3.75, certainly higher than Sox fans would have liked to see. However, he led the team with 20 quality starts and went 4-1 in the postseason, only giving up one run in 15 innings of work during the World Series.

It seems that Lester finally found his groove and became the Ace for the Red Sox in the postseason, which is going to continue into 2014. This season, expect Lester’s ERA to stay in the mid-threes, where it has been throughout his career. You can also expect Lester to continue on being a workhorse for the team and be the power pitcher on the staff. As of the end of the 2013 season, Lester has 1,237 career strikeouts, the most ever by a Red Sox lefty.

With John Lackey and Jake Peavy growing older, Lester will once again be counted on to right the ship if the Red Sox find themselves drifting away and out of playoff contention in the American League.