What to discuss as ST has kicked/kicks off?
Who plays CF?
Interestingly, it seems that no one but the fans is assuming it's Ellsbury's job to lose. Tito has even referred to Coco as the incumbent.
I think that we'll see a tough competition here, and I'm interested to hear what Coco might say about it when he gets to camp.
Who's the 5th starter?
Most of the ST pieces I've read have Beckett, Daisuke, Lester, and Wake in that order, all but inked into the rotation. All that's left is the 5 starter, and it seems to generally be down to three candidates.
In order, I'd say that Julian Tavarez has the best shot (at the beginning), then Clay Buchholz, then Kyle Snyder. Snydes is a surprising candidate in my eyes. He seems to have acquitted himself well to the "last man out" role in the 'pen, and I feel like it's been too long since he's been in the starter role for him to go back. Buch, in my opinion, would benefit from being on a controlled workload for the first (two) month(s) in Pawtucket. Makes it more likely he'll be available for the playoffs rather than having to be shut down again.
Who's the first man up if the Sox face an injury in the rotation?
Obviously, this isn't nearly as important a question to answer as the first two, but could clearly become crucial. I have no doubt that David Pauley and Devern Hansack will see plenty of time pitching in ST, in order to determine who really is the best bet for retiring ML hitters. I'm thinking Hansack has the leg up entering the season, but Pauley is certainly talented enough to make a race of it.
NRI-invite Michael Tejera might be the darkhorse candidate, and either Michael Bowden or Justin Masterson could force their way into the picture in the second half of the season.
Are they going to extend Tito or what?
I'm ready for it, I'm sure you are too. S- or get off the pot. Don't put this off until the offseason. Tito is well-liked AND well-respected in the clubhouse, and seems on-board with everything Theo and the FO are doing. He's a good fit, and unless John Farrell is the successor, we might not realize what we might lose until he's gone.
How does the 'pen shake out?
Paps, Oki, MDC, Timlin, Lopez (unfortunately, to some degree), and Snyder/Tavarez. By my count, that's 6 (with Snyder and Tavarez nearly being redundant to each other). So who's left?
David Aardsma, the talented RH with extreme control issues? Bryan Corey, whose overall ML stats suggest that he can at least be a Snyder-esque RP, if not more? Craig Breslow, president and founder of the Red Sox chapter of MENSA? NRI-vets Dan Kolb or Dan Miceli? Or maybe uber-talented Craig Hansen who may have shaken off his problems by correcting his sleep apnea?
I'd have to think Aardsma is in the early lead, given that he has to be exposed to waivers if the Sox don't break camp with him. After that, has to be Craig Hansen. He's probably got the best shot of convincing the Sox that Aardsma isn't worth keeping around. The rest will probably end up just as filler/backups, though I wouldn't mind one of them (any) fighting Lopez for his spot.
Will Curt and the FO make nice?
This is going to be an ongoing saga, I fear, so much so that we might wish for some normal "Being Manny Being" action in Spring Training. He wanted surgery, then he's okay with not getting surgery, then he's sure the Sox are wrong in the way they're dealing with his shoulder. I'm not sure about any of it, except for the fact that I'll have little patience for any lasting drama. He speaks.
Can Chris Carter push Sean Casey out of a job?
I've been an outspoken non-proponent of the Sean Casey signing from the beginning. Basically, he's going to be on the bench where we'll only have a right to expect singles, walks, station-to-station "running", and the ability to play 1B at an acceptable level.
Maybe that's all Chris Carter can give us, but if he can provide some power, and a not-totally embarrassing level of defense at 1B and maybe a little LF, then he should have the roster slot. I'm not rooting against Sean Casey, but I am rooting for Chris Carter anyway.
Whence with Brandon Moss?
Moss is now absolutely on the outside looking in. As of now, he'll start the season as Pawtucket's RF, waiting for an injury to "Being" or Drew. Would the Sox consider trading him, to some degree, for his own sake? He might not be a ML-quality starting OF, but we'll never get the chance to find out while he's here. Obviously, that's not a good enough reason to trade him, because he provides excellent depth at the OF corners.
Will we see any ST trades?
Obviously Crisp is going to be discussed as a trade chip/target. How about something a little more off-the-wall? If Jed Lowrie fields/hits well in ST, would it be that far-fetched that the Sox might trade Alex Cora to a team in need of good defense up-the-middle? To some degree, I suppose, given that the Sox would probably prefer regular ABs for Lowrie, but I doubt they'd turn a deaf ear if someone were interested. Could the Sox make a play for/with someone else? Speculate. Enjoy. I dunno.
How huge a season could David Ortiz have?
He says his knee is at or near 100%, and there's no doubt that he had issues driving the ball last season as a result of the injury. (His 35 HRs are his "worst" since his debut season in Boston back in 2003). It was still his highest OPS and OPS+ in his career, a lot of which was due to having his highest batting average of his career. He did have a .355 BABIP vs. his career mark of .308. That being said, I have no doubt that his walk rate will be as good as it has been in recent years, and he'll probably turn several of those 52 doubles back into HRs. Are we just extremely lucky that a year between his 2006 and 2007 isn't an unreasonable expectation?