With only sixteen days left before the Sox open their season in Detroit, manager Bobby Valentine is preparing to make his second round of cuts and iron out the final plans for the starting rotation and the bullpen. With that in mind, I thought I’d take my best educated guess on what the Sox’ 25-man Opening Day roster will be.
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia – Salty is going to be close to the everyday backstop for this club. There’s a lot of things he can improve on after last season, but hopefully the responsibility of being the everyday starter will effect his offensive production in a positive way.
2. Kelly Shoppach – Ryan Lavarnway is going to get his chance at the major league level, but it won’t be in the first month of the season. Shoppach has the experience, and with Valentine’s crusade to throw more runners out, Shoppach is his man.
3. Adrian Gonzalez – Gonzo claims he hasn’t been fully healthy the last two seasons. Considering the numbers he put up last year, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the American League.
4. Dustin Pedroia- What more can you say?
5. Mike Aviles- He’s going to be the everyday shortstop. He hasn’t started in another position all of Spring Training, even with the whispers that he may get some time in the outfield. Like Ryan Lavarnway, Jose Iglesias will have his time, but he’s going to have to wait for at least a few more months.
6. Kevin Youkilis- Youk’s advanced defensive metrics showed that he wasn’t that bad of a third baseman last year. The naked eye would tell you otherwise. He definitely looked shaky at times, but I’ll take that shaky defense all season if he can just stay healthy, his bat is what’s valuable.
7. Nick Punto- He’ll be the backup… well pretty much the backup everything. Don’t be surprised to see him get more playing time than you’d expect from a utility man, Valentine loves these type of players.
8. Jacoby Ellsbury – Probably should have won the MVP award last year. It will be interesting to see just how much he regresses, especially with free agency looming two summers down the road.
9. Cody Ross- He’s going to surprise a lot of people. He’s seeing the ball well in Spring Training, and the Green Monster will only help his offense.
10. Ryan Sweeney- He’s on track to start in left field on Opening Day with Carl Crawford headed for the disabled list. Don’t expect much from his bat, but his defense will turn heads now and then. He’ll become the fourth outfielder once Crawford’s left wrist fully heals.
11. Darnell McDonald- He’s killing the ball this spring, and with Crawford on the disabled list, the team needs a fourth outfielder to start the season. Once Crawford returns…well, that may be the end of Darnell’s time with Boston.
12. David Ortiz- Papi has kind of quietly had two very solid years in a row. Expect some regression, but he’s still the best DH in the game.
13. Jon Lester- Officially your Opening Day starter. Lester has been on the verge of really breaking out for the past few years, it would great to finally see him bloom into the Cy Young contender we all know he is capable of being.
14. Josh Beckett- If you look at his numbers closely, Beckett has a strange tendency to excel in odd numbered years, and completely bomb in even numbered years. Of course, that trend doesn’t bode well for this year, but his 1.24 ERA this spring is a solid start.
15. Clay Buchholz- He proved two years ago that he can be a top starter. That being said, he needs to be healthy to do that. There are some serious concerns about his back, and if he goes down early, the Sox are in serious trouble in terms of starting rotation depth.
16. Daniel Bard- Best case scenario: Bard blooms into a very reliable starter, even an ace. Worst case scenario: Bard bombs his first couple of starts and has to be awkwardly transitioned back to the bullpen. Of all the storylines going into the season, Bard’s transition to the starting rotation is the most interesting in my eyes, and probably the most significant for the sake of the team.
17. Felix Doubront- He was rough in his last outing, but he’s been nothing but solid this spring. With no Minor League options left, he has to start the year with the major league club, and it seems like the Sox are preparing him to start.
18. Andrew Bailey- Say hello to your new closer. Bailey’s health is the key factor, but he has been one of the best relievers in the game over the last few seasons. I don’t expect that to change.
19. Mark Melancon- The only other lock to make the bullpen. He’s struggled this spring, but Melancon was very solid last year, and he should be a good fit for the eighth inning.
20. Alfredo Aceves- It’s tough to leave him out of the rotation, but Aceves is just too valuable in the bullpen. It seems unlikely that the Sox would move both him and Bard out of the bullpen, and Bard has all but been named a starter already, so Ace is the odd man out.
21. Michael Bowden- He’s out of minor league options, so Boston needs to find a place for him. He’s not going to be a starter, so that leaves one spot: the bullpen. He pitched well as Pawtcuket’s closer, and I like him as a sleeper to actually make a difference out of the pen.
22. Andrew Miller- Like Bowden and Doubront, Miller is out of minor league options. They need at least one lefty in the pen, and if Doubront is starting and with Franklin Morales injured, he’ll be the man.
23. Matt Albers- He was brutal after the All Star break last year, and that’s an understatement. Don’t forget though, that he did have a truly remarkable first half. If he pitches somewhere between those two extremes, he’ll be a serviceable reliever.
24. Vicente Padilla- It’s going to be hard not to give him a spot. He’s pitched very well this spring, and has done so in relief. At this point, the Sox are reaching for options out of the pen, and Padilla is proving to be as a solid an option as any of the other low risk, high reward candidates.
25. This is a tough one. There’s really no clear cut option. It seems to be between Brandon Duckworth, Aaron Cook, and Ross Ohlendorf. One option I see is that Cook becomes the fifth starter and Doubront moves to the pen. That being said, Valentine has mentioned a few times now that Cook will probably need more time before they are comfortable with him pitching on a normal schedule. Duckworth is a very shaky option, but he’s pitched pretty well this Spring. I’ll tentatively put him in this spot for now, but tentatively is the key word there.
So there you have it. We’ll see how the chips fall in the next sixteen days, but expect a roster that at least resembles this one come Opening Day in Detroit.
Categories: Boston Red Sox