Yesterday we began rolling out our polls for a number of superlatives for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. While we are asking all the readers to take part, the staff here at OTM is joining in as well. As a big fan of transparency, I will not hide my opinions. Here they are for all to see.
MVP - Chris Sale
Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw taught me that pitchers can still win MVP awards. While this one is largely ceremonial, Sale is my pick. Even though the Red Sox aren’t betting it all on pitching after adding J.D. Martinez, their biggest edge over teams in the division is in the starting rotation. That begins with Sale, the consummate ace and destroyer of opposing lineups. Despite a slow finish, Sale still posted his lowest ERA since 2014 last season, while striking out a MLB-leading 308 batters. He has led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings three of the last four years and actually finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting in 2017. If the Sox do a better job managing his workload, things will only get better.
Best Pitcher - Chris Sale
Who else was it going to be? Since I already elaborated on Sale’s greatness, I’ll make a prediction here. Sale will win his first Cy Young this season.
Defensive Wizard - Jackie Bradley Jr.
Biggest Surprise - David Price
I have made it no secret that I expect big things from Price in 2018. Price came on strong at the end of last season and has really been scrutinized to a ridiculous degree. He may not have lived up to the high price the Sox paid to get him (yet), but he has still been a good pitcher and in 2018 he will be much more. He has looked ace-like in spring training, with a 2.23 ERA and 0.75 WHIP across 12 innings. He has also struck out 13 batters in that time. Its a small sample size to be sure, but a positive sign nonetheless. All aboard the Price train.
Biggest Disappointment - Brock Holt
Holt is back after he missed a lot of time in 2017. While he is not a player anyone is expecting huge things from, I’m of the mind that he’s ever going to be the All-Star he was in 2015. He has never had an OPS+ above 100 for a full season and even if he is 100 percent healthy once again, I just don’t see him being more than a replacement level player at best.
Unsung Hero - Christian Vazquez
The top of the lineup is excellent for the Red Sox, but they’ll need the bottom half to be strong as well. Vazquez is not going to be the next Joe Mauer, but he turned a corner offensively last season, slashing .290/.330/.404 and coming close to being a league average hitter. The Red Sox awarded him with a contract extension. If he can continue to hit at a relatively decent clip and hit a few more of these, the Sox will be in an excellent spot. Because some of the less obvious aspects of the game are where Vazquez is especially excellent. He was third on the team in defensive runs saved last season and second in defensive WAR (9.4).
Here’s a tidy breakdown of the what the Red Sox did (and didn’t do) this past offseason. (Anthony Spaulding; MLB Daily Dish)
Alex Cora may not just set a lineup on Opening Day and try to recreate it 162 times. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)
Cora’s predecessor John Farrell spoke about the difference in being a manager in more demanding times as he commented on his exit from Boston. (Nick Cafardo; Boston Globe)
It appears that Bobby Poyner and Marcus Walden have made the final 25-man roster. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Projections are fun. Beating projections is more fun. (Chad Finn; Boston Globe)
Theo Epstein may be the GM of the Chicago Cubs now, but he was the mastermind behind the breaking of the Red Sox’s 86-year World Series drought as well. Let’s do some appreciating. (Robby McKittrick; Baseball Essential)