Starter: Hanley Ramirez
The second major offseason addition by the Red Sox was also perhaps the biggest splash the team made. Ramirez was very much in the thick of the MVP race in 2013 despite having only played 86 games. In 2014, he led the Dodgers back to the postseason behind a .283/.369/.448 triple slash and earned his four year, $88 million contract.
Viewed as the best offensive player in free agency, Ramirez brings tremendous power and hitting to the cleanup spot behind David Ortiz. Two things to watch will be how he takes to learning his new position, and also if he can stay healthy. Either way Ramirez was a pleasant surprise that certainly solidifies the Red Sox lineup in a big way.
Starter: Rusney Castillo
After signing a six year, $72 million deal in August the 27 year-old Cuban born star Castillo will have his first full taste of Major League Baseball in 2015. With game changing speed, Castillo plays a good defensive center field and profiles as a good but not great hitter. The wild card in Castillo’s tools is his power, which took most scouts by surprise when he signed.
Castillo is at an age where he should be physically ready to immediately contribute to a major league ball club, as we saw Jose Abreu do last year, but if he does need refinement in the minor leagues the Sox have plenty of options to fill his shoes. Castillo is a dynamic athlete but it remains to be seen what he can offer the Red Sox next year. He’ll be another x-factor to watch.
Just Missed: Jackie Bradley Jr.
Starter: Mookie Betts
Betts burst onto the scene at the end of 2014 and has already earned John Farrell’s approval as the most likely candidate to lead off in 2015. The speedy Betts has surprising pop, makes great contact and has taken up his new position in the outfield with grace. All that remains is for Betts to prove he can continue to be a star at the highest level over a full season.
Along with Castillo and fellow 22 year-old Bogaerts, Betts will be an x-factor in this lineup. Where Castillo and Bogaerts will likely bat at the bottom of the order, Betts should start at the top and get plenty of early action. As much as he showed last year, fans shouldn’t fret if he is unable to immediately produce as Boston will have viable contingency options.
Backup: Shane Victorino
The plan B for both Castillo and Betts is the 34 year-old veteran Victorino, who will likely be assuming the role of fourth outfielder to start 2015 barring a trade. The Flyin Hawaiian is entering his walk year, and is the perfect insurance policy for Betts and Castillo, should either player struggle. But if they thrive, Victorino could find himself flipped to a contender at the deadline as he likely isn’t a candidate to re-sign.