Starter: Mike Napoli
This was another fairly easy one, as Napoli became one of the pillars of the 2013 Championship team and is locked up through the end of the year on a $16 million contract. Napoli’s second year in Boston was not quite as good as his first, but he still put up good numbers even as the Red Sox offense sputtered.
Napoli triple slashed .248/.370/.419 and knocked in 17 dingers. The notable drop came in the form of his RBI totals (just 55 in 2014, 92 in 2013), and this can seemingly be attributed to the offensive output around him dropping off. Or perhaps it was resulting from a drop off in doubles hit? The 33 year-old Napoli will likely have to prove it was the former if he hopes to be rewarded with a new contract after his walk year.
Backup: Daniel Nava
This is a tricky call. On the one hand Craig is undoubtedly more talented than Nava, but on the other hand, Nava has proven himself in Boston where Craig has not. Nava thrives as a left handed hitter, a scarcity in a Boston lineup heavy on righties, and Nava is also the better defender of the two (although that is saying more about Craig’s deficiencies than Nava’s ability), and more affordable.
One of these two players will make the roster as a 1B/OF to spell the injury prone Napoli and Ramirez, while the other will likely be traded. To give up on Craig this early would be a painful move for Cherington, but can he put his faith in Craig bouncing back? We will have a better answer after Spring Training but for now, my gut says Nava stays.
Just missed: Allen Craig
Starter: Dustin Pedroia
Is there really a case to be made for someone else? Quiet down Betts fans, as much as I hope Betts gets plenty of playing time in 2015, he will have to look elsewhere. The keystone has been and will continue to be for the foreseeable future the home of Pedroia. Now firmly entrenched in the number 2 spot in the lineup, completely healthy (reportedly), and surrounded by offensive weapons, Pedroia will have a chance to bounce back in 2015.
Pedey batted .278 last year, not a bad number by any means, but his lowest mark since his rookie year in 2006. More concerning was his continued decline in power: his slugging percentage dropped to .376, also his lowest number since his rookie year. Regardless, Laser Show plays the best defensive second base in baseball and I have faith in a better offensive year too.
Starter: Xander Bogaerts
Here’s a big one. Well, I guess the offseason additions mitigate the risk of Bogaerts failing to meet expectations again in 2015, but if he can reach the heights he was expected to reach last year, he’ll be an x-factor for this team. He is one of the players that can take this offense from great, to dominant (I’ll get to the other two later.)
His defense remains a question mark, but he will be here for his bat. On the season his slash line was a mere .240/.297/.362, but those who watched him saw flashes of what he could be in May and September when his slash lines were .327/.407/.490 and .313/.317/.490. He also knocked in 12 homers and 28 doubles, showcasing a taste of his power potential. Keep an eye on X, I have a lot of faith in him taking off this year.
Just Missed: Devin Marrero
Starter: Pablo Sandoval
The first of the offseason additions on this list, Sandoval was absolutely coveted by Red Sox fans, and apparently the Red Sox front office, as soon as the World Series ended. The Kung Fu Panda hit .429/.467/.536 in the World Series showcasing all of the talent he had been flashing across his seven year career.
The 29-year-old was signed to a five year contract worth $95 million with a sixth year option, to be the Red Sox everyday third baseman. He should provide good defense next to Bogaerts and offer good hitting and power from the left side of the plate batting fifth in Boston’s new look lineup.
Just Missed: Garin Cecchini
Backup: Brock Holt
The legend of Brock Holt continues! This one is another no brainer, even with the signs of coming back to Earth that Holt showed after the All Star break. The man plays stellar defense at every position and has shown that he can at least be a streaky hitter. Sounds like a pretty solid utility player in my book.