As we draw closer to the start of the regular season, the Boston Red Sox have very few roster spots still under consideration. The starting lineup is set in stone barring injury of some kind. The lineup, while not incredible, should be deep enough to be at least middle of the pack offensively in the American League. Here is that group:
Catcher- Reese McGuire
First Base- Triston Casas
Second Base- Christian Arroyo
Third Base-Rafael Devers
Left Field- Masataka Yoshida
Center Field- Adam Duvall
Right Field-Alex Verdugo
Designated Hitter- Justin Turner
It’s hard for me to look at this group with excitement because I think there are only a few impact bats here. Devers and Yoshida are going to drive the success of this lineup. We know what Devers is, but over the last few weeks of the World Baseball Classic we really got a sense of the type of hitter Yoshida is. He showed considerable power, excellent plate discipline, and the ability to deliver in high pressure situations with the game on the line. I have no worries about these two performing all year long.
The rest of the lineup leaves me with mixed emotions. I hope Turner still has enough in the tank to be impactful because I really do like him as a hitter, but at 38 I do wonder how much is left. I’m optimistic that Verdugo gets the message and finally has the breakout season that his skills tease us with each year. I think that Casas, even as a rookie, can deliver major league quality at bats while fielding his position at a high level. I’m curious to see whether or not Hernandez really can play shortstop and if his potent offense on the dirt comes back. I’m worried that Duvall’s power will be sapped by the rigors of center field and that Arroyo will struggle to stay on the field.
I project that the bench will consist of the following players:
Outfielder- Rob Refsnyder
Catcher- Jorge Alfaro
While Refsnyder was a lock based on his performance against left handed pitching, the others were far less certain. Tapia played his way onto this team with a strong spring and has the ability to play all of the outfield positions. Alfaro has done nothing but show off his glorious locks and hit tanks since he arrived in Ft. Myers. With upper minors catching depth so thin, I think it makes too much sense to start Connor Wong down at Triple-A.
Dalbec is the one guy who may not make sense to most people, but to me this comes down to his roster spot. Dalbec is already on the 40-man and he is too valuable to simply designate for assignment. He has been getting some reps at shortstop this spring and, reading the tea leaves, this tells me that they are toying with using him in a utility role, at least for a little while. I get the sense that Adalberto Mondesi, who is beginning the year on the IL, will not be gone for long. Once he returns he could conceivably push Arroyo to a utility role where he is much better suited. So how are they going to make room for Tapia and Alfaro? They will DFA both Yu Chang and Kaleb Ort. Neither player holds much value so I doubt they could trade either one.
On the pitching side of things, there is really only one spot up for debate at this point. The rotation is locked in with Alex Cora already committing to Corey Kluber as his opening day starter. Here is the rotation:
SP1- Corey Kluber
SP2- Chris Sale
SP3- Tanner Houck
SP4- Kutter Crawford
SP5 - Nick Pivetta
All three of James Paxton, Brayan Bello, and Garrett Whitlock are set to open the year on the IL. The good news is that Bello and Whitlock should debut within the first month of the season, perhaps missing as few as two turns through the rotation. I have little to no faith in Houck as a starter, but I do really like him out of the bullpen. I’d expect Bello and Whitlock to bump Houck and Crawford fairly shortly.
The bullpen is one of the most improved parts of this team over the offseason and there are finally no questions about who will be closing out games. Here is the bullpen:
Setup- Chris Martin
Setup- John Schrieber
Mid- Richard Bleier
Long- Josh Winckowski
Second LHP- Oddanier Mosqueda ???
I’m not at all convinced that the team needs a second lefty to start the year and I am even less convinced that if they did it would be Mosqueda. If Wyatt Mills was healthy I would project him to have the last spot as a right hander. With my projected DFA of Ort and Chang that means that someone else needs to be added to the 40-man roster to fill out 13 pitchers if Cora is indeed serious that none of Brandon Walter, Bryan Mata, or Chris Murphy are under consideration for this spot. I think this roster spot gets created by trading Jarren Duran.
I have no idea what the return for Duran would be or whether it would be a prospect or a reliever that the team could add to the bullpen immediately. I do think that Duran’s time here has run its course and that he could use a fresh start. I also see him as behind Ceddanne Rafaela should the team need a long term outfielder in the case of an injury. Rafaela would be behind Tapia as well. If they decide not to trade Duran it is much less clear how they will open up a 40 man roster spot. Enmanuel Valdez, Wilyer Abreu, and David Hamilton would all be other options, but each was recently traded for and just added to the roster. It seems like it has to be Duran.