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Wrapping up our preseason superlatives

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Here are the results

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at Boston Red Sox
This picture doesn’t really have much to do with this post, but I like it.
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

For the first part of this week as we lead up to the regular season, we’ve been voting for a few superlatives for the 2018 Red Sox. We voted for team MVP, best pitcher, best defensive player, biggest surprise, biggest disappointment and unsung hero. I also asked the staff to share their opinions on the year to come. below you can find a table with all of the results including the percentage of the votes received for each player who won the community vote. Below that, I’ll share my reasoning behind my picks and some general thoughts on the other picks. Sound good? No? Too damn bad.

2018 Superlatives

Category Matt Bryan Mike Jake D Phil OOLF Michelle Community
Category Matt Bryan Mike Jake D Phil OOLF Michelle Community
MVP Mookie Betts J.D. Martinez J.D. Martinez Xander Bogaerts Chris Sale J.D. Martinez Mookie Betts Mookie Betts (40%)
Best Pitcher Chris Sale Chris Sale David Price Chris Sale Chris Sale Chris Sale Chris Sale Chris Sale (73%)
Defensive Wizard Christian Vazquez Jackie Bradley Jr. Andrew Benintendi Mookie Betts Jackie Bradley Jr. Christian Vazquez Jackie Bradley Jr. Jackie Bradley Jr. (50%)
Biggest Surprise Hanley Ramirez Eduardo Rodriguez Dustin Pedroia Xander Bogaerts David Price Xander Bogaerts Xander Bogaerts Xander Bogaerts (17%)
Biggest Disappointment Xander Bogaerts Jackie Bradley Jr. Craig Kimbrel Drew Pomeranz Brock Holt Joe Kelly Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez (33%)
Unsung Hero Brian Johnson Bobby Poyner Eduardo Nunez Blake Swihart Christian Vazquez Brian Johnson Christian Vazquez Blake Swihart (23%)

MVP

I picked Mookie to be the team’s MVP this year, and was very surprised to find that only one other staff member (Michelle) picked him as well. On the other hand, I was heartened to see the community vote correctly. Mookie Betts is the best overall player on the Red Sox and, in my mind, there is nothing more valuable than a player who is super good at baseball. Boston obviously has other very good players and it wouldn’t be totally shocking if someone else ended up as the team’s unofficial MVP. That being said, come on, everyone who didn’t pick Mookie.

Best Pitcher

Chris Sale was almost a unanimous pick here, which is not surprising. He also ran away with the community voting which, again, is not surprising. The only person not to pick Sale was Mike, who picked David Price. I think Price is about to have a big year, but Sale good? Nah.

Best Defensive Player

This was the most surprising result to me. I really thought Mookie Betts was going to run away from this one, or at least be the consensus. He’s amazing, and I really felt weird not picking him. I went with Christian Vazquez because he’s incredible behind the plate and if you believe framing metrics like the ones at Baseball Prospectus then there is no position on the diamond that’s close to as valuable as catcher. Despite that argument and the fact that Mookie Betts is regarded as one of the top handful defensive players in baseball, Jackie Bradley Jr. won this vote. Obviously, it’s not a terrible choice. Bradley is ridiculous in center field, which is a more important position than right field. I see the argument. But I’m really surprised.

Biggest Surprise

Opinions seemed to be more split on this one, which makes sense considering we’re trying to predict which players are going to be better than we expect. It’s a concept that kind of contradicts itself, ya know? I went with Hanley Ramirez. I’m really high on his chances of being a force at the plate again, or at least something close to that. The team seemingly is, too, given that they appear ready to hit him in the top-third of the lineup and give him a chance to win the first base job. Xander Bogaerts was the most popular choice here, which is not surprising because this community is very high on the shortstop. There’s good reason for that!

MLB: Spring Training-Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Biggest Disappointment

However....I picked Bogaerts as my disappointment. My logic for this choice was based a lot around how high this community and the internet in general is on the Red Sox shortstop. I think he is super talented and wouldn’t be surprised at all if he breaks out and gets as close as we’ve seen to the player we were hoping for in his prospect days. That being said, I don’t think it’s nearly as much of a given as many do, and I think a good chunk of the population will be disappointed if he’s the same solid, above-average but not special hitter he was in 2015 and 2016. Hanley Ramirez won the community vote and there was some controversy around him being included in the poll. To defend that choice, I will just point to the fact that he is being set up by the coaching staff to be an important piece. If he fails in that role again, it will be disappointing.

Unsung Hero

The community vote in this one was crazy close, with Blake Swihart’s 162 votes edging out Christian Vazquez’ 161. I can see how someone like Swihart could go underappreciated even with all of the attention around him this spring. I think we, as the general community of baseball fans, can have a tendency to underplay how important versatility is. If Swihart can really succeed in this superutility role, that’s a huge development for this team. I went with a similar argument, though on the pitching side. Johnson is going to play a low-key important role on this team, throwing out of the bullpen when everyone is healthy and being their top depth option for the rotation. That kind of swingman can, well, swing the season.