Opening Day Is Just Days Away
As Red Sox Nation moves into late March, it’s only natural for us to turn our attention toward Fenway Park and wonder – how will this year’s team perform? Will they improve from last year and compete with the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays? Or will they have a repeat of 2022 and be a bottom-tier team?
Let’s take a look at what we know about this Red Sox roster just days away from Opening Day.
1. Masataka Yoshida LF
2. Christian Arroyo 2B
3. Rafael Devers 3B
4. Justin Turner DH
5. Triston Casas 1B
6. Adam Duvall CF
7. Alex Verdugo RF
8. Kikè Hernandez SS
9. Reese McGuire C
C Connor Wong
1B Bobby Dalbec
OF Rob Refsnyder
2B/SS Adalberto Mondesi
LHP Chris Sale
RHP Nick Pivetta
RHP Garrett Whitlock
RHP Corey Kluber
RHP Brayan Bello
LHP James Paxton
LHP Joely Rodriguez
RHP Ryan Brasier
RHP John Schreiber
RHP Kutter Crawford
RHP Tanner Houck
RHP Chris Martin
RHP Kenley Jansen
Loss of Xander Bogaerts
The Sox lost a key member of their core this offseason when Xander Bogaerts signed with the San Diego Padres in free agency. Bogaerts had spent the entirety of his professional career with Boston, emerging as an All-Star and World Champion twice over. His departure leaves a hole in the lineup, on the field, and in the clubhouse, as he had been such a reliable player over the past decade.
Still No Real Shortstop Replacement
With Spring Training less than a month away, team president Chaim Bloom has yet to truly replace Bogaerts. The Sox have signed Adam Duvall to play centerfield and traded for the Royals’ injury-plagued shortstop Adalberto Mondesí. This is an okay start but not an ideal position heading into Opening Day.
Personally, I would try to sign either Jose Iglesias or Elvis Andrus as a stopgap player and re-evaluate at the end of the season. While not the sexiest thing in the world, it’s the best option that doesn’t require the team trading valuable assets such as Tanner Houck and other young players.
It’s also worth noting that top prospect Marcelo Mayer is still in A-Ball, so he shouldn’t factor into this conversation.
Lineup Taking a Step Back
The losses of stalwarts such as Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez will undoubtedly be a significant blow to the lineup. While making matters worse, All-Star second baseman Trevor Story is set to miss a significant portion of the season due to elbow surgery.
The big addition to the offense has been outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who was a star in Japan but has never played a game at the major league level. And while the signing of Justin Turner is nice, he’s will be playing in his age-38 season, which brings question marks regarding his health and potential productivity.
Health Questions Remain In The Rotation
Pitchers such as Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and James Paxton have missed large parts of the past few seasons due to injury, and it’s uncertain how much they can produce going forward. While young arms such as Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock may be held to innings limits.
This makes you wonder where innings would come from if multiple pieces were to go down with an injury. With a potentially depleted lineup, you need the starting staff to step up and pitch quality innings in 2023.
How Will The Team Come Together As A Unit?
Every team forms its own identity, and it will be interesting to see how this group comes together after an off-season of turnover. You won’t have familiar faces such as JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Nathan Eovaldi, who all seemed to be popular clubhouse presences. Having a cohesive unit and a team that likes each other is important for overall morale throughout a 162-game season.
Improved Bullpen Going Into 2023
On a positive note, the Red Sox invested in their bullpen this Winter with the signings of Chris Martin, Kenley Jansen, and Joely Rodriguez. Former Dodgers and Braves closer Kenley Jansen should be a massive upgrade in the 9th inning.
Chris Martin is expected to bring his strike-throwing ability to the backend of the bullpen (most likely as a setup man). Meanwhile, Joely Rodriguez should contribute as a lefty out of the pen during those tough middle innings and act as a bridge guy.
All things considered, the bullpen should be a strength of the team heading into the season. A far cry from years past, when they had your local mailman and plumber pitching the 8th and 9th innings.
Young Players Who Could Make The Leap
Boston will have an interesting balance of veteran and youth talent on their roster. Players like Brayan Bello, Triston Casas, Tanner Houck, and Garrett Whitlock could all make a significant impact in 2023 if they reach their potential. The farm system is also much improved from years past, with a pipeline of talent that can contribute in the near future, such as Ceddanne Rafaela, Bryan Mata, and Brandon Walter.
Fewer Games Against AL East Will Help Boston
The Sox are likely to benefit from the scheduling change, with fewer division games upcoming in 2023. The change in scheduling removes difficult matchups against the Blue Jays, Rays, and Yankees while replacing them with interleague play. This will be beneficial in light of the team’s woeful results against their AL East opponents in 2022, where they went 26-50 (!!!) Yikes
Predicting The Red Sox Record In 2023
I predict a record of 80-82 for the Red Sox in 2023, a win better than last season. Although the depth has improved, there is still concern regarding injuries, with Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and James Paxton all having question marks around their health going forward.
The good news is the bullpen is much improved, and there are some exciting young players who could be ready to make a big jump. At the very least, an entire season out of Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, Triston Casas, and others will be fun to watch.
But at the end of the day, the health of the starting staff will decide whether they will make a run at a Wild Card or spend a second season in the basement of the AL East. Ultimately, I expect something around .500.