We can’t get enough baseball right now. Football is over. It’s February. And even though the Northeast is about to get hit with a huge storm, Spring Training is next week. Warm weather and promise at every corner. Bleacher Report published an article yesterday: “What Fans Have to Look Forward to Most in Spring Training.” Let’s take a look at them and offer our thoughts as well.
Finding out If John Farrell Was the Right Choice to Be the New Manager
Despite the lackluster track record, the Red Sox are confident they got the right man for the job, as The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reported. Boston general manager Ben Cherington gushed about Farrell’s qualifications, saying “I have known him in various capacities throughout my career, and I hold him in the highest regard as a baseball man and as a person.”
This is certainly one we are looking forward to. After having Tito get booted and then have Valentine, of all people, come in was disastrous. From what we have heard, he is the guy for the job, Somebody that commands respect, but also knows how to balance a clubhouse. He’s a guy with pitching coaching background, which is much needed. We’re very much looking forward to that storyline.
Finding out If John Lackey Can Finally Help the Team
WEEI’s Alex Speier recently wrote that new manager John Farrell visited Lackey and came away impressed. The skipper announced on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show that “I think he has a chance to have as big an impact on our club as anyone on our roster.”
The surgery provided Lackey with what may have been a much-needed break from the spotlight. If he can return and pitch well, his past indiscretions may be rapidly forgiven or at least forgotten.
We’re certainly hoping that he has a big impact on the staff. We would be big Lackey fans if that’s the case. Right now he’s been an expensive bust. And he’s brought a negative spotlight to the team. But like they said, if he can pitch well, all would be forgotten.
Learning Who Else Might Bounce Back from Injuries and/or Poor 2012 Seasons
Right-handed pitcher Daniel Bard struggled so mightily with a conversion to starting that it ultimately drove him back to the minors. Although he enters the season without a spot on the major league roster, John Farrell recently watched him throw and came away very impressed, according to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury appeared in just 74 games last year because of ashoulder injury and contributed just a .682 OPS when he did play. He will be a free agent after the season and has missed significant time in two of the past three years, so he has extra incentive to produce this year.
David Ortiz missed nearly half of last season with an injured heel. The 37-year-old designated hitter will look to build upon the .316 batting average and 1.026 OPS he had last year before being sidelined.
Rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI in 75 games before breaking his wrist in August and missing the rest of the season. His return to form could be extremely important to the Red Sox, who were 43-32 when he played last season—and 26-61 when he didn’t.
Left-handed starter Jon Lester had the worst season of his career last year with a 9-14 record and 4.82 ERA. His return to being the pitcher who won a total of 65 games between 2008 and 2011 could go a long way in keeping Boston in contention.
This is the longest and rightfully so. The Sox had a lot of players play under their potential and/or they were injured. Bard, Lester, Lackey were huge for us last year and things didn’t work out. Papi had a good year, but he was injured for a lot of the season. Middlebrooks has star potential but got hurt. So yes, we’re looking forward to seeing how these guys bounce back. Hell, if they bounce back to how they were before last year, our team is going to be extremely solid.
Seeing Which of the Team’s Top Prospects Will Emerge
The Boston Globe’s Craig Forde wrote that right-handed pitcher Allen Webster has been favorably compared to Derek Lowe, but looks like he could possibly be even better.
Rubby De La Rosa, another right-hander, is nearly ready for the majors and learned his changeup directly from Red Sox legend Pedro Martinez, according to ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes.
The Providence Journal’s Tim Brittondescribed outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. as “the face of the Red Sox’s future.”
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is the team’s best prospect and was recently named as the 20th-best prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list.
We’re pumped for these prospects to perform this spring. Sure, it’s good to have a healthy and productive big league club, but way more times than not, things don’t work out that way. People are going to get hurt. Players are going to underperform. That’s where it’s good to know that the Sox have some strong prospects ready to be called up if need be. So this Spring Training, we’re excited to see these guys in action.
Gauging Team Chemistry
Key additions included first baseman Mike Napoli, shortstop Stephen Drew, outfielders Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes, closer Joel Hanrahan and starting pitcher Ryan Dempster.
One thing the new additions have in common is their reputation as good clubhouse guys.
This is going to be a big one too. There’s going to be a lot of new guys in the clubhouse this year. And by the looks of it, Farrell and Co are eager to change the clubhouse dynamic by bringing guys that have good reputations in the clubhouse. This is going to be a big storyline if things don’t work out, but if you don’t hear much about it, we would guess things are going well.