On Monday, we wrote about the weaknesses of the 2016 Red Sox. The world was destroyed by asteroids, Hanley Ramirez was dropping throws to first base, aliens kidnapped everyone on the Red Sox, and Bobby Valentine made his return to haunt the halls of Fenway Park *shivers*.
Today, we live in a world where everything is perfect, the Red Sox finish the season with a 162-0 record, Matt Damon beats Leonardo DiCaprio for the Best Actor for his performance in The Martian [Editor's Note: Please do not hate Joon too much, internet], Jar Jar Binks never exists (or he's actually a diabolical Sith Lord) and Bobby Valentine never managed the Red Sox.
And there's certainly quite a number of strengths on paper for this team. It's hard to rank things, generally, when it comes to something as subjective as excitement, but I'll accompany each of these items with an appropriately excited GIF, because in 10 years, everyone will be solely be communicating in GIFs and emojis. Words? Psh, who needs them.
When you look at the Red Sox, it's hard to look at Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts and not be eternally optimistic about the team. After starting the season slowly, Betts proved himself as valuable a roster building block as you can have in the major leagues today. At just 23 years old, Betts hit .291/.341/.479 with 18 home runs, 77 RBI, 42 doubles and 21 steals while displaying a strong glove in center, good enough to place him 12th in fWAR among all outfielders in the majors last season. The only player younger than Betts to post a higher fWAR was none other than Bryce Harper, who somehow has nine days on Boston's star.
On the other hand, you have Bogaerts. With the expectations lower following a tumultuous rookie season, Bogaerts put together an incredibly impressive season at the plate, hitting .320/.355/.421 with seven home runs, 35 doubles and 81 RBI and eventually ending up in the three-hole in the lineup. Bogaerts posted the third-highest fWAR among major league shortstops, trailing just Brandon Crawford and Francisco Lindor, while posting the fourth-highest wOBA at the position, behind Carlos Correa, Lindor and Jung Ho Kang. On top of all of that, Bogaerts made major strides defensively at shortstop, a position some hoped he would move off of at the beginning of the season.
So with The Killer B's, there's a reason to be jumping off the walls in excitement.
And there's the bullpen. Gone are the days of watching Alexi Ogando giving up rockets, Craig Breslow coming in as the human white flag, and just general bullpen terribleness. Enter: Carson Smith and Craig Kimbrel. Both pitchers have pretty gaudy statistics, Smith with 92 strikeouts in 70 innings last season and Kimbrel with 87 in 59.1. And both have more movement on their pitches than one could even imagine. Here's Smith's unreasonable slider:
And don't forget about Craig Kimbrel.
Good Lord. Bats are not supposed to miss balls by that much in the majors.
The addition of Kimbrel and Smith have pretty major ramifications, which Ben Buchanan covered in this space previously. Junichi Tazawa no longer has to come into every single high-leverage situation, Koji Uehara is moved back into the eighth inning and the pressure on the starting pitchers to go deep into games is lessened, to a certain extent. And while having a kick-ass bullpen is no longer the market inefficiency it was when the Kansas City Royals rode the group to back-to-back World Series appearances and a championship, it certainly doesn't hurt to have four great relievers in the pen.
So get ready to pour everyone a shot glass of Snake Juice when Taz, Smith, Koji and Kimbrel roll out of the bullpen. It grades out at a solid:
The major league depth of the Red Sox will continue to prove valuable. While Brock Holt once again proved that he's probably not an everyday starter as he tailed off late for the second year in a row, that doesn't mean he can't be a damn valuable asset to a team that started him at every position on the field except pitcher and catcher (I'm still waiting for John Farrell to throw Holt on the mound during a blow out. Do it, pretty please).
Travis Shaw also provides pretty solid insurance be it at the minor or major league level behind Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, while Chris Young is an above-average fourth outfielder with pretty exceptional pop. That depth would only get better should David Murphy end up making the big league squad out of camp as well.
The group is pretty solid and there seems to be a plan should all of the sketchier starters fall flat on their face. Granted, the bench isn't usually the most exciting of areas, but it still earns at least a smile and a thumbs up:
And you can't forget about David Price. Sure, could Price's contract become an albatross at some point down the road? Most certainly. But the Red Sox aren't paying the lefty all of this money for him to be an ace seven years from now (although I'm sure they'd certainly welcome that). They're paying the 30-year-old to be one of the best pitchers in baseball over the first few years of the contract. And given his performance last year between Detroit and Toronto, there's not much reason to expect anything less. Price finished third among all qualified pitchers in fWAR last year, trailing just Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta while posting a 2.45 ERA (fourth among all starters), 2.78 FIP (eighth among all starters), 22.4 K-BB% (10th among all starters) and a 1.07 WHIP (12th among all starters).
Price is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and it's gonna be awfully exciting to see the guy take the rubber every fifth day. Almost, say, Daniel Nava-Mike Carp excited.
God, what an all-time great GIF.
Like every team, the Red Sox certainly have their strengths and weaknesses. But especially after a busy offseason, the Red Sox present an exceptional number of things to be excited and a pretty great number of things to be exceptionally jacked up about. There's nothing like the unfettered optimism of a baseball season, before the 162-game grind really starts to set in.