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Opening Day Roster Prediction: The first try

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Our first roster projection with spring training games set to begin this week.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

We have just about made it. After what has been the offseason from hell in just about every way for Red Sox fans, we are right in the home stretch for our first semi-real baseball games of the year. Granted, about a week after that first spring training game we will be cursing these exhibitions and yearning for real action, but for now we must take what we can get.

The fact that the Red Sox will be on the field in real-life uniforms playing a real team — even if it is a college team, the players are still real, dammit — means that we are this close to the regular season. So, with that in mind, we can look at the collection of players and try to figure out who will make the Opening Day roster. This is just our initial prediction, and we’ll keep this updated when new injuries pop up if/when that happens throughout camp. Remember, active rosters have been expanded to 26 players this year. With that out of the way, let’s get right into it.

Starting Lineup

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF (L)
  2. Xander Bogaerts, SS (R)
  3. Rafael Devers, 3B (L)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (R)
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B (L)
  6. Michael Chavis, 2B (R)
  7. Christian Vázquez, C (R)
  8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (L)
  9. Kevin Pillar, RF (R)

So, a few takeaways here. For one thing, I’m guessing at this point that Alex Verdugo will be out for the start of the season. His injury situation — he missed the last couple months of last season with an oblique injury that turned itself into a back ailment — had been murky for a while, and then late last week Alex Speieer came out with a report that it was a stress fracture in his back that was giving Verdugo trouble, and that it could keep him out for the start of the year. It seems unlikely they’ll rush him for Opening Day at this juncture, which in turn moves Pillar into the starting right field slot.

Other than that, this is fairly straight-forward. There could be some shifting of order, but this made sense to me in terms of optimizing the most talented bats as well as keeping lefties separated as much as possible. The only other question was whether or not Chavis should be listed as the starting second baseman. José Peraza will get plenty of time at second base as well, but I think Chavis will play more overall so I wanted to get him into this starting lineup even if his position will likely change from night to night.

Bench

Kevin Plawecki, C

José Peraza, 2B

Tzu-Wei Lin, UTIL

Jonathan Arauz, INF

With the Verdugo injury, this battle becomes a bit less intriguing. Plawecki and Peraza are clearly going to make the roster coming out of camp. As I said, Peraza will likely get a decent amount of playing time and is easily pegged for the biggest role of this foursome, at least to start the year. If Verdugo was healthy, that would push Pillar to the bench, leaving just one spot for Lin and Arauz. The former is out of minor-league options and thus would have to clear waivers if he fails to make the roster while the latter was a Rule 5 Draft selection and will be returned to the Astros if he doesn’t make it. With the open spot, they both have relatively clear paths. Marco Hernández, Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham and Marcus Wilson could battle for one of these spots as well, but as of now I think Lin and Arauz have to be favorites, just in the name of roster flexibility.

Rotation

  1. Chris Sale, LHP
  2. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
  3. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
  4. Martín Pérez, LHP
  5. Ryan Weber, RHP

This is the most interesting spot on the roster, and beyond the question at the back that we’ll get to in a second there is a question at the front now as well. Chris Sale got off to a late start already having battled pneumonia right before camp, and given the slow start and his issues last year the Red Sox aren’t inclined to rush him too much. Sale did express hope he will be ready for Opening Day, but for now we at least have to allow the possibility that he won’t be ready.

If that is the case, this group could get ugly quickly. Even with Sale healthy. They don’t really have a lot of good options for that fifth starter role. There is a chance they could add someone from outside the organization, but for now I think Weber is the leading candidate. First of all, he might be the best of the group, and he is also out of options. Again, just in the name of roster flexibility those without options will always get first dibs on roster spots. This will be a battle in the truest sense of the word, though, with Matt Hall, Hector Velázquez, Brian Johnson, Chris Mazza, Mike Shawaryn and even Tanner Houck potentially being in the running.

Many will also point out that using an opener is also an option, which is completely true. Even with an opener, though, you need someone to go four or five innings (ideally) after the opener finishes. Otherwise, it’s just a bullpen game and they can’t reasonably expect to go with a bullpen game every five days.

Bullpen

  1. Brandon Workman, RHP
  2. Matt Barnes, RHP
  3. Josh Taylor, LHP
  4. Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP
  5. Marcus Walden, RHP
  6. Heath Hembree, RHP
  7. Ryan Brasier, RHP
  8. Austin Brice, RHP

So, here I think there are five sure bets and one pretty close to that. Workman, Barnes, Taylor, Hernandez and Walden will make it as long as they are healthy. The only possible difference here is if they decide to use Hernandez as a starter, but I don’t see that happening. Hembree is close too, and I think I may be selling him short here. If he totally implodes in camp I could see him missing the cut, but I think it would have to be really bad. That essentially leaves two spots open, and I think based on track record it has to go to Brasier and Brice for now. Colten Brewer, Mazza, Hall, Jefferey Springs, Josh Osich, and Trevor Hildenberger are among the others expecting to fight for a spot.