Quietly optimistic

I'm not going to make any bold predictions for this team like they're going to win the World Series... I don't expect they will. But I am quietly optimistic that this team is a lot better than people are saying it will be. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain my rationale for this.

First, allow me to list the roster as I see it being.

C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B Mike Napoli
2B Dustin Pedroia
SS Stephen Drew
3B Will Middlebrooks
LF Jonny Gomes
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Shane Victorino
DH David Ortiz

OF Daniel Nava
OF Ryan Kalish
UTIL Pedro Ciriaco
C David Ross

SP1 Jon Lester
SP2 Clay Buchholz
SP3 Ryan Dempster
SP4 John Lackey
SP5 Felix Doubront

CL Joel Hanrahan
RP Andrew Bailey
RP Junichi Tazawa
RP Andrew Miller
RP Craig Breslow
RP Franklin Morales
RP Koji Uehara

So it's not the most fearsome of rosters. But I think it's good enough to compete.

Our starting lineup, I think, is actually improved over last years'. Middlebrooks will get a full year at 3B. There will, likely, be a bit of a sophomore slump but he is a much better solution at 3B than Youk was last year. And I love Youk as a player. 2B features one of the premier players for the position. 1B and SS are two new additions for the team. Yes, I know the Napoli deal is not yet done and might not be. But both he and Drew are good fits for Fenway Park. Napoli will play wall ball all season long and the right field triangle is going to see a lot of action from Drew. I suspect we're going to see a lot of doubles and triples from him.

I'm a bit concerned about Jonny Gomes, but that comes, I think, from not knowing too much about him. From what I've seen, he's more of a platoon hitter, which is why we will likely carry two OF on our bench. I'm not sure what to expect from Ellsbury this year. Hopefully there will be no freak injuries... and let's face it. All of his injuries ARE of the freak variety (Running into Beltre's granite skull and having someone land on your shoulder are NOT controllable...) If he can avoid a freak injury, I think he will have an excellent year. I like the Victorino signing. I think we're going to see him play a little havoc on the basepaths and I see him as a complimentary piece to Ells. I also think that he has the ability to play the tougher RF at Fenway well.

Nava and Kalish I think will both make the team as bench depth for the outfield with Nava getting more playing time as he platoons with Gomes. I think that he and Gomes will make a decent, but not spectacular, platoon. Ross is an excellent backup and will give Lavarnway another year to work on his catching at AAA. Ciriaco was a bright spot this year, but he's still rather an enigma to me. I really feel that the UTIL job is his to lose though.

Our starting rotation will definitely be improved this year. Lester has already had problems with his mechanics diagnosed by the new manager. From what I hear he is already working on fixing what has been found. If he does, then the front end our rotation is already going to be much better than people expect. I believe Buch will stay healthy this year and build on a pretty good season in 2012. He won't have the rust he had to start 2012, and I think will start the season off on a roll. Dempster isn't flashy, but what he gives is a lot of innings. Not necessarily great innings, but if we can get roughly 200 innings of ~4.00 ERA, which I think is highly likely, then he will definitely be worth the acquisition. Lackey will be healthy for the first time since 2010. I don't expect the Lackey that pitched for Anaheim. I don't expect him to be GOOD even. I expect him to be a decent #4 starter though and I expect he will give a lot more innings than others do. Doubront will build on 2012 and put together a good season

The bullpen was one place where we actually did not need to do anything to improve, and yet we did. Bringing in Uehara and Hanrahan will only make the bullpen better. You'll notice that I did not list Aceves on the 25 man roster. There's just... no place for him. He is a head case that BOBBY VALENTINE had to suspend! Do we really need that on our roster? I like the way this bullpen is built and I believe that they will be able to hold far more leads than not. If the rotation can go a bit longer than they did last year so that the 'pen doesn't get taxed, then it's a bullpen that I would match up with any other team's.

No, it's not the best roster in the world. But it was built without mortgaging the very bright looking future or costing a draft pick. And it will compete.

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