With a very uncharacteristically quiet offseason and questions to be answered, the Boston Red Sox are ready to head to Florida to get ready for the upcoming season.
The Sox enter spring training with a good mixture of seasoned veterans and young rookies. Each vying for a spot of the opening day roster, ready to prove what they can offer the team going forward.
Aside from the superstars and well known players, there are always surprise players who seem to breakout out of nowhere. Whether it’s a veteran or rookie, there always seems to be a player or multiple players who earn a roster spot for opening day.
There are multiple players that could earn a spot on the Opening Day roster or can contribute to the Sox this season. Here are some players to keep an eye on.
First we start with a former top overall Sox prospect Blake Swihart. The very athletic Catcher turned potential utility player, has a rough time in his short career in the majors. Injuries and subpar defesive play have made life tough for Swihart.
A catcher by trade, Swihart also played multiple games out in left field for the Sox before a season ending ankle injury in 2016. He missed most of 2017 season but did return to playing after the mid season point. Splitting time between the Gulf Coast League (GCL) Red Sox, Pawtucket Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox in 2017, Swihart heads to spring training looking to learn multiple positions to try and add value and versatility to his game.
The switch hitter does have power and can drive in runs and the Sox believe he is athletic enough to play multiple positions and hope he can contribute. Swihart is out of options, meaning Swihart must be on the 40-man roster to start the season or the Red Sox risk losing him on waivers to another team.
The next player to watch is left handed pitcher Jalen Beeks. Splitting time between the AA Portland Sea Dogs and AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, Beeks has quickly established himself as a left handed option out of the bullpen or rotation.
Beeks is a 2014 14th round pick out of The University of Arkansas. Beeks was 5-1 in 9 games started with Portland and 6-7 in 17 games started for Pawtucket. His overall stats for the year 11-8, 3.29 ERA, 155 strikeouts, 55 walks in 145 innings pitched.
Beeks could be the left handed option the Sox could be looking for out of the bullpen this year.
Speaking of left handed pitchers, Brian Johnson played most of last season with the Pawtucket Red Sox but did make 5 starts for the Boston Red Sox last season.
Johnson was 2-0 with a 4.33 ERA, gave up 13 earned runs, and had 21 strikeouts with eight walks in 21 innings pitched. Johnson could slide into the rotation out of spring training or make the roster as one of the left handed pitching options out of the bullpen.
The 27 year old as finally worked out the kinks, physically and mentally and seems to be ready to contribute to the Sox this season. Johnson has struggled with anxiety and had to step away from the game for a short period to sort it out.
The last player to watch is Sox top position prospect Michael Chavis. The 22 year old 2014 first round pick has quickly become a player all eyes are on in Boston. The third baseman had a great year in the minors hitting .282, with 31 homeruns, a .347 on base percentage, and .563 slugging percentage. He also played in the Arizona Fall League, where he led his team to the championship and was named Most Valuable Player.
Chavis, while playing in the Arizona Fall League (AFL), played first base, to try and better his chances of making the roster or being called up at some point of the season. Chavis is currently blocked at third base by Rafael Devers.
Chavis is a talented player, who can rake at the plate and has raw power that few possess. He is an average defender but has a very good arm and can make the difficult throws. His bat alone might be his ticket to Fenway, especially if the Sox struggle hitting this year or fail to add a big bat to the lineup.
These three players could all contribute to the Sox this season at various times. The “where and when” are unknown but if they have a great spring training it could be sooner rather than later.
While we are on the topic of contributing, there are some players on the Sox looking to bounce back and help lead the team to a World Series championship.
Starter David Price is one of those players. Hindered by an elbow injury early in the season and then again later in the season, Price was able to make his way back to the team and contribute down the stretch and into the post season. He pitched out of the bullpen in the last few weeks of the season and in the American League Divisional Series. He made some adjustments to his delivery and grips on his pitches, which helped him finish the season strong. Price will look to return to his dominant self and co-ace the Sox to victory this season.
Fellow starter Rick Porcello has some extra motivation this season as well. After a 22 win and Cy Young award winning 2016 season, Porcello had a very inconsistent season, filled with highs and lows. Porcello has spent the offseason training with Sox Ace Chris Sale and top pitching prospect Jason Groome, in hopes of regaining his Cy Young form.
Hanley Ramirez, who was signed in the hopes of trying to fill the hole left by David Ortiz’s retirement, has been subpar in his second stint with the Sox. Injuries and very inconsistent play have been a issue for Ramirez. Despite a shoulder injury, Ramirez managed to hit 23 home runs. After offseason surgery, Ramirez is primed and ready to help wake up the Red Sox offense this year.
Finally two key players that had need to have a great season for the Sox to be successful, are 2016 MVP runner-up outfielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Both of these young, extremely talented Sox core players had statistically down years. Both players hit for lower batting averages and lower homerun numbers. Knowing both of these players as competitive, hard-nosed players, they will be playing with a chip on their shoulders to help the Sox not only three-peat as AL East champions, but lead the team to a World Series championship.