Sunday, January 28, 2007

Now that the Sox have actually signed J.D. Drew, I thought I would take a look at the team as it stands now. There have been reports that Theo has been having talks with the Colorado Rockies about Todd Helton, but until something comes of that, this is our team as it stands now.

Starting pitching: This should be a strength of the team, assuming the starters live up to their potential. Curt Schilling stays atop the rotation in his last year, and you have to think that he'll want to go out with a good one. The core of the rotation is the three 26-year-olds, Matsuzaka, Papelbon and Beckett. All three have giant question marks: Beckett had a difficult time adapting to the American League last year. Papelbon was a lights out closer, but has only started 3 games in the majors. Despite all the hype, Matsuzaka has never pitched in the American big leagues. However, if these three guys live up to their potential, they could easily win 45-50 games total. The back of the rotation is anchored by Tim Wakefield, who will have his bad moments but will likely be better than any number five starter in the league. Joel Pinero and Julian Tavarez are available if any of the top five guys should falter.

Relief pitching: This is the number one question mark on the team. While there are going to be nearly a dozen players vying for spots in the bullpen in Spring Training, there is no obvious choice for the closer. The young guys like Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen and Bryan Cox have the most upside potential, but I'm guessing you won't be able to rely on them out of the gate. There is a group of veterans like Pinero, Tavarez, Brendan Donnelly and Mike Timlin, but none of them has any significant closing experience except the 41-year-old Timlin. It's going to be interesting to see how this shakes out in March. If no one steps up to be the go to guy in the 9th inning by July, you'll see Theo going hard after someone like Chad Cordero from the Nationals at the trading deadline.

Infield: Assuming no Helton deal, the corners remain the same with outstanding defense from Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell at first and third. If they can both hit like they did last year, I would be pretty happy with that. The middle of the infield is all new, with free agent SS Julio Lugo and rookie 2B Dustin Pedroia making up the new keystone combo. Lugo will be a huge offensive upgrade from Alex Gonzalez, although you lose something on defense. Pedroia hit below the Mendoza Line in a short stint last September, but he looks like a player from what I saw of him at Pawtucket. This will be his chance to show what he can do. Alex Cora continues to ably backup at 2B, SS and 3B, and I'm sure we'll be seeing Wily Mo Pena over at 1B from time to time, either spelling Youk giving or Lowell a night off as Youk moves across the diamond.

Outfield: The outfield could either be a strength of this team or a disaster, depending on the health of Drew and Coco Crisp, and the interest level of Manny. Coco broke his finger in April and never fully recovered, never living up to the expectations fans had for him as Johnny Damon's replacement. If he can get back to his 2005 Cleveland numbers, that would be huge. Although Coco made one of the most spectacular catches I have ever seen last season, he also takes some, um, interesting routes to balls as well. The Sox were so worried about J.D. Drew's health, they waited nearly two months to finalize the signing while haggling with agent Scott Boras over an out clause in the contract related to Drew's shoulder issues. Drew could easily be a 25 HR, 90 RBI guy hitting behind Manny and Papi if he stays healthy, but that's the big if with J.D., isn't it? Manny will give us his standard 40 HRs and 120 RBI if all goes well, but I'm sure we'll have a few more episodes of "Manny Being Manny" this year. Wily Mo Pena will be there if any of these guys goes down, but his defense is still an adventure, especially in the corner outfield positions.

Catcher: I'm hoping that Jason Varitek's offensive falloff last year was due to some nagging injuries early and the knee injury that made him miss a bunch of games. While Tek can call a game with the best of them, I'm hoping he's not getting old as he turns 35 this year. As for his backup, well, Doug Mirabelli can sure catch that knuckleball, can't he? If Dougie should continue to fall off after his poor performance last year, George Kottaras, acquired in the David Wells trade, is waiting in the wings.

Designated Hitter: Big Papi. Need I say more?

The Sox still look like an interesting team. If they can figure out the bullpen and stay reasonably healthy, they should be a force to reckon with in the A.L. East.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker