Right around the time pitchers and catchers reported, I tried my hand at predicting what the Opening Day roster would look like. Admittedly, this isn’t the most daunting of a task given how set Boston’s roster looked. Still, there were and still are a couple of questionable areas. Since that time, there have been a couple injuries and we’ve seen how players have looked this spring, so I think it’s time for an update on the predictions.
Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez
This hasn’t changed since mid-February, although that might disappoint some people. As I discussed on Wednesday, Sandy Leon hasn’t had the best spring. On the flip side, Blake Swihart has been mighty impressive against Grapefruit League competition. Despite that, the Red Sox are almost certainly going to preserve their depth here. As we all know by now, Swihart is the only backstop with minor-league options remaining, and the Red Sox will hedge against an injury by stashing him in Triple-A. Well, they’ll at least do it to start the season. I’d guess that Leon has lost a bit of playing time with his slow spring, but will still get the majority of the time behind the plate. It just won’t be by a wide margin. If Leon or Vazquez really struggles to start the year, Boston will have to decide whether or not it’s willing to expose either to waivers to make room for Swihart. That’s a debate for another day, though.
Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge
Here is my first change since the original post, and the one I feel the worst about. Back in February, I thought that a hot spring would catapult Marco Hernandez over Josh Rutledge, despite the former having minor-league options and the latter not. Hernandez has done his part, putting together the best spring this side of Sam Travis. Unfortunately, it looks like depth and the fact that Rutledge provides right-handed insurance for Pablo Sandoval will win out. Despite Rutledge likely making the roster on Opening Day, I still believe Hernandez is a quality major-league player and will play a key bench role for this team for the majority of the season. The rest of the infield is as expected, and their playing time will likely stay as we expected. The one change is that we’ve seen Sandoval in action since the last time I did this, and he’s looking encouraging.
Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Chris Young
As with the last time I did this, there’s no reason to dwell on this section. No one got hurt, so the four guys they will carry are obvious. The only quibble one could have would be to include Brock Holt here rather than with the infielders. If that’s you, stop being so overscrupulous. Nobody likes that.
Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, Steven Wright, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz
So, you know that saying that everyone whips out when someone complains about having too much depth at one position? “It’ll work itself out.” Well, this one has sort of worked itself out, and it might not be done. Right now, we know that David Price will not be ready for Opening Day, and now it’s looking like he won’t be ready at all for any April game. That leaves the Red Sox with the five names above, who are all capable major-league starters. Of course, there’s also the issue of Drew Pomeranz, who left his last spring training start early with tricep soreness. The lefty said the next day he felt fine, and that he’ll be making his next start. That has me believing he’ll be ready for his first start, particularly since the team won’t want to waste Kyle Kendrick — the presumed sixth starter at the moment — on a short stint. This could obviously change, and it’s something we’re all keeping a close eye on, but for now I think these five should be good to go for Opening Day. Also, I could very easily be convinced to swap Wright and Rodriguez.
Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Robbie Ross, Matt Barnes, Fernando Abad, Robby Scott
This is where I believe I differ from the general consensus of what the Opening Day roster will look like, although I’m not sure if I actually believe this will happen or if it’s what I’d do. Right now, I’m not convinced Tyler Thornburg will be ready for the start of the year. Even if it’s just a short absence, they’ll need another pitcher. The assumption would be that a righty would replace him, but I’m not sure it needs to be. Robbie Ross is good enough against righties that they can afford carrying three lefties. By carrying Scott and Abad, the Red Sox would be able to have that much longer to decide who will be their second lefty when everyone is healthy. If they had a righty who inspired more confidence, this strategy wouldn’t be as sound. However, I’m not sure why having three lefties in the bullpen — again, with Ross as someone who can face both righties and lefties — is any worse than giving innings to someone like Noe Ramirez or Chandler Shepherd.