Today, Friday, was supposed to be the first day off on the 2021 schedule. Instead, Opening Day was canceled (by all accounts of those who live in Boston, that decision was a mistake), and today now becomes the first game of the season. That makes it all the better timing for our roundtable, which let’s be honest, that’s the most important thing here. I appreciate the Red Sox recognizing that. The prompt this week was simple: Make your bold prediction for 2021.
I have never been good with bold predictions. That said, my bold prediction is that Rafael Devers is going to hit 40 home runs, which would be a new career high. But that’s not all. He will be joined in the 40 HR club by Bobby Dalbec. Additionally, missing out narrowly will be Franchy Cordero, who will finish somewhere in the mid-30s.
My bold prediction for the season is that Bobby Dalbec will have a 2020 Michael Chavis-like season. Dalbec has gotten a lot of hype after his impressive showing at the end of last season and in spring training, but I haven’t bought in yet. After having strikeout problems throughout the minors, his strikeout rate soared over 40 percent in 23 major league games, and he struck out 21 times in 47 at-bats this spring. When a player strikes out that often, the margin for error is essentially zero. Joey Gallo is a player I’ve seen have consistent success despite a massive strikeout rate, but he’s one of the few outliers (who was younger as a rookie and plays more valuable positions). I’d put my money on Dalbec not being another outlier, and I’ll remain skeptical until he fixes his swing-and-miss problems or proves me wrong.
My bold prediction is that Garrett Richards finishes as a top ten pitcher in the American League. He’s shown flashes in the spring while working out some mechanical issues, and now heading into a season healthy for the first time in a long time I’m expecting big things for Richards. There’s no doubt he has the ability, and it will just be a matter of staying healthy enough to produce. I just feel like this year is finally the year. I’m rooting for him.
Tanner Houck will win Rookie of the Year.
I know last year was an incredibly small sample and Houck is only starting on the MLB roster because Eduardo Rodriguez is on the injured list, but I am all in on the right-hander. Although his 0.53 ERA in three starts last year is obviously untenable, his underlying metrics were still solid. He also struck out 33.3 percent of the batters he faced and although his walk rate was a little higher than the Red Sox would like, I think he’ll manage to rein that in and perform at a high level.
Outside of his own ability, I think Houck is going to be a mainstay in the rotation by the end of the year. The current starters all have some degree of upside, but I expect some misses among the group, which would leave the door wide open for Houck. In sum, I think Houck has the skills and will get the opportunity to become a frontline starter for the Red Sox and earn some ROTY buzz along the way. Of course, since these are bold predictions, I’m saying he’ll get more than buzz and win the whole damn thing.
One bold prediction: Xander Bogaerts wins the Gold Glove. This is the year we see Xander emerge as the best shortstop in the league on both sides of the ball. He cares about his defense and with Cora back, new strategies from the front office, and the changing role of the shift will all add up into maximizing Xander’s glove work. And that’ll win over voters.
Bold Predictions are fun, but to be bold, I think, they have to have a very slim chance to actually happen. This year, my bold prediction is: Hunter Renfroe will lead the team with 40-plus home runs. This would be a career-high for Renfroe, but still fairly achievable, especially keeping in mind the smaller ballparks in the American League East.
My bold prediction for the 2021 Red Sox season is that Rafael Devers finishes second in the American League MVP voting behind Mike Trout. We all know the effect that Alex Cora has on Devers, and it’s overwhelmingly positive. His defense, which has been a hinderance, will improve and he will continue to make strides at the plate. We all know what he’s capable of offensively — just look at 2019 — but at 24 years old I think he improves on that season in nearly every way. Put him down for .300/.350/.600 with 40 home runs and 125 RBI. Make it happen Raffy.
I’m with Shelly in that I think a bold prediction’s chances of happening have to have significantly less chance of happening than happening. That’s what makes it bold. So mine is going to be a little negative and a little positive rolled into one. And that is: Tanner Houck finishes the season as the Red Sox closer. There are two bits of negative here. One, the team is bad enough in July that they do at least something of a sell, trading away Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino. Additionally, Houck just never gets the splitter going. He had success without the pitch last year, but it’s hard to see him sticking in a rotation long-term without that offering getting better. So, as the organization sees no headway on that front they decide to make the move to the bullpen and get him acclimated now so he’s ready for 2022.
The positive part of this prediction is that he’s lights out in the bullpen. The lack of a third pitch matters much, much less in that role. His fastball and slider are both nasty, and he has the presence on the mound to survive in the late innings. That he doesn’t stick in the rotation is a disappointment, but we forget it by the end of the year when he has the look to lock down the ninth inning for at least the next few seasons.
My bold prediction is that Jarren Duran is a starter by the end of the year. This might not be that bold, but given the Sox’s lack of depth in the outfield and Duran’s heat-seeking missile trajectory, I think it’s likely to happen. I was going to say he’d lead all outfielders in WAR but to account for playing time, and make it a little bolder, let’s say he leads the outfield in wRC+. Now we’re talking.
Not sure if this is going out on a limb here, but the ball is supposedly deadened this year, so I’ll go with Bobby Dalbec hitting 30 homers. I don’t see the Sox doing something wild like trading Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers, so someone will have to outperform their projection and Dalbec has the power to do it while hitting below the Mendoza line.