by Jacob Gurvis
The 2013 Boston Red Sox were successful for many reasons. The team had depth, a dominant bullpen, and a whole lot of luck and magic on its side. Now the Sox are back to defend their title, and expectations are high for the 2014 season.
Here are my top five predictions for the 2014 Red Sox (in no particular order):
1. Daniel Nava will be an All-Star.
In 2013, Nava surprised everyone with his success. Nava had 139 hits, a .303 batting average, a .385 on-base percentage (OBP), and an .831 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). He was a solid fielder, can came up big as a pinch hitter. If Nava gets another 600 at-bats, playing around 150 games, he will definitely produce. And because of his ability to play first base as well as both corner outfield positions, he will certainly get his fair share of playing time. Nava is 31, and only getting better.
2. Will Middlebrooks will finally show his true talent.
Many people have given up on poor Will Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks has 30 homer/100 RBI potential, and as a rookie he was drawing comparisons to Rays’ star Evan Longoria. In his rookie season (2012), Middlebrooks hit 15 homers, with 54 RBIs and an .835 OPS in 75 games. Last season, despite his continuous struggles at the plate, and multiple trips down to Pawtucket, Middlebrooks still hit 17 homers with 494 RBIs in the Majors. That means in his 615 career at-bats (a full season), Middlebrooks hit 32 homers with 103 RBIs. He’s had a spectacular spring training this year, with 4 homers, 9 RBIs, and a .362 average in 17 games. Middlebrooks knows it’s time to silence the critics and the trade rumors, and to show just what a great player he really can be.
3. Xander Bogaerts will indeed be incredible.
As a 21-year-old, Xander Bogaerts became the youngest Red Sox player to start a World Series game, breaking Babe Ruth’s record set 97 years prior. Yeah, he’s that good. Ever since Bogaerts took Middlebrook’s job at third at the end of the regular season last year, the hype about the “rookie phenom,” MLB.com’s number two prospect, has been incessant. Bogaerts only had 50 plate appearances in 2013, but his postseason performance is what caused the influx of predictions for Bogaerts to win the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year. In just 12 games, Bogaerts had eight hits, nine runs, a .412 OBP, and six walks. The poise and calmness Bogaerts displayed during the postseason was extremely impressive. Bogaerts didn’t flinch playing on baseball’s biggest stage, and he looked like he was born to be there. I can’t wait to see what he can do.
4. A young pitcher will breakout.
The group of pitching prospects in the Sox organization is large and impressive. Allen Webster, Stephen Wright, Anthony Ranaudo, Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Brandon Workman. Yeah, it’s a nice list. A few of those players have already made major league appearances, but none are starting the season as a starter for the Sox. Workman is kind of the odd man out of the rotation, and he played well last season, both as a starter and in the bullpen. Given the long list of impressive farmhands, and the likeliness of a Sox starter (or two) getting injured at some point, odds are that a few of these guys will get a shot. The most likely is Workman, who has already proven himself as a starter, and has Farrell’s trust and appraisal.
5. The front office won’t hesitate to make moves during the season.
The Red Sox do not have any true, gaping holes in their roster heading into the season. With Sizemore in center, Bogaerts at short, and Pierzynski behind the plate, all positions have been filled. However, don’t expect Ben Cherington to sit idle. Stephen Drew is a still a free agent, Jon Lester wants an extension, and players like Giancarlo Stanton and Cliff Lee always have trade rumors hanging over their heads. At last year’s trade deadline, Cherington pulled a deal, bringing Jake Peavy to Boston and sending Jose Iglesias to Detroit, which ended very well for the Sox, as Iglesias will miss most (if not all) of 2014 due to injury. Cherington has yet to fail the Sox, and expect him to continue to make moves where necessary.
The season starts Monday. Only time can tell what this season will bring, and those five predictions may or may not pan out. But all that matters is that baseball is back!