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The most important Red Sox players for the second half

Boston needs these players to perform well if they want to stay in first place.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox are in first place in the American League East as they get ready to start the second half of the season. Clearly, this is exactly where they want to be, but there’s a long way to go to the finish line. On the one hand, that they are here while getting some disappointing seasons from some of their key players is a very good thing. On the other hand, there are real problems with this roster and they need to find some improvements to stay where they are. With that in mind, here are the five players in no particular order who hold the key to the Red Sox making the postseason in 2017.

Hanley Ramirez

While the players listed here are in no particular order, to me, Ramirez is the clear most important player for Boston in the second half. The most frustrating thing about the 2017 Red Sox has been their inconsistent offense and the inability to come up with a big hit when they need it. With the loss of David Ortiz, the Red Sox have been desperate for some pop in the lineup. Ramirez was supposed to be the biggest source of that power in 2016, but he’s been far too inconsistent to start. The good news is that he’s been turning it on of late. He’s been great for the first week or so of July, and has a .225 Isolated Power since the start of June. The Red Sox need that to keep up in the second half, because for as solid as the top of the lineup has been they need a big bat behind them to knock them in. If Ramirez can come close to replicating his second half of 2016, the offense is going to be vastly improved compared to the first half.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Pomeranz

The Red Sox have a clear anchor atop their rotation, and as of late they’ve had Pomeranz step up as a legitimate number two option. This was obviously never the plan, but with Rick Porcello and David Price struggling to gain any consistency in the first half, Pomeranz’ emergence has been a massive development for this team. His performance isn’t really the big question for me. We’ve seen enough of late to believe he is talented enough to keep this up. However, he’s still never shown that he’s able to keep up a high level of performance through a full season. The Red Sox need Pomeranz to stay healthy and productive into the late months of the year if their rotation continues to be as big of a strength as it’s been all year.

Mookie Betts

Betts has not, by any means, been bad this season. In fact, he was good enough to get into the All-Star Game and start the game. He has shown off a good power stroke for the majority of the season and has some of the best plate discipline in all of baseball. With all of that being said, he has had some issues turning balls in play into hits. His .261 BABIP certainly seems to be the result of bad luck, but that isn’t everything. If you’ve been watching the games you’ve noticed that he’s popping the ball up a ton lately, suggesting a slight issue with his timing. Once Betts starts squaring up the ball on a more consistent basis, the Red Sox will have their table-setter back and should be able to get more consistent offense from the lineup as a whole.

Rick Porcello/David Price

Price and Porcello are, of course, two people, but their reasoning for being on this list are the same. Thus, they occupy the same paragraph. They were being counted on as two-thirds of a Big Three in the rotation coming into the season, and that clearly hasn’t worked out thus far. Boston has survived this by getting big performances from Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez, but health concerns make those two less of sure things than one would like. Because of that, the Red Sox really need at least one of Porcello or Price to get close to their preseason expectations in the second half. The good news is that both are trending in the right direction, and Price in particular looks ready for a big second-half run. The rotation should continue to be a strength in the second half, and if either or both of Price and Porcello shine, it will be even with some backsliding from Pomeranz and/or Rodriguez.