Boston Red Sox
Chris Sale was a monster in 2017 but can he help lead the Red Sox back to a World Series championship? (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox won the AL East in 2017; A lot of people seem to forget that. Boston also won the division in 2016 but oddly enough come in 2018 as underdogs to the rival Yankees. While the Red Sox / Yankees rivalry isn’t fully back, there’s no doubt that both teams are 90 plus win teams. Both teams also new managers which adds a new wrinkle. What can we expect from new manager Alex Cora? Well, it can’t get much worse than John Farrell who was arguably the worst manager in baseball and the Red Sox still won 93 games. Cora won a World Series with the Astros a year ago and hopes to take those philosophies to Boston. Can we expect the Red Sox to win the division for the third year in a row?

Catchers

The Red Sox have a bit of an interesting situation going on. Christian Vazquez emerged as the primary catcher and is a plus defender. Vazquez’s bat also started to heat up in 2017 with an average .290. Sandy Leon also makes up the rest of that platoon and is another tremendous defender. Leon’s bat has gone hot and cold but most importantly is Chris Sale’s personal catcher and has built a great rapport with the best starting pitcher in the American League. The real wildcard here is Blake Swihart. The former top catching prospect in baseball has struggled with injuries and has shifted around to multiple positions. Swihart’s defense isn’t up to code but he can tear the cover off the ball.

Infielders

It’s hard to find a hole within this Red Sox infield. Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, and Rafael Devers make up a solid and deep unit. Moreland and Ramirez will function as a sort of platoon at first base with some at-bats at DH. Ramirez figures to get most of the playing time. Manager Alex Cora has already told the media that Ramirez is scheduled to be the third hitter in the lineup. Part of the reasoning for the Moreland platoon is that they want to avoid giving him 497 at-bats so they don’t exercise an expensive $22 million option. Ramirez hit more than 30 homers and 100 RBI’s in 2016 but was slowed by either not having David Ortiz by his side or a nagging shoulder injury that has since been cleaned up.

Dustin Pedroia is one of the best second basemen in the league but will miss about a month with a knee injury. Eduardo Nunez is a more than a competent player. Nunez made the All-Star team with the Twins a few years ago and is the perfect utility player. Nunez hit .321 after getting acquired at the trade deadline from the Giants and has always been a massively underrated player. Xander Bogaerts, the primary shortstop, has been very up and down during his Red Sox tenure. Bogaerts may have saved the team in 2013 when he was called up at a 19-year old to start in the world series championship run. Are we going to see the guy who hit .320 in 2015 or the guy who plummeted in the second half hitting .273? Third baseman Rafael Devers is a flat out stud. Sure, he’s going to make his fair share of errors but what can you expect from a 20-year old who was called up from AA. Devers has some pop in that bat hitting 13 home runs in 290 at-bats. You can expect much of the infield to hit at least 20 plus homers in 2018.

Boston Red Sox
Boston is projected to score the 3rd most runs in baseball this season (Fan Graphs)

Outfielders

The Red Sox led the majors in runs in 2016 when David Ortiz was in the lineup. In 2017 the offense was still excellent but it didn’t have the same overall thump to it. Boston was last in the AL in home runs but still scored runs on a consistent basis. Dave Dombrowski made sure to fix that problem when he signed J.D. Martinez to a mega contract. While I’m overly skeptical about the signing, there’s no question that IF Martinez brings that same bat from the 2017 season, then it’s obvious that this signing was well worth the price of admission. Martinez figures to be the primary DH where the Sox plan to deploy his bat but not his below average fielding. Will we see the guy who was released by the Astros just a few years ago or the guy who smacked 45 homers in 119 games?

Win, dance, repeat makes up the rest of the Boston outfield. There isn’t a better defensive outfield in baseball with Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts. The trio also is under the age of 26 and it makes up a bright present and future in Boston. Bradley is by far the best defensive center fielder in baseball. In fact, he’s so good that he forced Betts to move to right field. Betts, by the way, led baseball in defensive runs saved the past two years. Then there’s Andrew Benintendi who is a blooming star. What can you really say, there’s not an outfield in baseball you would rather have. If you’re looking for a young player to burst onto the scene and become a face of baseball, it could be Betts or Benintendi.

Boston Red Sox
Boston features a loaded roster that should contend for a championship in 2018 (MLB)

Rotation

The Red Sox rotation figures to include from top to bottom; Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, and a mystery 5th starter. Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright will both start the season on the DL. Brian Johnson, Roenis Elias, and Hector Velazquez will battle for the 5th spot that hasn’t been named yet. Johnson and Elias are both out of options. This rotation features two Cy Young winners (Price / Porcello) and Sale who should have won the Cy Young in 2017. Sale won 17 games and tossed a 2.90 ERA. Boston also gets David Price back for a full year after missing a vast portion of the previous season. Price won 17 games for the Red Sox in 2016 when he was healthy. Pomeranz and Porcello appear to be wildcards. Is the ace Porcello coming back? Can Pomeranz win 17 games again? Can the Red Sox get reliable innings out of the 5th spot?

Bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen actually led the AL in ERA in 2017 but no one seems to understand that. While most people question the overall depth of this group, the Red Sox bullpen is much better than everyone thinks. Craig Kimbrell is the best closer in baseball, that’s not a debate. Boston’s 7th and 8th inning duo should actually be better in 2018 with Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith. Neither was healthy a year ago but are ready to kick some tail this year. Thornburg was dominating for the Brewers throwing a 2.15 ERA and striking out 12.1 per 9 in his final season in Milwaukee. Smith is also a strikeout machine striking out 11.9 in his final season with the Mariners. Joe Kelly, the man who throws a 103 MPH fastball, is also turned out to be a dominant reliever. Heath Hembre and Matt Barnes make up more depth.