After long last, the Red Sox are back in game action with their first three Grapefruit League games in the books and another set to go on Saturday. It goes without saying that spring ball is certainly not the same as regular season action, but we’ll certainly take it after there were times during the lockout in which it seemed like no baseball for months was a real possibility. So with that excitement about spring in mind, for this week’s roundtable the staff went over the players they’re most excited to see at camp this year.
Triston Casas is the guy for me. He’s been launching moonshots at every level, inching closer and closer to the majors. I can’t wait to see him hopefully get some action against major-league pitching and see what kind of damage he can do. The Red Sox have had a history of being aggressive with their top position player prospects and moving them quickly throughout the minors. Notably, guys like Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, and Yoan Moncada all had fewer than 90 games at Double- and Triple combined, and Casas could be the next in that line of top prospects with a hot start to quickly break into the majors. WIth that in mind, I’ll be watching as many spring at bats as I can and hoping he mashes.
(Ed. Note: This was written before Chris Sale’s injury news came out.)
Tanner Houck deserves a spot in the starting rotation, but the Red Sox did use him in a relief role in the postseason last year so we’ll get a good feel for their plan for him this spring. Also, Houck’s biggest (and probably only) shortcoming last year was his inability to pitch past the second run through the order. With an accelerated spring training, he’ll have less time to get up to speed and begin building his stamina, but I still want to see if he can begin improving that aspect of his game.
This spring training, the Red Sox player I am most interested in following is Michael Wacha. Basically, I want to see if Wacha will make it out of Fort Myers as a starter or reliever. Will Wacha be the odd man out if Boston acquires another starter in the wake of Chris Sale’s rib injury? Will Garrett Whitlock and/or Tanner Houck force the Red Sox to move Wacha to the bullpen? These are the sort of questions I would like to see answered before Opening Day.
I’m basic, but I want to see what Jaren Duran does. He seems to exist on the knife edge between being the next great Sox prospect and being just another guy, and every chance he has to prove he’s the forrmer is worth his weight in gold for me. I really hope he can hack it. He’s so far ahead of everyone else in this category it’s barely worth mentioning.
Personally, I’m excited to watch Tanner Houck in this year’s Spring Training. Although Spring Training doesn’t always involve the same usage for players as the regular season, it will be interesting to see how Houck is used during this ramp-up period. They will probably experiment with him as an opener, starter, and bullpen piece, and his performance is sure to influence where he will be playing at the start of the regular season. I’m sure he’ll be used in a multitude of ways this season, but between games and press conferences we’re sure to see these roles explored with him in a new way.
I guess this makes me basic, according to Joiner, but put me in the Duran camp as well. Assuming everyone stays healthy, I don’t think there’s much of a chance at all that he’ll make the team on Opening Day, nor do I think he should. Getting everyday at bats to start this season and hopefully get into a rhythm makes all the sense in the world. But I want to see the adjustments he’s made over the offseason — we’ve seen his hand position at the plate change already — and if he can get into that rhythm in camp before carrying it over to the season. He’s going to get his chance in the majors again at some point this season, so I want to see the building blocks for his resurgence come over the next couple of weeks.