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Trying to predict the Opening Day roster

There are still a few spots up in the air.

Boston Red Sox Summer Camp Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

We are now just six days away from the start of the Red Sox season. We still haven’t really seen them in action save for some weirdly shot video of their intrasquad scrimmages, but the season is now right around the corner. Between now and Friday, the organization has some decisions to make. Their 60-man player pool is almost full after some additions on Friday, but they still have to decide who is actually going to be on the 30-man active roster to start the year. For the most part I think the decisions are wrapped up, but there are a handful of decisions to be made. Here is how I think things will end up.

Catchers (3)

Christian Vázquez, Jonathan Lucroy, Kevin Plawecki

To me, the catcher position is going to become more interesting as the season goes on, but to start I am thinking that all three contenders are going to make the roster. Obviously Vázquez is here and he is going to get the bulk of the playing time. For the backup spot, though, Lucroy and Plawecki comprised one of the most intriguing battles back in March. Thanks to the expanded rosters to start the year it seems more likely than not the Red Sox will just kick this decision down the road a bit, carrying all three with Lucroy potentially getting a little time at DH or first base as well. This will give them some extra time to make the decision between these two. At some point they will almost certainly have to choose one, but for now they have some time to extend the competition and also hedge against potential in-season injuries.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Infielders (7)

Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, José Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz

I would say that five of these seven spots are locked in, with the most intriguing conversation among the first five names here being how playing time breaks down on the right side of the infield. As far as who makes the roster, though, this mostly comes down to Lin, Araúz and Yairo Muñoz. Bobby Dalbec may have been in the conversation, too, but he got a late start to camp after a positive COVID test and now is almost certainly on the outside looking in. He’ll be up eventually, just not to start.

As for the other battle, this is between three utility players. I give the edge to Lin and Araúz simply because they need to make the active roster to stay in the organization with Lin being out of options and Araúz being a Rule 5 selection. On pure talent, Muñoz probably makes it but that’s not the only factor here. This is not written in stone, though, and it wouldn’t shock me if they went with the former Cardinal over the other two.

Outfielders (5)

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Kevin Pillar

There’s really not much to say here. This seems pretty obvious.

Starting Pitchers (5)

Nathan Eovaldi, Martín Pérez, Zack Godley, Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson

A few things stand out here. First, yikes! This rotation was always going to be a problem, and with Eduardo Rodriguez not being ready to start the year — and really we don’t have any idea when he’ll be ready — it’s exponentionally worse. Even if you are confident in Nathan Eovaldi, which I am to some extent, the rest of the names here just do not inspire confidence.

As for those names, Eovaldi and Pérez are locks. Weber basically is too at this point. Godley is the most interesting name here if for no other reason than he was just added on a minor-league deal on Friday, and even that is not official as of this writing Friday evening. There have been reports that the Red Sox are close to signing him, though, and it makes too much sense for it not to happen. That they left open one spot on their 60-man player pool just enhances my confidence that this gets done. That leaves one more rotation spot, and while they may use an opener ahead of him I suspect Brian Johnson will be the bulk arm and get the fifth most innings to start the year.

Relief Pitchers (10)

Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Marcus Walden, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Heath Hembree, Colten Brewer, Jeffrey Springs, Josh Osich, Matt Hall

In the months leading up to what was supposed to be Opening Day back in April, I was among the highest on the Red Sox bullpen. I think Brandon Workman is still going to be very good even with the unsustainable batted ball numbers from last year along with his high walk rate. The fastball/curveball combination is just too good. Matt Barnes is a strikeout machine and I think is the best reliever in the bullpen. I like Walden, Brasier and Brice this year as well.

However, with Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez out to start the year, this group certainly looks a lot worse. Those were, in my estimation, the third and fourth best relievers in the bullpen and now Walden and Brasier probably fall into that category. I think there are still scenarios where this group can be successful, but the Red Sox need those two lefties back as quickly as possible.

As far as the names at the end of this list, that is where the toss ups come. I think the first six names are locks, with Brewer fairly close to that as well. Hall is in a battle probably with Chris Mazza for a long man but I think Hall holds the advantage there. Springs and Osich give the Red Sox some left-handed looks, something that is suddenly lacking with the aforementioned absences of Taylor and Hernandez. The other left-handed options on the player pool are Bobby Poyner, Mike Kickham, Kyle Hart and Jay Groome.