2018 Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

This piece is part of the Replacement Level 2018 Team Preview Series. An introduction to the series, as well as a brief explanation of the projections used, can be found here.

2017 Review

Record

Pythag Record

BaseRuns Record

Runs Scored

Runs Against

93-69

93-69

87-75

785

668

Dave Dombrowski continued to do what Dave Dombrowski does best: trade any prospect of value for an immediate big league gain. The Red Sox, after acquiring ace Chris Sale, came into the 2017 season with expectations of blowing away the division. They were able to do so, but unfortunately for the Red Sox, this gave them the privilege of facing off against an elite Houston Astros offense and quick elimination from the playoffs.

Missing David Ortiz, the Red Sox’ offense disappointed across the board in 2017. Without their pudgy team icon the Sox finished with a cumulative wRC+ of 92, finishing 22nd in baseball. Things were much better on the other side of the diamond, with the Red Sox finishing with the 3rd best team FIP behind elite seasons from Sale and Craig Kimbrel.

Offseason in Review:

Key Additions – J.D. Martinez, Eduardo Nunez

In an ode to former GM Jack Zduriencik, the Red Sox’ major free agent acquisition was a player without a real position given the current roster construction. The one thing Martinez should do is hit. Over the last four seasons, he has the 5th best wRC+ (148) in baseball, trailing only Trout, Votto, Stanton, and Harper. An early adopter of the fly-ball craze, Martinez should thrive in Boston, lifting balls over the Green Monster and poking them to right with ease. However new manager Alex Cora manages to get him in the lineup, Martinez should provide the Ortisian slugger that was missing last year. Nunez was brought in as a utility player capable of filling in at a number of positions. Slated to start at 2B for an injured Dustin Pedroia to begin the year, Nunez should bring average defense, good speed, and slightly above-average offense to the team in 2018.

Key Losses – Addison Reed, Doug Fister

With a quiet offseason, the Red Sox return most of 2017’s roster. Deadline pickup Addison Reed left in free agency, a hole that should be filled with healthy returns by Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg in the pen. With a great finish to the season last year, Fister will be missed rotation depth for an injury-riddled Boston staff. Still, neither of these losses should hamper the Red Sox in 2018.

2018 Projections

ZiPS

Steamer

Pecota

95-67

92-70

89-73

All three projection systems are in agreement that the Red Sox will remain among the elite teams in 2018. Where they finish in the division, however, depends on each set of projections; while Pecota sees the Yankees taking the East by a few games. ZiPS is particularly optimistic about Martinez, forseeing the best finish for the Sox this year at 95 wins.

Key Players:

Mookie Betts is still the nucleus of this Boston offense, with the only thing changing in between his 2016 and 2017 seasons was the addition of some bad luck last year. After finishing 2017 with a BABIP of only .268, look for a nice bounceback season for Betts. 2016’s 7.9 WAR might have been a career season, but if last year’s improvements in plate discipline remain, Betts could put up another MVP-caliber season. Unsurprisingly, Chris Sale thrived after leaving a team telling him to pitch to contact, with the new Red Sox seeing his career-best strikeout rate last year. Faltering a bit in September, Sale remained in the MVP conversation for much of 2017, finishing with a 2.45 FIP. At just 29 years old, Sale should continue as the trustworthy ace in 2018, anchoring a strong rotation. Xander Bogaerts took a step back in his age-24 season, showing a few worrying trends after solidifying himself as one of the better shortstops in the league in the years prior. At the very least, he should maintain solid defense and good speed, but a return in power would go a long way towards improving Boston’s offense.

Key Minor League 2018 Impacts:

The Red Sox’ farm has dropped precipitously over the last few years, from both trades and graduations of players like Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. Jay Groome, the Sox’ 2016 first-round pick, leads the pitching prospects. Injuries have hampered the 19-year-old’s early development, though he still has a mid-90s fastball and good curveball. Michael Chavis began tapping into his raw power in 2017, reaching AA at the young age of 21. Though Chavis will probably spend another year in the minors, Sam Travis looks ready to step-in this year should Mitch Moreland get hurt. Never quite doing as much as you’d like from a 1B prospect, Travis still possesses a good hit tool and above-average plate discipline.

Future Outlook:

The Red Sox continue to look like one of the best teams in baseball. There is some risk on the pitching side this year – both David Price and Drew Pomeranz have had elbow/forearm concerns in the last calendar year – but the Chris Sale-led staff will remain top-notch given good health. The caveat to this, of course, is that Dombrowski has traded away tons of key prospects over his short stint in Boston. Betts, Benintendi, and Devers are young enough to keep the team competitive for years, but, with a middling farm-system, the highs might not elevate to the mid-90 win seasons experienced from 2016 to 2018. The Red Sox should certainly be able to afford pitchers to augment this core, preventing a full rebuild or down period. If they quit handing out huge deals to Pablo Sandoval, that is.

2 thoughts on “2018 Season Preview: Boston Red Sox

  1. Excellent recap and analysis. Good insights into the strategies of our GM who may be banking on the young players currently on the roster to carry the team through the coming years.

    Some concerns however.

    Pudgy?

    Sound like writer’s bias. The Nation prefers “Stocky”. Also, I think you invented a new word, Ortisian. (Even spell check is wondering). I like it.

    Nice writing Aiden, your best of many good pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks! Noted on the Nation’s preference in describing the hero that is Ortiz. Also, I must give credit to RBD on the inclusion of Ortisian, I agree it’s a solid word though!

    Liked by 1 person

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