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Opening Day Roster Prediction: The Post-Sale edition

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

We are a little more than a week into camp and officially in the month during which the real, regular season baseball will get underway, but there have already been some notable performances in camp. Jarren Duran seems to be stealing some headlines, which is neat, but he’s also not going to be a factor in the majors when March 26 rolls around. We had our first roster prediction a couple of weeks ago before game action got underway. Since that ran, the team has announced that Chris Sale will begin the season on the injured list. That actually led to two changes on my roster prediction. Let’s run through the whole thing with a few comments. Changes from the last prediction are bolded.

Starting Lineup

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF (L)
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B (L)
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS (R)
  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)

No major changes here. Like I said last time, Chavis isn’t necessarily the everyday second baseman but in his shuffling between multiple positions I expect him to get more playing time than José Peraza, so I’m just sliding him in there. These things generally aren’t as neat as we thing of them. The one small change is in order as I swapped Devers and Bogaerts, as the former is expected to bat second. I think it makes more sense to put Bogaerts (or even Martinez) there and split up the righties and lefties, but ultimately it’s not a huge difference.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Bench

Kevin Plawecki, C

José Peraza, 2B

Tzu-Wei Lin, UTIL

Jonathan Arauz, INF

No changes on this front, though there are a couple of things to note. First is that Bobby Dalbec is probably not going to make the roster unless injuries pave a path. I never figured he had a real chance after they signed Moreland as it made sense to let him build a little confidence in Triple-A and also make sure his contact rate from last year sticks around, but he was a frequent presence on the projections of writers more plugged in than me, so I was doubting myself a bit.

The other note is behind the plate. Speaking of projections of writers more plugged in than me, it seems everyone is going with Jonathan Lucroy over Plawecki. I’m stubbornly sticking with the latter. Remember that the former was signed to a minor-league deal while Plawecki got a major-league one. That’s not a huge barrier because the latter’s salary is small enough that they could cut him without eating a ton of money, but it’s still a small edge in that category. Plus, are we sure Lucroy is good? He hasn’t been within 19 percentage points of league average hitting by wRC+ since 2016 and his defense has fallen off in a big way as well. In his favor is a surgery he had this past winter as well as his relationship with manager Ron Roenicke. Plus, it’s not like Plawecki is a stud at the plate. All that said, I think Plawecki’s defensive stability, youth and healthy (hopefully the surgery helps Lucroy, but he’s also a 34-year-old catcher coming off surgery) and major-league deal still give him an edge.

Rotation

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

The big story, mentioned above, is certainly the Sale injury. The good news is that it seems he won’t miss too much time, but there will be at least a turn or two in which they need a new starter. I’m going with Brian Johnson for that new spot. There’s a chance of an opener being used, but as I’ve written that doesn’t preclude them from needing a bulk guy, which is basically a starter. Johnson has gotten off to a strong start this spring and has the experience edge over most of the competition. This is still wide open, but I think Johnson is the leader right now.

Bullpen

Brandon Workman, RHP

Matt Barnes, RHP

Josh Taylor, LHP

Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP

Marcus Walden, RHP

Heath Hembree, RHP

Hector Velázquez, RHP

Austin Brice, RHP

One change here as well, with another one of the competitors taking one of the bullpen spots. This originally belonged to Ryan Brasier, who struggled a bit in his spring debut. This has nothing to do with that. Instead, I figure that with Weber and Johnson in my predicted rotation, plus uncertainty with Pérez and Eovaldi, it probably makes sense to have a long arm in the bullpen. Velázquez has been solid in that role before (though he was bad in it last year) and has had a good start to his camp. This is another one that is wide open, and I also suspect it will be shuffled around a bunch all year.