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Let’s do another Opening Day roster projection

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Why not?

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

At the start of spring training, we put together a projection of what the Opening Day roster would look like. Now, just about a month later, we have a little more information about everyone involved and a few things have changed. Most notably, the possible pitchers who could make the Opening Day roster looks to be more wide open than it was at the start of camp, and one of the players battling for a position player spot has all but locked one up. We’re now just eleven days away from the official start of the season, so as we head into the stretch run of the Grapefruit League let’s take another look at what the roster could look like on March 29.

Catcher (3)

Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart

This section hasn’t changed since our initial prediction, but it was much more of a question back then. Perhaps I was just misreading the situation, but it didn’t seem to me that Blake Swihart was an absolute lock to make the roster and that he would have to show at least some signs of life this spring to lock down a spot. He’s cooled down a little bit since the beginning of spring, but his overall performance at the plate has been stellar and the team is playing him all over the diamond to get him prepared for a super utility role. At this point, I can’t envision a situation in which Swihart does not make the Opening Day roster. Vazquez is, of course, a lock, and Leon has performed well enough this spring and there are enough questions about Swihart that I can’t see the team trying to deal Leon at this point. They’ll keep all three catchers, at least to start.

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

Infield (6)

Hanley Ramirez, Eduardo Nuñez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt

This is where the most intriguing battle of the spring is taking place. At the start of camp, it seemed like a battle for two spots between Swihart, Brock Holt and Deven Marrero. With Swihart essentially locking a spot down, it’s come down to one spot for Holt and Marrero with Tzu-Wei Lin making a quiet push as well. I’ve gone back and forth on my own personal feelings about who should be kept and keep coming back to Marrero given the starting infield’s defensive issues and the fact that Holt can be optioned. Keeping Marrero gives them as much organizational depth as possible. Ultimately, though, Marrero has struggled mightily this spring and Holt has shown some real flashes at the plate. That, combined with his experience in the majors, leads me to believe he’ll get the edge. I’d still be surprised if Lin was kept despite how much Alex Cora seems to like the infielder.

Outfield (4)

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez

There’s really no need to explain this. Unless someone gets hurt between now and the first game of the year in Tampa, these are the four outfielders for the Red Sox all year long, with Swihart, Holt and Lin all potentially getting some pare time there as well.

Starting Pitchers (5)

Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez

At the start of the spring, it seemed as though it was a two-man battle between Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez for the final rotation spot with Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez both set to start the year on the disabled list. With Johnson being out of options, he was the heavy favorite but a strong spring from Velazquez could change things. Velazquez has been inconsistent, but Drew Pomeranz is out with injury now as well. Although it doesn’t appear to be too serious, he’s missed almost all of spring training competition at this point and he’ll probably need a little more time to get ready for the regular season. That opens up another rotation spot and there’s really no competition for Velazquez assuming all three pitchers mentioned above start on the DL. If you’re looking for a sleeper, Justin Haley could be interesting, but that seems really far-fetched despite his strong spring. All of that being said, keep an eye on the Wright situation. The knuckleballer has been throwing some side sessions and feeling good, and Sean McAdam indicates that the veteran thinks he can possibly be ready for Opening Day. I’d bet against that it this point, but it’s worth watching.

Relief Pitchers (7)

Carson Smith, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, Roenis Elias

So, yeah, there’s a pretty big name missing from the top of this list. Craig Kimbrel has been away from the team all spring to be with his infant daughter who has had to undergo multiple heart surgeries since her birth last summer. Kimbrel has thrown while up in Boston with his family and the plan still seems for him to be with the team when the year starts, but every day he’s still away from the team it gets more unlikely. There’s a chance he’ll still be with his family at that point, and if he’s not he may not be deemed ready to compete right away. Obviously, it goes without saying that Kimbrel’s priority is right to be with his family and if he does have to miss the beginning of the year no sane person will be upset about it.

If he is out, that opens things up in the bullpen. Smith would be the de facto closer in my mind, though I think Cora would run it like something of a committee playing the hot hand. Smith, Barnes and Kelly are locks because of talent, and Hembree is a lock to make the roster since he’s out of options. He’s also having a strong spring, to be fair. This scenario leaves three spots open, and Workman would seem like a lock for one of them. Some believe Bobby Poyner may have an edge over Scott at this point in a battle of lefties, but the former only has a half-season above High-A so I’m guessing the team will want him to have a little more high-level experience. Plus, Cora has seemingly been preparing Scott for a one-out role over the last week or so. Elias gets the last spot after some impressive spring performances and he has the added benefit of being able to go multiple innings. That could prove valuable with both Johnson and Velazquez in the rotation to start. McAdam has another important note on this front, saying the Red Sox could start with an 11-man pitching staff. In this scenario, I think they would option Scott or Workman to keep Marrero, though that would be really temporary and I’m not sure it’d be better than trying to sneak the infielder through waivers right before the season when waivers are crowded.