By Daniel Schmelzer @D_Schmelzer on March 10, 2014
The Boston Red Sox were a very fun team to watch last season as they ran all the way through the playoffs and took home the World Series title. This was their third championship since they broke their long streak back in 2004. While most of the familiar faces are back for another run this year, Boston does have some holes to fill. It will be very interesting to see how they fill out the roster. Here are my Opening Day 25-man roster predictions.
After losing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to free agency, the Red Sox brought in A.J. Pierzynski off the open market. Pierzynski will be the regular catcher for the Sox this season, but at his advanced age and Boston's impressive group of minor league catchers, he is likely a one or two-year stop-gap.
Mike Napoli became a key leader for the Red Sox down the stretch last season. He is a good power hitter, but that is clearly his game. Napoli will never be mistaken for a contact hitter. Napoli will once again be a consistent middle-of-the-order bat for Boston, while playing a solid 1B.
Dustin Pedroia is a "do-everything" second baseman who will once again be a huge part of this team. Barring injury, Pedroia will start nearly every game at 2B while hitting third in the order.
Xander Bogaerts is an incredibly talented player who has a very bright future ahead of him. Bogaerts was a key player for the Sox last season, starting a majority of the games at 3B down the stretch. Shortstop is Bogaerts' natural position, and Boston seems to be ready to give him the opportunity to play there every day this season.
He will have to prove that he is a better hitter than he showed last season, but I believe that Will Middlebrooks will be the starting third baseman for Boston this season. He is a talented player with big potential, but consistency is an issue, as is his defense at 3B.
Daniel Nava is not the most talented guy in the world, but he is a good consistent player who always steps up in crunch time. Nava will likely start at LF this season and hit towards the top of the lineup.
Jackie Bradley Jr. burst onto the scene last Spring and earned himself a starting position in the big leagues to start the season. Unfortunately, he never got things going and was sent down to the minors early in the year. Bradley is a supremely gifted player whose speed and athleticism will help fill the void left by Jacoby Ellsbury in the everyday lineup. He is too talented not to give another chance.
Shane Victorino came up with many clutch hits for the Red Sox last season. With Ellsbury moving on, Victorino is likely to step up as the leadoff hitter while playing right field.
What more could I possibly say about David Ortiz that has not been said before? Ortiz is one of the best players of this generation, and arguably the most clutch baseball player of all time. Ortiz will be the DH and hit in the middle of the Boston lineup all season long.
Jon Lester is the leader of the Boston starting rotation. The lefty does not have the best "stuff", but he does a great job of using his command and control to simply get outs. Lester is a steady presence in the Red Sox pitching staff.
John Lackey was incredible last season, coming up big in pressure situations time and time again. Lackey reportedly looks even better this Spring, and I expect really big things out of him.
Similarly to Lester, Clay Buchholz does not blow you away with his stuff, but he simply knows how to record outs. Buchholz has nice command and changes his speeds very well to keep hitters off balance. Buchholz will very likely be consistent and steady for the Red Sox once again this season.
While health is always a concern with Jake Peavy, he is a very talented pitcher with great presence on the mound. Peavy is a bulldog that fits in very well in the Red Sox clubhouse. He is an experienced pitcher who will play a key role in the rotation this season.
Felix Doubront is impressing this Spring, and seems to have a spot in the rotation locked up. He is not nearly as established as the other Boston pitchers on the staff, but Doubront is a talented pitcher with big upside.
Everybody needs a backup catcher, and David Ross is one of the best in the business. He will not blow you away with his offensive or defensive skill, but he is solid in both departments. Pierzynski is getting up there in age, so Ross will likely start more games than a normal backup catcher.
Mike Carp is a solid left-handed bench bat who can fill in at several positions. He is a good, patient hitter who has experience coming off of the bench.
Jonathan Herrera was brought in by the Red Sox to be a utility infielder off the bench. Herrera will not give you much with the bat, but he has nice speed and athleticism and can play all infield positions admirably.
Jonny Gomes played a key part in the World Series title run for Boston last season. He was such a consistent player and came up big in important moments. With their outfield loaded with depth, playing time may be sporadic for Gomes. But make no mistake, he will be ready when called upon.
He may not be the five-tool outfielder that he once was, but Grady Sizemore is looking to prove that he has something left in the tank. The Red Sox signed Sizemore to a incentive-laden one-year contract this offseason. Obviously injuries are a huge concern, but Sizemore seems to be impressing in Spring Training. I think he will split time with Bradley in centerfield, and if he impresses, Sizemore could easily play a big role on this team.
Koji Uehara had a career year with the Red Sox last season. He was a dominant performer as a closer, consistently shutting down his opponents in the ninth inning. Uehara is another guy who has an ugly injury history, but if he can stay healthy, he will likely be dominant once again.
Edward Mujica had an interesting season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. For a majority of the year, he was successful in the closer role. He struggled down the stretch and lost the ninth inning job right before the playoffs. Mujica does not blow you away with his fastball, but he has nice offspeed stuff that keeps hitters off balance. He will likely be a setup pitcher for Boston this season, handling either the seventh or eighth inning.
Junichi Tazawa has been very consistent out of the bullpen for Boston the past couple of seasons. He is a talented pitcher who will continue to thrive in a setup role.
Craig Breslow is a journeyman LHP who really performed well for Boston last season. He had a 1.81 ERA in 61 relief appearances last season, and I expect him to continue to succeed as a left-handed specialist.
The Red Sox brought Burke Badenhop in this offseason for bullpen depth. Badenhop is a talented pitcher who has had a consistent career. He will likely perform nicely in middle relief for the Red Sox this season.
Andrew Miller is a big LHP who has always had great stuff. He will be a perfect addition to this bullpen as another lefty with huge upside. Injuries have always been a concern for Miller, but if he can stay healthy, I could easily see him being a huge contributor in this bullpen.
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