Today is the day. Pitchers and catchers are officially reporting to Ft. Myers today, and it’s making me feel slightly better about currently being buried underneath two feet of snow. Spring training is here, which means actual baseball news is around the corner, which means exhibition baseball games are right after that, which means real baseball games are within view. Opening Day feels like it’s so far away, but it’ll be here before we know it. There are a few things for the Red Sox to figure out between now and then, so let’s try and take a stab at what the Opening Day roster will look like when April rolls around.
Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Steven Wright
We all know who the top three starting pitchers for the Red Sox are going to be, assuming everyone is healthy. After that, we reach one of the biggest questions for the Red Sox heading into spring training. The battle between Pomeranz, Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez is going to be the most closely followed battle in Boston this March. If everyone makes it through camp (which looks slightly less likely at this point), I have to imagine Pomeranz and Wright will get the nod. If I were in charge, I’d probably give the last spot to Rodriguez over Wright because that provides the most upside and the team can afford that with the relative safety at the top. However Rodriguez has minor-league options remaining, and this allows them to put him in Triple-A and keep as much pitching depth as possible in the organization while also keeping all of their starters in that role.
Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Thornburg, Joe Kelly, Robbie Ross, Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree
This is another side effect of Rodriguez being the odd man out in the rotation. If they were to give him a starting spot, that would push Wright or Pomeranz into the bullpen, since neither has options remaining. In turn, that would either push Barnes to Triple-A or Hembree (who is also out of options) to waivers. The latter would almost certainly be claimed. I believe the Red Sox will do everything they can to get Barnes on the Opening Day roster given how much Farrell seemed to trust the righty in 2016. If Rodriguez is in the minors, having both Barnes and Hembree on the roster is a no brainer.
The only other portion of this group to watch is for the second left-handed reliever spot. Fernando Abad didn’t make the best first impression after being traded to Boston last year, but he’s being given another chance. His salary is low enough that I could see the team dumping him if he has a bad spring, but I think he’d have to be a disaster for it to come to that. I don’t foresee it happening, but if it did look for Robby Scott to take that role.
Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez
This is another battle to watch during spring training, although the hype is sure to outpace the actual drama attached to the final result. Leon, Vazquez and Blake Swihart all have their pros and cons, and probably grade out pretty evenly if you were to really sit down and grade them. However, Swihart has minor-league options and the other two don’t. Swihart is my favorite of the three, but it just makes sense to put him in Pawtucket to start the year. Whether due to injury or underperformance, he will get his chance at some point and hopefully deliver on the promise he showed coming up through the system. If everyone’s healthy, though, it won’t come at the start of the year.
Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez
This is probably the one surprise pick I’ll make in this column, and it’s about as boring of a surprise as humanly possible. The first six names on the list above are locks, but the final spot is more up for grabs. Boston selected Josh Rutledge in the Rule 5 draft, and if he’s taken off the active roster he’ll be given back to Colorado. I don’t think that’s too big of a hurdle for Hernandez to clear. I think the latter is a bit underrated as a hitter, and a perfect bench piece for this roster. This move would go against the team’s theoretical principle of holding on to as much depth as possible, but I foresee Hernandez playing well enough in spring training that they’ll find a way to get him on the Opening Day roster.
Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Chris Young
Yeah, I don’t think I need to explain this one.
If everyone stays healthy, the Red Sox don’t have a ton of hard decisions to make with respect to their Opening Day roster. They’ll keep as much depth as possible and hold on to the players who are without options. The one exception to the depth play I make is in the infield. Of course, things never go according to plan, and there will be a surprise player on the roster when the team suits up against Pittsburgh on April 3. Now, we have about six more weeks to figure out who it’ll be.