After another excruciating wait, the Boston Red Sox are finally about to start up spring training. If you’re looking for exciting positional battles, this isn’t the camp for you. Most of the roster spots are already set, as the Red Sox basically chose to bring back the exact same team that won 108 games and a World Series. However, there are a few players to keep an eye on during the Boston Red Sox spring training.
Boston Red Sox Spring Training: Top Five Players to Watch
In theory, Boston Red Sox longtime second baseman Dustin Pedroia will be ready to go for the start of the 2018 season. However, Pedroia’s body has started to wear out over the past few seasons and nobody has heard a recent update on the 35-year old. A 2017 knee injury limited Pedroia to just three games in 2018, but hopefully Pedroia can return to health in 2019.
Out of all the non-bullpen positions, second base is easily the weakest spot on the Red Sox roster. If the season started today, the Red Sox would send out one of Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, or Tzu-Wei Lin to start. Each player has their strengths but all three are best served as depth pieces. Pedroia has yet to be healthy and bad at the same time, so if healthy the 35-year old should take back the starting second base job. He probably won’t be a 162-game player anymore, but he can still have a big role on this roster. As spring training moves along, we’ll know more and more about Pedroia’s health and whether he’ll be ready for the start of the season.
The biggest question mark on the Red Sox roster is the bullpen. Boston already lost Joe Kelly in free agency and appear likely to lose Craig Kimbrel. After signing nobody of note to replace these two, Boston will have to rely on their organizational depth to fill out their major league bullpen.
There are quite a few pitchers competing for a major league spot, but perhaps none are more interesting than right-handed relief pitcher Travis Lakins. Possessing a 98 mile per hour fastball and a nasty cutter, Lakins immediately drove up the Red Sox prospect rankings after converting to a reliever. He’s not going to earn the closer role, but there’s a real chance Lakins makes the Opening Day roster and plays a major role on the squad.
The Boston Red Sox are currently carrying three catchers on their active roster, but that almost certainly won’t be the case by Opening Day. Christian Vazquez’ spot on the roster is safe, so Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart will battle it out for the backup catcher position.
This will really be a battle of Blake Swihart versus himself. At this point, the Red Sox know exactly what Sandy Leon brings to the team. He’s an above average glove with a significantly below average bat. Swihart, on the other hand, has the chance to be a lot more than that. If Swihart can find the swing that made him a top prospect, then he should win the backup job and possibly challenge Vazquez for the starting job. If not, Swihart could find himself traded for pennies on the dollar.
Darwinzon Hernandez might be the most exciting pitcher in the Red Sox farm system, and he’s currently my second-ranked Red Sox prospect. The 22-year old lefty has a ferocious fastball and a nasty curveball capable of getting just about anyone out. However, he struggles with control and might not be able to last as a starting pitcher. With the Red Sox bullpen in such ugly shape, Boston could elect to turn Hernandez into a reliever if he can’t start finding the strike zone.
Doing that would be a mistake in this writer’s opinion. Hernandez is still young, so his command could improve with time. Additionally, Hernandez has such a filthy pitch tool that it seems foolish to give up on him as a starter simply due to poor major league roster construction. That said, Hernandez is at least a year away from making it to the majors as a starter. If he was converted to a reliever, he’d probably only need a month or two in the minors. It’s not an ideal plan by any means, but it could help the Red Sox in the short term.
Of all the players on this list, third baseman Bobby Dalbec is the only one with no chance of cracking the major league roster. Buried behind Rafael Devers and Michael Chavis, Dalbec still has a few glaring holes in his game. However, his ceiling is unmatched among Red Sox positional prospects.
Dalbec is an above-average fielder, but what makes him so exciting is his bat. According to his former manager, Dalbec “easily” has more raw power than former prospects Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, and Rafael Devers. The results speak for themselves, as the righty hit 32 home runs during the 2018 season.
Despite his power, Dalbec isn’t a perfect hitter. The 6’4”, 225-pound giant cannot hit a curveball to save his life and strikes out over 30% of the time. It’s this weakness in his game which keeps him from being one of the top-100 prospects in the league. However, if Dalbec can finally start hitting off-speed pitches, he could end up being one of the top prospects in all of baseball. If everything breaks right for him, Dalbec is the Red Sox version of Aaron Judge. That said, it’s anything but a guarantee that everything breaks right for Dalbec. Every time Dalbec’s at the plate, make sure to watch for how he handles offspeed pitches.
Who are you most excited to see in Spring Training? Let us know in the poll below:
Who are you most excited to watch/monitor and Red Sox spring training (if not on the poll, comment and let us know!)
— Red Sox Unfiltered (@bosoxunfiltered) February 9, 2019