Posted on March 19, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Despite winning the AL East with a 93-69 record the past two seasons, the Boston Red Sox haven’t won a postseason series since claiming the 2013 World Series. The natives in Bean Town are starting to get restless, even as the competition in the American League gets tougher. Can the Red Sox find a way to return to the World Series in 2018 or will it be another disappointing season with a disappointing ending?
Despite being less than healthy last season, the Red Sox had one of the best rotations in the American League. Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz led the way with 17 wins each, helping to make up for David Price making just 11 starts. In addition to missing Price, Steven Wright was limited to five starts and Rick Porcello had a down year despite winning the Cy Young in 2016.
If everyone is healthy, Boston’s rotation should once again be among the best in baseball. The lefty trio of Sale, Price, and Pomeranz has a chance to be special. Plus, if Porcello can return to his 2016 form, the Red Sox will have at least four above-average starters. Eduardo Rodriguez would also be one of the best no. 5 starters in baseball with Wright in the mix as well.
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However, questions regarding the group’s health linger. Both Rodriguez and Wright are expected to start the season on the DL. Pomeranz also has a history of elbow issues and has been slowed by minor issues during spring training. That being said, the talent is undoubtedly there, and as long as Sale and Price can remain healthy, the Red Sox rotation should be in good shape.
In addition to having a talented rotation, the Red Sox could also have one of the best bullpens in baseball in 2018. Craig Kimbrel is locked in as the closer after having one of the best seasons of his career in 2017. Boston also has a stable contingent of setup men coming back in Carson Smith, Joe Kelly, and Matt Barnes. Kelly is also coming off an outstanding season while Barnes was Boston’s workhorse in 2017, making 70 appearances.
The Red Sox should also have plenty of depth in their bullpen. The likes of Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, and Heath Hembree each posted an ERA under 4 last year. Austin Maddox could also be a pitcher to watch after he was spectacular last September. The Red Sox also have an intriguing wild card in Tyler Thornburg, who missed all of last year after thoracic outlet surgery but was in line to be a key setup man when the Red Sox traded for him last winter.
The Red Sox had little trouble scoring runs last season by virtue of a well-balanced lineup. However, the team’s lack of power was evident, as they hit the fewest home runs in the American League with no single player hitting more than 24 home runs. The Red Sox hope they’ve addressed their need for power with the addition of J.D. Martinez, who figures to be the team’s primary DH.
Of course with Martinez at DH, two of Boston’s top power hitters, Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland, will now share time at first base. The Red Sox also have to be aware of Dustin Pedroia’s knee problems. After undergoing offseason surgery, Pedroia is likely to begin the season on the DL and may need added rest during the season. Fortunately, Boston re-signed Eduardo Nunez to help fill-in for Pedroia.
The Red Sox also retain their talented young core, most notably the outfield trio of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts. Rafael Devers will also be at third base for his first full season in the big leagues after making a serious impact the second half of last year. However, Bradley, Betts, and Xander Bogaerts all saw their production dip last season, which is at least a slight concern heading into the season.
If all goes according to plan, the Red Sox should be at least a little better than last season. However, it’s tough to say that they’ve improved as much as the Yankees during the offseason. Look for Boston to improve by one game, going 94-68 in 2018. However, the Red Sox are no longer the favorites in the AL East, and even with 94 wins, they may have to settle for a wild-card spot, giving them an uphill battle in the postseason.