The Red Sox haven't been great this spring. Is it time to start worrying? We've already discussed the team as a whole, but what About David Ortiz? Shane Victorino? Jackie Bradley? Xander Bogaerts? If none of them are hitting now, how can we expect them to do so come April? Remember when Carl Crawford couldn't buy a hit in March of 2011? And when Ellsbury bombed heading into 2012? It's a sign of the disaster to come!
Take a step into my time machine. We're about to jump back a year.
Spring training is over, Red Sox fans, meaning it's finally time to see what this new team can do. We're just months away from the end of a season that saw the team go 69-93, but quite a bit has changed since then. Bobby Valentine, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett are gone, and while most of us expect it will be a few years before the Sox re-establish themselves as top contenders, there's some hope that, with a little bit of luck, the season might not have to end in September.
For that to happen, though, the Sox will have to be firing on all cylinders, or close to it. And after this past month it's already hard to imagine some of the pieces panning out. Let's take a look at some of the spring's worst performances, and who the Red Sox might turn to for salvation.
Keith Law is starting to look real smart right about now...
The Red Sox signed Victorino in hopes that they would see more of the two-time All-Star and less of the has-been who couldn't even break a .300 wOBA with the Dodgers last year. Unfortunately their gamble doesn't look like it's going to be rewarded. In 45 spring training at bats, Victorino has hit just .178/.275/.289.
At his best, Victorino was capable of top-flight outfield defense and above-average offense. The quality of J.D. Drew minus the injuries, plus a fan-friendly personality. That player hasn't been seen in over a year, though, and now seems unlikely to return.
The good news: The Red Sox may be stuck paying Victorino $13 million a year for the next three years, but they won't have to pay Jackie Bradley Jr. much of anything. And even though the top prospect has seen all of 200 at bats above High-A, never so much as donning a uniform for Pawtucket, his .419/.507/.613 domination of the Grapefruit League makes it clear he's ready to pick up Victorino's slack.
Once again, the Red Sox went looking for 2011 and have found 2012 all over again. It was in 2011 that Carp showed the potential for serious production at the plate, hitting .276/.326/.466 in his first long-term exposure to major league pitching despite playing with the no-offense Mariners. And it was in 2012 that he fell to Earth, hitting just .213/.312/.341 in 189 plate appearances.
Still, with the cost to acquire Carp minuscule, the Red Sox could not help but take the flier. Particularly with Mike Napoli's hip likely to explode on a moment's notice and Will Middlebrooks coming off of a broken wrist. Depth at the corners was necessary, and Carp came with both a low price tag and some decent upside.
Unfortunately, it's hard to see that upside with Carp having hit just .178/.245/.289 in spring. The power the Red Sox thought the backup infielder might possess has shown through with all of one homer and two doubles. The only thing prolific about Carp so far: a 29% strikeout rate.
The good news: Carp shouldn't be needed so long as Napoli doesn't break. Will Middlebrooks is back and better than ever, hitting .321/.387/.536 in 21 games this spring. Not only is he hitting for power, but he's drawn six walks, showing off plate discipline that will serve him well during the regular season. Combined with his strong performance in 2012, Middlebrooks is looking like the real deal.
The new Drew brings the same trouble as the old Drew: injury, injury, injury. Felled by a concussion, the Red Sox won't be seeing Drew for a while to start the season. Even when he does get back, though, his limited opportunities in spring were far from encouraging, producing an OPS of just .528. If his recent history were not so poor, we might brush that off as small sample size. But with two mediocre-to-bad years leading into this one, it's hard to give him any benefit of the doubt.
How many games will Drew even play this year? Given that he hasn't made it to April before suffering his first, we're likely in for a year-long saga of nagging injuries and disabled list trips. The Sox might just be lucky to get the 79 games he provided Arizona last year.
The good news: Remember good old Pedro Ciriaco? Well the Yankee killer hasn't taken spring off. He'll be ready to step in coming off a hot spring that's seen him produce a batting average of .351. His hits might not all be pretty, but do we really care how he gets them?
Well, this one was always a long shot. Most Bostonians were happy to just forget Lackey existed in 2012, given his terrible performance in 2011. But with Sox fans looking for possible X-factors heading into a season which needs as many of them as it can get, Lackey started showing up on the radar again. Maybe it was just the injury all along? Maybe Tommy John Surgery will fix him?
Tell that to a 5.40 ERA and just five strikeouts in all of spring. Sorry, Sox fans, but some prayers are just too ridiculous to be answered. Heck, his elbow will probably explode in his first start.
The good news: Ryan Dempster, Boston's big pitching acquisition of the offseason, isn't showing his age at all. Only Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have seen more innings than the veteran starter this spring, and his 3.74 ERA is nothing to be sneezed at. Looks like old Demp is ready to put his struggles with the Rangers behind him to show that the American League isn't so tough after all.
I rest my case. Team record isn't important, individual stats aren't important. Spring training is not real aside from injuries. Let's not pretend otherwise.