“But Malik! We got Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price! The best rotation in baseball!” While that may be true, this team is flawed. Seriously flawed. More flawed than most fans and media members are letting on.
It’s truly amazing how much the retirement of David Ortiz has been downplayed. If you want to win a World Series, you need a feared left handed hitter who has a good amount of power. Do the Red Sox have that lefty? Andrew Benintendi could become the answer, but even if he does produce, the Sox need more.
Who are the Red Sox best bats in the lineup? Pedroia, Betts, Bogaerts, Ramirez. All right handed bats.
Not only do they not have any left handed power, they really do not have much power at all. Hanley Ramirez is their only true power bat, but can the Red Sox trust him to be as productive as he was last year?
Ramirez has played over 145 games only twice since 2009, including last year. Before last season, he had only hit 30 home runs once, in 2008. Before last season, he had only hit in over 100 runs once, in 2009.
Let’s not forget about Pablo Sandoval. He hasn’t had an effective season since 2014, and you can only hope that he has put his weight issues behind him, and that he has fully recovered from the torn shoulder labrum that ended his 2016 campaign prematurely. If Pablo doesn’t produce, there are not many options behind him. Brock Holt is an effective utility bench player, but his role is not as a starter. Josh Rutledge certainly should not be your everyday third baseman. The Red Sox have essentially placed all their eggs in the Pablo Sandoval basket, a risky proposition.
To sum it all up, the feared Red Sox offense we saw last season, will become a small ball type of offense, featuring mostly right handed batters. It’s not a recipe you want to rely on.
Let’s go to the pitching now. Red Sox fans everywhere rejoiced when Clay Buccholz, the epitome of false hope, was traded to the Phillies in a salary dump. What a mistake. If you’re going all in to win a championship, you need as many major league arms as you can compile. And believe it or not, Buccholz is a half-decent pitcher.
The Red Sox may be feeling the effects sooner rather than later, as both Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright are behind schedule and have yet to participate in Spring Training. That leaves Drew Pomeranz and minor league pitchers, such as Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Sean O’Sullivan. Both Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright have been fairly injury prone in their careers, and Drew Pomeranz’s first year as a full-time starter saw him develop some forearm/elbow issues, indicating his arm can eventually give out if needed to pitch as many innings as he pitches last season.
The bad news isn’t over. Henry Owens, the next man up, has a major league career ERA of 5.19 in 16 games started, including an ugly 6.95 ERA last season. Brian Johnson? Anxiety issues have derailed him from pitching much in the major leagues, but his 8.31 ERA certainly isn’t a good start. Sean O’Sullivan’s numbers aren’t a whole lot prettier, with a major league career ERA of 6.01. The three aces can only do so much, the depth behind them is not good.
Now to the bullpen. The bullpen certainly has some good pieces, but there are also some question marks there. Craig Kimbrel had a rollercoaster debut season as a member of the Red Sox. Can he right the ship and hold down the 9th?
Tyler Thornburg had a great season last season as a setup man, but his elbow is an accident waiting to happen, after electing to rehab instead of Tommy John surgery. Joe Kelly showed flashes of being an effective reliever, but he isn’t a lock to perform well this season. Matt Barnes and Robby Ross Jr were inconsistent, but showed that they could be effective, situational relievers.
This team is flawed, but they are certainly talented enough to win the World Series. Lets not pretend though that the Cleveland Indians are not the AL favorites.