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Red Sox-Astros ALDS: A position-by-position breakdown

Who has the edge at each spot?

Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The Red Sox and Astros kick off their series on Thursday. Throughout the week, we’ve looked at various portions of Houston’s roster as we get to know our opponent. Now, it’s time to see how the Red Sox stack up. Today, we’ll go position-by-position and see who has the edge at each starting spot. It should be noted that, as I write this, rosters have still not been announced. There may also be some overlap at some positions. Let’s get started

Catcher

Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon vs. Brian McCann/Evan Gattis/Juan Centeno

Catcher is a really interesting matchup between these two teams. On Boston’s side, the guy who will start the majority of games in this series is a defensive specialist who has come alive with the bat this season. He’s been particularly impressive later in the year as he’s living on singles, but most of them are of the legitimate variety in the form of line drives. On the other side, the Astros will rely mainly on a couple of veterans who have been known for their big bats over the years but don’t provide great defense behind the plate. Leon kind of throws this battle off, because while he has some strong defensive qualities he doesn’t provide much of anything at the plate. If this game goes five games, Leon will play in two of them. On the other hand, Vazquez will probably make his way into these games later on. I could see going either way on this one, but with defense behind the plate being so important I’ll lean towards the defensive players in this one.

Advantage: Boston

First Base

Mitch Moreland/Hanley Ramirez vs. Yulieski Gurriel

Moreland is going to spend most, if not all, of the time at first base for the Red Sox. They may sit him in the game Keuchel starts in favor of Ramirez, but even if they do they’ll get Moreland into the game if/when the Astros bullpen enters. Moreland has been a surprise for the Red Sox and has provided the most consistent and clutch power on the team this year. Gurriel has been better, though, and as one a former bona fide star in the Cuban League it’s hard to believe this a fluke. Gurriel makes contact in just about every at bat and he hits the ball with authority. The Astros have the edge here.

Advantage: Houston

Second Base

Dustin Pedroia/Eduardo Nuñez/Deven Marrero/Brock Holt vs. Jose Altuve

This one is pretty easy. The Red Sox have their heart and soul at second base in Pedroia, though with his knee injury it’s entirely possible we could see a pu pu platter of Red Sox infielders at the position. Whoever is there will not be better than Jose Altuve, who is the best player on the Astros, arguably the best player in this series and possibly the American League MVP for 2017.

Advantage: Houston

Boston Red Sox v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Third Base

Rafael Devers/Eduardo Nuñez/Deven Marrero vs. Alex Bregman

There was a time this year when the Red Sox were getting unfathomably bad production at the hot corner. Like, it’s hard to imagine anyone could have possibly been worse at any position in baseball. They’ve gotten a lot better since Devers has been called up and his ceiling is huge at the plate. However, he also has a fairly low floor with his inexperience and his glove is subpar. On the other side, Bregman is a much more polished hitter who has been on a tear throughout the second half and he also provides a solid glove. The fact that Marrero will almost certainly be on the roster for late-game defense makes this a little closer, and I do believe Devers has the ability to hit some huge home runs that could give him an advantage. That being said, Bregman is easily the safer pick here.

Advantage: Houston

Shortstop

Xander Bogaerts/Deven Marrero vs. Carlos Correa

This is another easy one just like the other middle infield position. I’m a bigger Bogaerts fan than a lot of people after what was a mostly disappointing year, but he’s certainly turned it on since taking over the leadoff spot in the lineup. It doesn’t matter, though. Correa is a true rising star in this league and one of the game’s best shortstops. He’s an easy winner here.

Advantage: Houston

Left Field

Andrew Benintendi vs. Marwin Gonzalez/Derek Fisher

This is, in my mind, the most interesting matchup in this series. On the Red Sox side we have a rookie who is far more polished than you’d expect any first-year player to be. While there have been some peaks and valleys throughout the year, he’s been mostly consistent over the course of the year and has been above average with everything considered. On the other side, the Astros have a huge breakout in Gonzalez who has outperformed everyone’s expectations thanks to a big power breakout. Benintendi has the advantage in defense and baserunning and has the potential to close the gap enough with the bat. Whether or not he’ll be able to do it is a different question, and I could see taking either side on this one, but I’ll give the slight edge to the bat without feeling good about it.

Advantage: Houston

Center Field

Jackie Bradley Jr. vs. George Springer/Cameron Maybin

This one isn’t as big of a blowout as the two middle infield positions, but it is a clear choice when Springer is starting. Bradley’s defense is going to be a huge advantage regardless of who is playing center field for the Astros, but the difference between Springer’s bat and that of Bradley is more than enough to make up for it. Springer may move over to right field when lefties start, so that could mean Maybin will play this position for most of the series. I’m giving Houston the advantage here with the idea that Springer is starting and when he doesn’t he will move over later in the game, but when Maybin plays here Bradley has the advantage.

Advantage: Houston

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Right Field

Mookie Betts vs. Josh Reddick/George Springer

Here is a matchup of a current Boston star and a former future Boston star. Reddick is one of the few players who did not play in the series last weekend between these two teams due to injury. He is a fine player in his own right and has been very good for Houston this year, but Betts is clearly better here. Even with a relatively down offensive year the value he provides with the glove and with his legs more than makes up for any advantage Reddick has at the plate. Oh, and Mookie’s been hitting a bit more of late, too.

Advantage: Boston

Designated Hitter

Hanley Ramirez/Eduardo Nuñez vs. Carlos Beltran/Evan Gattis

Both teams are likely to go with a platoon at this spot. Ramirez, for as disappointing as he’s been this year, would be someone I expect to play everyday in this series, though I think he’ll shift to first base against Keuchel. The good news is the Astros have some disappointing sluggers themselves. Beltran, who will likely start against righties, has fallen off a cliff this year, though he does have some great postseason experience. Gattis will start against lefties, and while he’s hit well for a catcher his production is much less impressive for a DH. I’m giving the advantage to Ramirez and the Red Sox in this one, though I could see the backfiring. I just see a bigger chance of the one of Ramirez or Nuñez making an impact on this series.

Advantage: Boston

SP1

Chris Sale vs. Justin Verlander

This is the matchup for Game One of this series, and it’s an incredible one. On the Red Sox side, they have one of the truly elite pitchers in baseball. He’s been shaky of late and has never pitched in the postseason before, but how can you bet against Sale in this kind of game? On the other side there is Verlander, who has been incredible since getting to Houston at the end of August. He also has a ton of experience pitching in October and has done very well here. Verlander is outstanding and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him outduel Sale, but you can’t bet against the lanky lefty in this matchup.

Advantage: Boston

SP2

Drew Pomeranz vs. Dallas Keuchel

Relative to expectations coming into the season, perhaps no player has been a bigger key to the Red Sox making a run to the division title than Pomeranz. The lefty has been remarkable for Boston in 2017 and consistently great for the final four months of the year. However, his stuff is clearly taking a step back as the year goes on and that has to be worrisome. Keuchel, meanwhile, missed some time with an injury this year but when he’s pitched he’s been great. He induces weak contact all day and keeps the ball on the ground, which will be key in a series that features a couple of hitters’ parks. Keuchel looks a lot like he did in 2015 when he won the Cy Young, and has great as Pomeranz has been this year the Astros lefty has been better.

Advantage: Houston

SP3

Rick Porcello vs. Brad Peacock

So, I’ll start by saying this is what I think the Red Sox rotation will be not what I think it should be. I’ve been pretty vocal in various spots saying I believe Eduardo Rodriguez should be the third starter, but signs are pointing towards him being in the bullpen. Either way, that puts the Red Sox in a big hole in this matchup. Porcello has been more solid than he’s been given credit for, but he has a tendency to dig the team in a hole early and give up home runs. That’s not great against a powerful Astros lineup. Peacock, meanwhile, has been a breakout performer and been particularly impressive down the stretch. He gets the advantage here.

Advantage: Houston

SP4

Doug FIster vs. Charlie Morton

Most logic points towards Fister being a scary guy to start in a postseason game. He’s old and over the last couple of years he’s been bad much more often than he’s been good. He was cut by a non-playoff team this year, to drive that point home. However, I’m a believer. When his two-seam fastball is working and he can locate it on the corner of the plate on his glove side, he can beat anyone. That’s not enough to give him the advantage over Morton, though, who is another 2017 breakout for the Astros whose stuff was on full display in his start in Boston over the weekend.

Advantage: Houston

RP1

Craig Kimbrel vs. Ken Giles

Giles is a great reliever who can rack up strikeouts and has been particularly impressive in the second half. Kimbrel is one of the very best relievers in all of baseball. He’s the easy winner here.

Advantage: Boston

RP2

David Price vs. Chris Devenski

This is a fascinating matchup in what may be the battle between the two most important relievers for either team in this series. Both Price and Devenski have started in their career — with Price’s rotation days obviously much more recent -- and they both can and will go multiple innings. Devenski has enormous talent and with his wicked changeup he can face batters of both handedness. The same can be said for Price. I’m giving the advantage to Price given that he is a recent ace who is now pitching in short stints, but it’s closer than you may think.

Advantage: Boston

RP3

Addison Reed vs. Joe Musgrove

Reed has been the second best reliever in Boston’s bullpen since he arrived, though Price changes that equation. Either way, he’s going to play a big role in this series against a righty-heavy Astros lineup. His ability to get big strikeouts is going to be huge, though his flyball tendencies are certainly scary against this powerful offense. Musgrove, meanwhile, has been fantastic since converting to the bullpen and is another guy who could easily go multiple innings when needed. Both have their flaws and overall they are probably pretty close, but Reed has been better for a longer period of time and also has some experience in October, which Musgrove does not. That gives the edge to Reed in my eyes.

Advantage: Boston

Final Tally

Houston 9, Boston 7