Today is the unofficially official start of spring, with pitchers and catchers starting to report to camps all around the league. This is hard to reconcile with the fact that I spent an hour yesterday scraping ice off of a sidewalk and that I have snow coming in the next 36 hours or so, but such is life I suppose. Spring training is here, and with that it seemed like the perfect time to give another roster projection ago.
This is roster projection 2.0, with the first one having come back shortly after the New Year, right before the Red Sox begun a flurry of activity that has largely continued into the last week. You can look back at that prediction and laugh at how wrong I was, because the answer would be very! I was very wrong. This time around it should be a bit easier, as the roster is much more complete. Here’s what I’ve got heading into camp, with just a few spots up for grabs right now with everyone healthy.
Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki
This is an easy one. The Red Sox are in a bit of trouble if one of their top two catchers goes down with an injury, but really for how many teams is that not true? Nobody wants to play their third catcher. This duo, though, is very solid, and arguably the most underrated part of this team. All of that is to say there’s really nothing to add here. Unless there’s an injury, in which case Chris Hermann gets the bump, it’s these two and there’s no second thoughts about it.
Bobby Dalbec, Marwin Gonzalez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Christian Arroyo
We’ll get to the player who is obviously missing here in the next section, but a couple of points here. Gonzalez obviously fits as an outfielder as well and I suspect he will get some time out in the corners on the grass as well, but it would appear the best fit on this roster is for him to spend the bulk of his time on the right side of the infield. I would give Dalbec as much time as possible, but Gonzalez is a nice option against a tough righty when the rookie needs a day off. Personally, I’d like to see Gonzalez spend most of his time at second.
And then there may be a small battle for the final bench spot with Christian Arroyo fighting off guys like Michael Chavis and Yairo Muñoz, but I don’t think it will be very intense. Unless Arroyo just totally falls flat on his face, this spot is his because he cannot be sent down without being placed on waivers. That is not true for the other two.
I will also say I was extremely tempted to put Mitch Moreland here and if I were to have written this an hour later or an hour prior I may have. It does appear the plan is going to be a three-man bench to start the season, which would preclude another position player being added. Still, I’m not closing the door on Moreland. He just seems to make too much sense, and with his addition Gonzalez would shift more to second base and the corner outfield spots.
Franchy Cordero, Enrique Hernández, Alex Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez
Hernández is the aforementioned player who was missing from the infielders. At this point I’m just being stubborn, but I’m not giving in on this. Especially with Gonzalez having been signed, it just seems to make so much more sense for Hernández to spend more time in the outfield than the infield. Let Gonzalez and Arroyo split time at second with Hernández there occasionally. In that case, then you can have Hernández in center, Verdugo in right and a Cordero/Renfroe platoon in left.
If they really are going with Hernández at second most days — and it should be mentioned that there is going to be a lot of shuffling, so the idea of a “normal” lineup for this roster is a admittedly a bit overstated — that means both Renfroe and Cordero are playing every day. I can see the argument for this if they are not worried about 2021, which may be the case. But if the goal is to have the best team on the field for this coming season, I haven’t seen a convincing argument for that being anything other than a team with Hernández in center field.
As for the others, Verdugo is obviously going to play everyday, though it remains to be seen what his split between center and right field will be. As I’ve said before, I have little concern about him handling center field, but then the issue becomes who plays in right. And Martinez will likely see some time in the outfield, but I suspect they’ll try to keep that to a minimum.
And I suppose I should also add that Jackie Bradley Jr. is still a free agent. I think there’s still some possibility he comes back if his market really just craters, but I’d still be surprised. Houston and San Francisco still make some sense there, and maybe Philly if the price comes down enough.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Martín Pérez, Nick Pivetta, Matt Andriese
I didn’t miscount here. Having six names on this list was intentional. I don’t think the six-man rotation is going to be something we’ll see consistently all year long, but as we wrote late in 2020, it makes sense for this coming season. The Red Sox have a lot of uncertainty at the top of this rotation in terms of workload, and that is without even factoring in the weirdness that was the 2020 schedule. They’ll want to limit workloads and using a sixth starter when necessary is the easiest way to do that. It becomes that much easier, too, when you go with a three-man bench and thus can still have eight guys in the bullpen even with a six-man rotation.
And so if we think a six-man rotation is possible, the only names that are really up for debate are the last two, with Tanner Houck on the outside looking in. Personally, based upon my own perception of their respective talent levels, I would rather see Houck in the majors than Pivetta. However, Houck still has things to work on, most notably his offspeed pitch, and also has minor-league options. Pivetta does not. So the latter will get his chance, and if it doesn’t work out he’ll either be designated for assignment or moved to the bullpen, at which point Houck will get his chance. If it’s not Pivetta’s spot, a spot will open for Houck at some point within a month or six weeks of Opening Day.
And then with Andriese, he just makes the most sense for that sixth starter role. Again, I think Houck will go down to the minors so he’s out of the picture. And then from there it would be Andriese or Garrett Whitlock. I think we’ll see the latter get some starts as the year goes on, but to start the season Andriese just makes more sense. I suspect we’ll see the veteran bounce quite a bit between the bullpen and the rotation.
Matt Barnes, Adam Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez, Hirokazu Sawamura, Chaz Roe, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Garrett Whitlock
Most of this is fairly straight forward, though there is one new name on the list. I would have thought the pitching staff was complete, but it seems like there is a lot of smoke around them signing another reliever, and Roe is my prediction of that group. He may even only require a minor-league deal, though I have him making the roster either way so I suppose that part doesn’t matter. Whether it’s a minor-league deal or not it will be on the cheaper side, and he has that Rays connection. The Red Sox were reportedly at his workout earlier in the month. Other options would include Brandon Workman, Jeremy Jeffress and Ben Heller. I don’t see Trevor Rosenthal as a realistic option, though I’ve been wrong before.
Beyond Roe, there aren’t really any surprises here. Whitlock has to be kept as a Rule 5 pick. If he is not, he is returned to the Yankees organization, and with a 14-man pitching staff I think it should be relatively easy to keep him around. From there it’s really a fight between Josh Taylor, Phillips Vadez and Brice for that last spot. The first two guys have options while Brice does not, so Brice gets the spot. I do think Taylor and Valdez are the better pitchers, but preserving depth, particularly in a season like the upcoming one, is going to be the most important consideration for putting these rosters together.