Pitchers and catchers report to the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers in 10 days. The reigning world champions are back and I could not be more excited. The Celtics suck, the Pats broke my heart (for the 10th year in a row), and sue me, but I’m only into playoff hockey. The Red Sox made some major moves this offseason, and spring training is the first time we get to see these moves in action. Here are 10 things to watch for at Red Sox camp:
1) Xander Bogaerts’ Development
-If he can be the everyday shortstop the sox haven’t had since Nomar, than they’ll be back in the pennant chase
-Needed to improve his patience at the plate, and his consistency in the field. He keeps showing improvement at the plate, with a mere .90 point difference between BA and OBP last year in the minors. He showed versatility by picking up 3rd base quickly last year, but needs to become better defensively at SS to play every day. He showed signs of range and arm strength last season, but lets hope he became consistent during the offseason because he can be the future of this organization.
2) Will Middlebrooks’ Consistency
-Unbelievable his first season, sucked his second season, and was sent down to the minors. Came back up and was tearing the cover off the ball for 2 months, then couldn’t hit a beach ball the last month of the season. He needed to work on taking what the pitchers give him, and hitting the ball to all sides of the park. If Jenny Dell isn’t a distraction, but in fact gives him burgahs every night, he will be an essential part of this team. If Middlebrooks struggles, do not be surprised by a trade here, especially to make room for one of the Red Sox best hitting prospects, and one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues 3B Garin Cecchini.
3) Grady Sizemore vs. Jackie Bradley Junior
-Lets see what Grady still has left in the tank. He was good about 3 years ago, but injuries have hindered him since. Supposedly he’s healthy, in shape, and ready to make an impact on this team. If he can hit like the 2007-2010 Grady, then he should see many reps as Jacoby’s replacement.
-However, JBJ feels as if he’s ready to make an impact as well. He is an elite defensive CF already, and has a high baseball IQ. He has the speed and defensive advantage versus Grady, but still needs to work on becoming a solid leadoff guy. If he can improve his bat speed against power pitchers, his on-base percentage, and become more of a contact hitter, he’ll be the replacement for Jacoby.
4) David Ortiz’s happiness level
-Ortiz wants a 2-year extension. Even said he would take a bit of a pay reduction. Cherington didn’t do this with Jacoby, and will not do this with Ortiz. He wants to wait until the free agency period, or close to it, to see if he can sign David at a better value. Hopefully Ortiz understands that baseball is a business, and he maintains his leadership role in the clubhouse. A happy David is a great player; an upset David is a cancer to the team.
5) Pitchers’ chemistry with A.J Pierzynski
-Pitcher/catcher chemistry is very important, and the addition of a new catcher can be a huge transition. A.J is an experienced player, and a good locker room guy, so hopefully this transition goes smoothly.
6) Mike Napoli’s weight
-We just won the World Series. We know Napoli went on a binge. 2 weeks in Vegas, 2 weeks in Cabo, a week in Thailand, and a couple days in Tijuana. Hopefully he has recovered, got back into shape, and is ready to win another one…. so he can binge again.
7) Brandon Workman’s transition to a starting pitcher
-Began last season as a starter, there wasn’t enough room for him, and he owned the bullpen role that was given to him. We wouldn’t have won the World Series without the innings the Workman ate up. I see him as a starting pitcher. At least in the long run. We’ll see if he is ready for that role, or if he’s going to stay in the pen. He could be valuable either way, but if he continues to improve, he could be another ace in our staff.
8) Doubront vs. Dempster vs. Peavy vs. Workman vs. Prospects
-Speaking of that staff, we have at least 6 guys here fighting for 2 spots. Lester, Lackey, Buchholz have 1,2,3 locked down, but its a war after that.
-Doubront earned the 4th spot last year with consistency, and well see if he still has it.
-Dempster sucked, but maybe he worked hard in the offseason
-Peavy can turn it on and off, so we’ll see what kind of pitcher he wants to be this season
-Workman has all the potential in the world, just needs a shot. Still valuable in the pen.
-We have 5 of the top 30 pitching prospects in the MLB. We’ll see their progression, and see if any of them forces their way into this rotation.
9) Progress of De La Rosa, Webster, Britton, and Owens
-All pitchers who made appearances last year. Webster showed some promise in his couple of starts, Britton was consistent out of the pen, De La Rosa showed he has some serious heat and a developing slider out of the pen, and Owens, likely our #1 pitching prospect is around 1 year away from contribution. Hopefully they all improved and can be an impact on this team out of the pen, in the starting rotation, or for the future.
10) Clay Buchholz’s Health
-Buchholz showed his toughness in the playoffs, basically pitching with a dislocated shoulder. Hopefully he took his rehab seriously, and he’s back to the ace that he was.