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2010 A to W Preview--Boston Red Sox
by James Deaux (MLB)
Posted on February 4, 2010, 5:08 PM

2010 Predictions from A to W: Boston Red Sox

2009 record: 95-67 (2nd in AL East; AL Wild Card)

Key offseason pickups: John Lackey (SP), Adrian Beltre (3B), Marco Scutaro (SS), Jeremy Hermida (RF/LF), Bill Hall (2B/3B/OF)

Key offseason departures: Jason Bay (LF), Takashi Saito (RP), Billy Wagner (RP)

Projected starting rotation: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Projected 2010 starting lineup:

C: Victor Martinez
1B: Kevin Youkilis
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Adrian Beltre
SS: Marco Scutaro
LF: Jeremy Hermida/Mike Cameron
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: J.D. Drew
DH: David Ortiz

The Red Soxí 2009 season was generally a good one (if you forget the ALDS) that saw them win the AL Wild Card by an astonishing eight games over the next closest team (Texas). They had the best record in baseball at the All-Star Break, but they showed glaring problems all throughout the second halfómost notably their age. David Ortiz easily had his worst year since donning the Sox uniform, batting a meager .208 with zero homers through his first 34 games. Though he picked it up with a vengeance in the second half, he finished with less than 100 RBI for the first time since 2002. It was also revealed that he was on that infamous list of 103 players who tested positive for a banned substance in 2003. His ďexplanationĒ was among the flimsiest Iíve ever read, but that seems to be the age in which us fans of the game live. (Hi, Mark McGwire.) Elsewhere, Mike Lowell hardly played, Jason Varitek was supplanted by Victor Martinez, and Tim Wakefield somehow garnered an All-Star spot.

The Red Sox will suffer a bit this year due mainly to egregiously bad contracts held by aging and/or injury-prone players like Mike Lowell, J.D. Drew and Jason Varitek. Iím not convinced that the Lackey signing was a great one, either. His track record in Fenway Park is ugly at best. Obviously he wonít be pitching against the home team there anymore, but itís still a cause for concern. Even though the Red Sox have no qualms about spending insane amounts of money, Lackey was overpaid, plain and simple. Still, the pitching staff should be among the best in baseball with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester leading the way. (The argument could be made that Lester is the best pitcher on the staff.) Obviously, no one has any clue what to expect from Daisuke Matsuzaka, but you could do a whole lot worse in your fifth spot in the rotation; and if Clay Buchholz makes strides, then they will be a handful for any team on any day. Iím slightly curious to know what Wakefield is going to do on the few days that his back doesnít flare up, though. The bullpen does present some question marks leading up to Jonathan Papelbon, but theyíve been through this before. Generally, their starting pitching is able to cover up any deficiencies in the middle relief core, so they donít have to be fantastic. Papelbon needs to have a more dominant year, himself, because his stats certainly trended in the wrong direction last year. He allowed more baserunners than ever, which translated into the highest WHIP of his career. Granted, 1.15 is still a fantastic ratio, but itís almost 20 points above his career average.

The Sox lineup will put up tons of runs as they always do, especially now with a full year of Victor Martinez at catcher and not Jason Varitek. The usual suspects are still thereóYoukilis, Pedroia, and Ellsbury. They are joined by newcomers, Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, and likely a platoon of Mike Cameron and Jeremy Hermida. I canít remember the last time the Boston outfield looked this volatile. Ellsbury might be the best leadoff hitter in baseball, but Hermida canít stay healthy at all. He used to be the Marlinsí number one prospect, but he quickly fell down the ranks of their organization and became part of a platoon there. And his new platoon-mate/co-Jason-Bay-replacement, Mike Cameron, isnít exactly good for 150 games, either. Plus, when you think about oft-injured outfielders, J.D. Drew should probably be the first name the pops up. I foresee a great deal of flux in left and right field for Boston this season. As for Adrian Beltre, he is maybe the best defensive third baseman in the game, but the question that always arises about him is if his offense will ever even come close to matching his ridiculous 2004 campaign with L.A. I think we all know the answer to that is ďnoĒ, but he canít be any worse than trying to rely on the more-brittle-by-the-year Mike Lowell. Ultra-utility-man Bill Hall figures to be the guy to step in at the inevitable point when one of the aforementioned players gets injured. One last noteóIíve read rumors that Ellsbury might move to leftfield and Cameron would take over in center. If this is true...wow. What a laughable decision that would be.

The Red Sox are rarely in a position of worry over their big league team, and even though their AA and AAA levels arenít exactly brimming with MLB-ready talent currently, their lower-level farm system boasts three or four of the top prospects in the league. Two, in particular have been most impressive. Ryan Westmoreland is an outfielder on the Single-A Greenville team with impeccable strike zone recognition and a willingness to hit to all fields. He should be starting on the team in 2012. On the pitching side, RHP Casey Kelly, who figures to make the big league club by mid-2011, is wowing baseball observers everywhere with his extensive pitching repertoire and ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes. Boston may have a down year in 2011 (or even this year if and when they suffer some injuries), but after that, they are going to be rolling merrily along for a long time.

2010 Prediction: 93-69 (2nd in AL East; Wild Card winner) The Red Sox donít have the sheer power to topple the Yankees, but they should win the Wild Card pretty handily again because the Angels are definitely due for a down year, the Rangers donít have enough experience in their rotation, and the Rays are too inconsistent. The Sox rotation is fantastic, and their lineup, even with the holes, is still among the best in the league. The outfield does concern me, though.

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