There is no denying that the 2023 season was a largely difficult one for the Red Sox and their fans. Although they occasionally looked feisty, this was a team with a low ceiling and it finished that way, with the Sox winding up in the AL East basement for the third time in the last four years.
Now that the 2023 campaign is in the books, it’s time for one last edition of our monthly player power rankings. For most renditions this season, we’ve generally used performance over the previous month as the primary means of evaluation, but since this is the final edition for 2023, these rankings be a more holistic look at the season, with no single-month’s performance, including September, tipping the scales more than any other. With that in mind, we’ll still be using fairly generous playing time threshold for inclusion: Players on the 40-man roster who logged at least 30 plate appearances or 10 innings pitched, or who appeared in a game in September, are all included. Now let’s get out of this preamble and get to the rankings.
Editor’s Note: The previous rankings included 34 players.
40. Kaleb Ort (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Ort was a workhouse for the bullpen in April, but his production never really lived up to such a role, so he ended up ping ponging back and forth between the farm and Boston before suffering an elbow injury in July that he only began rehabbing from in mid-September.
39. Bobby Dalbec (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
After amassing a little more than 800 plate appearances across 2021 and 2022, Dalbec’s role at the big league level was drastically reduced in 2023. He barely played for much of the season, appearing in only 10 games before mid-September (and none across July and August). Many of the same issues that have plagued him previously were present this year, particularly his incredibly high strikeout rate, which rocketed up to 52.9 percent, albeit in a smaller sample. At one point, Dalbec looked like a potential member of the Red Sox’s future core, but his limited use this year indicates the organization is going in a different direction.
38. David Hamilton (Previous Rank: 29)
Hamilton was one of many players to get a shot at shoring up the middle infield and like many of his peers, he didn’t make anyone forget Xander Bogaerts was gone or that Trevor Story was injured. In fairness, the 26-year-old only got 39 plate appearances, but his 25 wRC+ and defensive struggles showed he has some development left to complete.
37. Corey Kluber (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Kluber was signed to help shore up the Red Sox’s rotation, but his 2023 season was just one long disaster, as he he posted a 6.57 FIP in nine starts before being demoted to the bullpen near the end of May. The move didn’t help, with Kluber’s FIP ballooning to 8.81 as a reliever before a shoulder injury ended his season. The Red Sox have an $11 million club option on Kluber for 2024, but there’s not much reason for them to use it.
36. Justin Garza (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Loads of walks torpedoed Garza’s return to MLB. The 29-year-old pitched in 21 games for Cleveland in 2021, but he managed only 17 appearances with Boston over the summer, producing a 7.36 ERA and a 13.2 percent walk rate, which was the highest mark among Red Sox pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched in 2023. After being demoted at the end of July, he spent the rest of the year in Worcester.
35. Brandon Walter (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Hovering right around the back of the top 20 of the Red Sox’s prospect rankings, Walter got his first taste of MLB action this season, making his MLB debut on June 22. He went on to scatter 23 total innings of work over that June appearance and call-ups in July and September, but he produced an ERA of 6.26 (4.26 FIP) and struck out fewer than seven batters per nine innings.
34. Zack Kelly (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
Elbow inflammation stole most of Kelly’s season, as he sat out from mid-April until late September. However, the Red Sox didn’t shut him down entirely, bringing him up for a pair of one inning assignments during the last week of the season. The 28-year-old reliever now has 23 MLB innings under his belt and uninspiring numbers to go with those frames (4.65 FIP, 4.9 percent strikeout-to-walk rate). Still, since the Red Sox gave him a look in September, they might be hoping to get something from him next season.
33. Zack Weiss (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
The Red Sox picked up Weiss after the Angels designated him for assignment at the end of August. The 31-year-old right-hander then appeared in six games (8 2/3 innings) in September for the Red Sox, pitching to a 2.08 ERA and 5.80 FIP (small samples, am I right?) before being sent back to the minors.
32. Joe Jacques (Previous Rank: 33)
Jacques is a southpaw reliever who took the train back and forth from Worcester a few times this season. Acquired off waivers from the Pirates last December, Jacques logged 26 2/3 innings across 23 appearances for the Red Sox in 2023, but his production was middling at best (4.53 FIP, 16.4 percent strikeout rate, 8.2 percent walk rate), and he ultimately ended the campaign in the minors.
31. Nick Robertson (Previous Rank: 32)
Acquired as part of the trade that sent Enrique Hernández back to Los Angeles, Robertson pitched in nine games (12 innings) for the Red Sox across the last couple months of the season. Despite striking out a little more than a batter per frame, the right-hander was hit hard in a few outings, yielding a 6.00 ERA (4.51 FIP). The 25-year-old bounced between Boston and Worcester in his short time with the team as well, but given his age and that the Red Sox traded for him (even if the deal was more about shedding Hernández), he’ll likely get more chances next year.
30. Chris Murphy (Previous Rank: 30)
Considering how often he was sent back and forth between Boston and Worcester, Murphy logged a respectable amount of innings out of the bullpen for the Red Sox in 2023 (47 2/3). That total outpaced a more brand name hurlers, such as Kenley Jansen. Murphy wasn’t as good as Jansen, of course, producing a 4.91 ERA and 3.70 FIP, but his ability to eat innings out of the pen was encouraging, especially since his long-term role is still up in the air.
29. Luis Urías (Previous Rank: 16)
Urías was the biggest addition the Red Sox made at the trade deadline, at least based on name recognition. The former Brewer did flash some of his former upside from the 2021 and 2022 season, but ultimately ended the year on the IL as a roughly league average hitter. Still, he deserves big props for those grand slams.
28. Mauricio Llovera (Previous Rank: 28)
Llovera was traded to the Red Sox by the Giants on July 26. From that point on, the 27-year-old reliever threw more innings than Josh Winckowski, John Schreiber, Jansen and Garrett Whitlock. Was the workload deserved? Probably not given his production (5.46 ERA), but he certainly earned Alex Cora’s trust and it’s not like the Red Sox’s bullpen was filled with elite options anyway.
27. Enmanuel Valdez (Previous Rank: Not Ranked)
In his first MLB season, Valdez produced a roughly league average line at the plate (102 wRC+ in 149 plate appearances), but his defensive acumen at second base was relatively suspect. Still, the 24-year-old held his own.
26. Rob Refsnyder (Previous Rank: 27)
Here’s the good news: Refsnyder killed lefties in 2033, amassing a 133 wRC+ when facing southpaws. Here’s the bad news: He had just a 31 wRC+ against righties, which limited him to platoon duty and a lot of time on the bench.
25. Pablo Reyes (Previous Rank: 8)
Reyes separated himself from the litany of guys who tried to fill the gaps at shortstop and second base by hitting a walk off grand slam to finish off one of the most fun wins of the season. Does that make up for his below average offensive profile and middling defense? Maybe not, but producing one of the bright spots of a rather dismal year has to mean something.
24. John Schreiber (Previous Rank: 18)
Schreiber was merely good this season after being exceptional in 2022. Some of that can be chalked up to the significant time he missed with injuries, but his ERA and FIP both rose by more than a run, he allowed free passes more liberally and his velocity dropped a bit. Despite the regression, the 29-year-old reliever figures to be a key part of the bullpen in 2024.
23. Reese McGuire (Previous Rank: 24)
As backup catchers go, McGuire was fine in 2023. Some batted ball luck helped him achieve a relatively respectable .267 batting average, but his overall offensive output was 22 percent below league average, while on defense he was slightly above average, with slightly being the operative word.
22. Trevor Story (Previous Rank: 15)
It wasn’t certain that Story would play at all this season after he had surgery on his right UCL in February, but the Red Sox’s big offseason acquisition from 2021 did get back to the field in early August. Story finally brought defensive stability to the shortstop position, but his offense was putrid, amounting to a 48 wRC+. The Red Sox have to hope that he can bounce back next season.
21. Garrett Whitlock (Previous Rank: 21)
It’s difficult to evaluate Whitlock’s season with any sort of understanding of what it means long term. Due to nagging injuries, he was limited to just 22 appearances, although his innings total (71 2/3) was in the same ballpark as his marks in 2022 and 2021, mostly thanks to a career-high 10 starts. He still had solid strikeout and walk rates, but a tendency to find opposing barrels ballooned his ERA and FIP. Hopefully a fully healthy Whitlock will be able to make good on the star potential he flashed previously next year.
20. Connor Wong (Previous Rank: 13)
Wong seemed to cement himself as the Red Sox’s prime catcher this season, largely because of his ability to control the run game, a skill that will be increasingly important given the new rule changes. Wong ranked in the 92nd percentile in Baseball Savant’s caught stealing above average metric, even if his blocking and framing work was less impressive. However, on offense, Wong was safely below average and struck out a ton. In fairness, the Red Sox don’t need (nor expect) him to be Adley Rutschman, but even a bit more offensive success could go a long way next year.
19. Tanner Houck (Previous Rank: 26)
Houck really threw a wrench into things on Sunday, as he threw six sparkling innings against the Baltimore Orioles to close the 2023 campaign on a high note. For those who bought plenty of Houck stock when he first came up, perhaps it provides hope for next season. However, Houck’s overall work as a full-time starter (5.01 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 21.4 percent strikeout rate, 8.9 percent walk rate) was less enticing, even when considering an injury that may have zapped some of his stuff. Ultimately, when healthy, Houck was OK at best, leaving many of the questions we’ve been asking since he debuted unanswered.
18. James Paxton (Previous Rank: 19)
The Red Sox’s gamble to sign Paxton in December of 2021 looked like it was finally paying off when the southpaw returned to pitch like an ace in mid-May. Over his first nine starts, he logged 50 innings, produced a 2.70 ERA and 3.22 FIP, and struck out 31.1 percent of the batters he faced. However, his final 10 starts were much more lackluster, and that’s putting it mildly, with Paxton posting a 6.46 ERA and 6.28 FIP in those outings before being shut down with a knee injury in early September. It remains a mystery why the Red Sox didn’t trade Paxton before the deadline and it looks even more puzzling in now.
17. Ceddanne Rafaela (Previous Rank: 12)
Rafaela, a top 100 MLB prospect, debuted for the Red Sox on Aug. 28 and finished out the year at the big league level. As one might expect for a rookie in his age 22 season (he turned 23 two weeks ago), he struggled, finishing with a 74 wRC+ thanks to heaps of strikeouts and very little plate discipline. However, getting him playing time this year will hopefully help him hit the ground running in 2024.
16. Brennan Bernardino (Previous Rank: 17)
Prior to 2023, Bernardino had pitched all of 2 1/3 innings in the majors, but he developed into one of the Red Sox’s most reliable relievers this season. The 31-year-old tied with Chris Martin for the second-most appearances on the team (55) and he did more than soak up innings, finishing the campaign with a 3.20 ERA and 3.41 FIP.
15. Josh Winckowski (Previous Rank: 11)
Winckowski solidified his role as a bullpen workhorse in 2023, leading all Red Sox relievers in innings pitched (84 1/3) and appearances (60). Wielding a sinker with zip, Winckowski used his skills at producing groundballs to keep his ERA at a stately 2.88, although his FIP was more than a full run higher.
14. Wilyer Abreu (Previous Rank: 22)
Abreu was one of the few bright spots over the final month of the season, slashing .316/.388/.474 with a 135 wRC+ after making his MLB debut in late August. Sure, that’s a wicked small sample (85 plate appearances) and he certainly had a few lucky bounces (.431 BABIP), but the 24-year-old outfielder made a name for himself and could be in the mix for a permanent gig next season.
13. Chris Martin (Previous Rank: 9)
Chaim Bloom may not have succeeded as much as anyone would have liked, but he did show a tendency to sign some solid, if unexciting, contributors. Martin is one example, as the veteran reliever brought his no-walks-allowed approach to Fenway and excelled, producing a 1.05 ERA and 2.44 FIP across 51 1/3 innings of work out of the bullpen.
12. Masataka Yoshida (Previous Rank: 23)
If we just look at Yoshida’s final stat line for the season, there’s a lot to like. He slashed .289/.338/.445 with a 109 wRC+ and 14 percent strikeout rate in his first season in MLB. However, at one point, it looked like Yoshida was poised to be a Rookie of the Year candidate. Heck, he even ranked No. 1 in these power rankings after May. Entering the All-Star break, Yoshida had a 136 wRC+ and an incredible 10.7 percent striikeout rate, fully realizing his potential as a master of the strike zone. However, everything fell apart in the second half, with Yoshida netting just a 73 wRC+ after the break. To make matters worse, he also struggled on defense all year. The Red Sox could live with his defensive shortcomings when he was hitting, but his offensive regression later in the summer hurt all the more because of those fielding woes. Hopefully Yoshida can make the necessary adjustments to be productive from start to finish in 2024, because when he’s on, he’s incredible.
11. Chris Sale (Previous Rank: 14)
We got flashes of vintage Sale in 2023, but lingering injuries and inconsistent performance ultimately led to another frustrating year for the former ace. Even in a year that didn’t go how he planned, Sale still exhibited some promising developments. He struck out nearly 30 percent of the batters he faced and allowed one earned run or fewer in four of his last five appearances. He also ranked second among Red Sox pitchers in fWAR (2.1). At this point, the Red Sox can’t really expect a fully healthy season from Sale, but if he can be solid when he can pitch, that might be good enough.
10. Alex Verdugo (Previous Rank: 7)
Surprisingly, despite a strong start to the season at the plate, Verdugo's most important contributions may have been on defense this year. He ranked in the 95th percentile in outfield arm strength and in the 70th percentile in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant. When mixed with an overall offensive output that was a hair shy of league average (98 wRC+), Verdugo was able to produce a two-win season, setting a high-water mark for him in Boston. Unfortunately, given the drastic deterioration of his offensive success in the second half, this season feels more like a lateral step for Verdugo.
9. Nick Pivetta (Previous Rank: 25)
2023 was a rollercoaster for Pivetta. He fluctuated between looking like the team’s best pitcher to being unable to hold down a rotation spot. All together, his campaign actually grades out pretty well, as he set career bests in strikeout rate (31.2 percent) and ERA (4.04) while dialing up his velocity by more than an entire mile per hour compared with 2022. Pivetta may struggle with consistency, but there’s no denying how critical a part of the Red Sox’s staff he is.
8. Brayan Bello (Previous Rank: 5)
During an exceptional 11-start stretch from the end of April to the end of June, Bello was easily the best pitcher on the roster, building expectations that the Red Sox had finally solved their struggles developing starting pitching talent. Across those starts, Bello threw 65 2/3 innings and produced a 2.33 ERA and 3.41 FIP, but he couldn’t sustain such a level of performance, as a 5.25 ERA over the last three months of the season soured his overall numbers. Still, considering it was his first full year in the majors, Bello’s season should be considered a success, if a less rousing one than we expected a few months ago.
7. Kutter Crawford (Previous Rank: 10)
Congratulations if you had Crawford in your who-will-lead-the-Red-Sox’s-pitching-staff-in-fWAR pool. It’s kind of weird you have one of those, but I digress. Despite the fanfare of Paxton’s return, Bello’s near breakout and Sale’s occasional classic outings, Crawford really anchored the rotation once he became a regular starter in June. That isn’t to say he was an ace, as he had a 4.51 ERA as a starter, but he consistently ate up innings and was good for a shutdown performance from time to time, ultimately leading to a pretty solid season for the 27-year-old.
6. Adam Duvall (Previous Rank: 2)
If Pivetta were a hitter, he’d be Adam Duvall. Despite missing most of April and May with an injury, Duvall produced a comfortably above average offensive season for the Red Sox, tallying a 116 wRC+ and smashing 21 home runs. His blistering first week of the campaign and incredible August (175 wRC+) were counterbalanced by his sky-high strikeout rate and limited ability to get on base, but when he went on a hot streak, nothing could stop him.
5. Kenley Jansen (Previous Rank: 4)
Jansen was the Red Sox’s lone All-Star Game representative this season, producing a another solid season and continuing to be one of the better closers in baseball. Although his run prevention numbers were a little high (3.63 ERA, 3.66 FIP), he racked up 29 saves and matched his fWAR total from 2022. In fairness, his strikeout rate dipped quite a bit and he threw the fewest innings of his career outside of his 2010 debut campaign and the shortened 2020 season, but the 36-year-old veteran provided more positives than negatives in the first season of a two-year deal with the Red Sox.
4. Justin Turner (Previous Rank: 3)
Turner tailed off near the end of the season, but overall, he was one of the most consistent offensive threats in the Red Sox’s lineup day in and day out. He finished the year with a .276/.345/.455 slash line and a 114 wRC+ while ranking second on the team in RBI (96) and runs scored (86) and third in home runs (23).
3. Jarren Duran (Previous Rank: 20)
Injuries are the absolute pits. After looking like a complete bust in his first two go-rounds at the MLB level, Duran finally broke out in a big way this season before a toe injury stole the final month from him. Despite the significant time missed, he still tied for second on the team in fWAR (2.4) while slashing .295/.346/.482 with a 120 wRC+ and 24 stolen bases to boot. Assuming he comes back healthy next season, Duran could be on the cusp of big things.
2. Triston Casas (Previous Rank: 6)
Casas overcame a slow start to produce a sterling rookie campaign, at times looking like one of the best hitters in baseball. He slashed .263/.367/.490 with a 13.9 percent walk rate, 24 home runs and a 129 wRC+. A shoulder issue landed him on the IL to end the year, but that shouldn’t dampen the excitement for his 2024 encore.
1. Rafael Devers (Previous Rank: 1)
In his first season after signing a 10-year deal with the Red Sox, the $313.5 million man ultimately turned in a strong showing. Whether it was the pressure of all those dollars or just a slump, Devers did get out to a slow start, but when the dust settled, he had racked up team-highs in fWAR (3.1), home runs (33), RBI (100) and runs scored (90). He also ranked fifth in hard hit rate in all of MLB, according to Statcast, cementing himself as one of the most fearsome hitters in the game. Unfortunately, there is some bad news, as Devers’ defense was abysmal, but even with a faulty glove, he was the best player on the roster in 2023.