Playing the projection game: 2013 Red Sox 25-man roster
The Red Sox kick off their 2013 season on Monday against their longtime rival, the New York Yankees. While the 25 man roster is not completely finalized, here is my projection of who you will see to start the season as the Sox hope to begin their long journey to the playoffs.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – starting catcher: Saltalamacchia had a breakout year last season for the Sox, leading the team in home runs with 25 while also racking up 59 RBIs. Saltalamacchia posted subpar numbers for his batting average and on base percentage though while also facing a few struggles defensively. For the Sox to be successful they will need Saltalamacchia to reach his full potential at the plate and become more defensively sound.
David Ross – backup catcher: Good-guy David Ross was signed as the Sox’s backup catcher in November. The 36-year-old veteran has been well regarded as one of the better defensive catchers in the game, especially when it comes to throwing base runners out. Ross has proven himself to be a fair hitter too, posting a career .238 average with a .324 OBP. He looks to be a solid No. 2 guy who can come in for Saltalamacchia as a defensive replacement and give the starter a few days off every now and then.
Mike Napoli – first base: First baseman Mike Napoli was the biggest signing by the Sox in the offseason, and his success will be crucial to the Sox in 2013. Napoli has amazing numbers in his limited time playing at Fenway (7 home runs, 17 RBIs and a .307 batting average in 19 career games) and has proven himself to be an adept fielder at his position in Spring Training. His hip degeneration disease — which almost prevented his signing back in December — has not given him any problems, so if he stays healthy, he looks primed for a great debut with the Sox.
Dustin Pedroia – second base: Spunky second baseman Dustin Pedroia will be an important factor in the success of the Red Sox this season. He has had a bit of a slow Spring Training, tallying just 14 hits in 51 at-bats, but Spring Training sometimes is not a good indicator of what you’ll see from a player once the real games start. Pedroia has been in a slight decline since his foot injury in 2010, so the Red Sox will have to hope that his Spring Training is an aberration, his foot is at 100 percent and his numbers will improve once April rolls around.
Will Middlebrooks – third base: Middlebrooks ousted Kevin Youkilis last season as the starting third baseman and now has the job to himself. When he went down last August with a wrist injury, it devastated the Red Sox, but now he’s back and healthy and ready to show Sox fans just how good he is. If Middlebrooks’ Spring Training is any indication, he’ll be one of the heroes for the Red Sox this season. He has been one of the team’s best hitters this spring, tallying a .347 average and a .407 OBP in 18 games.
Stephen Drew – shortstop: Stephen Drew enters in the revolving door of Sox shortstops to see if he can stick in a place that no Sox player has been a permanent fixture at since Nomar Garciaparra was traded back in 2004. Drew has proven himself to be one of the better shortstops over the past few years, but a terrible ankle injury shut him down in 2011. Further complicating matters for Drew is a pesky concussion that Drew can’t seem to shake. His ability to contribute this year remains in question while the Sox wait for the concussion to clear up.
Shane Victorino – right field: Victorino was one of the bigger signings this offseason as the Sox inked him to a three year $39 million deal to play right field. A center fielder by nature, Victorino will transition to the cavernous right field at Fenway Park. Victorino has been in a steady decline at the plate and his performance in Spring Training (five hits in 36 at-bats) brings some concern going into the regular season. Still, Victorino’s importance to the Phillies over the last seven seasons means he will get quite a bit of time to prove himself with the Red Sox.
Jonny Gomes – left field: Some fans might remember Gomes’ involvement in the 2008 fight between Coco Crisp and James Shields of the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, Gomes will be fighting for the Red Sox instead of the Rays, but hopefully he will spend most of his time playing left field. Gomes projects to be a platoon player for the Sox, and due to his fielding deficiencies, he may be subbed for defensively in the later innings.
Jacoby Ellsbury – center field: Ellsbury is entering the final year of his contract, and depending on how he does this year he could walk in the offseason or sign a new deal with the Sox. Ellsbury has had many ups and downs over the years, and his ability to stay healthy and on the field is imperative to the Sox’ success. He went down with an ankle injury recently, so the hope is that he may be ready for Opening Day versus the Yankees on Monday.
Ryan Sweeney – outfield/DH: Sweeney had a decent year in 2012 — not outstanding but not terrible either. He’s a great defensive outfielder and a fair hitter, although his lack of home runs is perplexing given his size. Still, Sweeney will most likely come off the bench for the Sox to give Victorino a day off or start as a DH in the place of Ortiz.
Jose Iglesias – bench/shortstop: Iglesias has never been able to fully prove his worth to the Red Sox. Iglesias has struggle at the plate over the past few years, but a few offseason workouts with teammate Dustin Pedroia seems to be paying off. Iglesias has hit .283 this spring with seven extra base hits and will get the start at shortstop on Opening Day in the place of Stephen Drew, but expect him to be more of a utility player once Drew gets healthy.
Pedro Ciriaco – utility man: Ciriaco became the Sox’ super utility man in 2012 and has rightfully earned his spot on the roster in 2013. While Ciriaco does nothing to truly stand out (hence his role on the bench rather than as a starter), his speed and defensive versatility has earned him a spot on the Sox roster this season. Ciriaco has looked good at the plate early this spring, batting 11-for-31 with five RBIs in 14 games.
Mike Carp – utility man: Mike Carp was signed by the Sox in the offseason to provide a defensive backup for late innings to make up for Napoli’s deficiencies at first base. Carp is entering the seventh year of his MLB career this season and was able to contribute as a fill-in man in the past for the Mets and Mariners. It seems he will play the same role with the Sox this season.
Daniel Nava – utility man: Nava emerged as the “feel good” story when he was signed out of the Can-Am league for just $1 to play for the Sox back in 2007. Since then, Nava has proven himself to be a very good defensive outfielder but now he is returning to first base, a position he has not played since college. Nava will serve as an every-man for the Sox this season.
Jon Lester – Ace: Lester was recently named the Opening Day starter, and though he had a rocky season in 2012, he has earned the job based off his performance in Spring Training — in 24 innings this spring, Lester allowed just two runs while striking out 20 batters. All signs point to the lefthander returning to form as one of the best pitchers in the league this season.
Clay Buchholz – No. 2 starter: While Lester has had a sparkling spring, don’t forget about Clay Buchholz who has been equally as dominating. Over 18.2 innings, Buchholz allowed two runs while striking out 16. Over the past few years, Buchholz has emerged as a truly dominating pitcher. If he can continue his success into the 2013 season, the Red Sox will have a strong 1-2 combination at the top of their rotation.
Ryan Dempster – No. 3 starter: Dempster was the premier pitching acquisition for the Sox over the offseason. While Dempster was never a great pitcher by any standard, he is an innings eater and works extremely hard to prepare for each season, a work ethic that the recent Red Sox can learn quite a bit from. Dempster leads by example, commanding respect thanks to his demeanor and doing an immense amount of charity work. Dempster’s “good guy” personality could win the fans over in 2013 and raise interest in the team, and that might be more valuable to the Red Sox at the end of the day than his work on the mound.
Felix Doubront – No. 4 starter: Doubront posted decent numbers in 2012 but showed signs of slowing down towards the end of the season. While Doubront won’t be the ace of the staff this year, there is no doubt he has quality stuff on the mound. If he can rack up close to 200 innings with a sub 4.00 ERA this year (strong but not excellent numbers), the Sox will be in very good shape as a potential playoff team.
John Lackey – No. 5 starter: Lackey has a lot to prove this year; after two subpar years and Tommy John surgery, Lackey has done little to endear himself to the Sox fan base either on the mound or in the clubhouse (where he was part of the “fried chicken and beer” fiasco). Lackey has given up a fair amount of runs this spring, but his control has been very sharp, a good sign for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John. Still, Lackey has not pitched well in years, and thanks to his advanced age and injury history, it seems doubtful that he will be a significant force for the Sox this year.
Joel Hanrahan – closer: Hanrahan was signed to be the closer for the Sox this season, showing the Sox have very little faith in Andrew Bailey’s ability to get the job done. Hanrahan has been a decent closer for the Pirates and has put up big numbers but his walk totals are worrisome.
Andrew Bailey – closer/reliever: While the Sox signed Bailey after the 2011 season to be the closer in 2012, his fortune quickly fell as he tore a tendon in his thumb during Spring Training. Now he is back and healthy, but his job has been given over to Joel Hanrahan. Still Bailey is a great relief pitcher and will be a big part of the Sox’ late inning success.
Koji Uehara – set-up man/reliever: Uehara was a minor signing by the Sox this past winter, but could provide a big return this season. At the age of 37, Uehara is well past his prime, yet he still has what it takes to succeed at the big league level as one of the elite set-up men in the MLB. Through Spring Training, Uehara has allowed just three hits and no runs over eight innings of work.
Junichi Tazawa – reliever: Tazawa was once a so-so Sox prospect but reinvented himself as a reliever in 2012. When the Sox called him up from Pawtucket last season, he was decent, allowing six hits and three runs in seven innings of work (one of the best performances by a Sox reliever late last year). He’ll want to improve on those numbers this year, but he certainly has potential.
Clayton Mortensen – long-inning reliever: Mortensen had a mediocre season in 2012 and the hope is that he can continue to build on it. Along with Aceves, Mortensen is one of the Sox long-inning relievers, and his ability to come in during jams or save the Sox from a bad start is imperative.
Alfredo Aceves – long-inning reliever: Rubber-armed Aceves has been a big part of the Sox’s success over his two-year tenure in Boston, but his attitude has been an issue. Aceves was the closer for the Sox last season and was often good on the mound, but ran into trouble with former manager Bobby Valentine quite often. He has had some issues with the coaching staff this spring but the sense is that his talent outweighs his baggage.
That’s it for our projection for the 25-man roster on Opening Day. One change you could see is shortstop Stephen Drew dropped from the roster and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. added. Manager John Farrell has been very secretive about Bradley Jr.’s possible rise to the majors this year, so I have decided to leave him off. In addition, once David Ortiz returns to the team in May, Jose Iglesias will most likely return to Pawtucket. When relievers Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales come off the DL, expect to see some changes in the bullpen.