The regular season is finally just a couple of days away! On Thursday, all of the Red Sox’s supposed overblown sins of the previous season will be washed away. The club will start anew with a fresh start, a different direction, and a chip on their shoulder. Before the season got underway, I wanted to put share a few of my bold (and probably a few “not so bold”) predictions for the Red Sox’s 2012 season.
David Ortiz will regress against lefties
I know that there are a lot of people who believe David Ortiz is back, but I’m here to tell you that he’s probably not. After struggling mightily against lefties for three consecutive seasons, Ortiz broke out in a big way last season putting up an impressive .426 wOBA against southpaws in 2011. While his new found success was certainly a welcome surprise, we probably shouldn’t expect him to recreate his performance in 2012. After all, he’s the same hitter that produced .321, .310, and .268 marks against LHP between 2008-2010 respectively. Perhaps I’m being a bit skeptical, but I find it hard to believe that he suddenly figured out lefties after struggling for quite some time. We should probably expect his overall performance to be a lot closer to 2010 than 2011.
Felix Doubront will not be in the rotation on Memorial Day
I know a lot of people feel good about Doubront being named the number four starter, but please forgive me if I’m not entirely sold. I realize that his 2.70 spring training ERA is pleasing to the eye, but its not entirely representative of his performance. His 10/6 K/BB ratio and 18 hits allowed in 16-2/3 innings are hardly anything to be excited about, and those numbers could get worse once he starts facing a heavy, consistent diet of major league quality hitters. His career 2.14 and 2.26 K/BB ratios in AA and AAA make me wonder if he has the command needed to be a starting pitcher in the majors. Doubront is certainly a very talented pitcher, but I feel as if his skill set could best be used out of the bullpen. He’ll certainly get a shot to prove himself, but don’t be surprised if he’s supplanted by Aaron Cook right around May 1st.
Ryan Sweeney will be traded by the July 31st deadline
Honestly, I really like Sweeney. He’s a decent hitter that gets on base, has some extra base power, and seems like a natural fit to defend in the expansive Fenway right field. In the right role, he can be a very effecitve player for a contender. Unfortunately, his skill set is a little undervalued, and his platoon partner Cody Ross has the reputation of being a clutch player. Neither helps his case. Further complicating his situation is the presence of Ryan Kalish who will hopefully be ready to a regular mainstay on the 25-man roster by June or July. If he is, Sweeney becomes expendable. With Doubront and Daniel Bard, both unproven as major league starting pitchers, filling up the final two spots in the rotation, it would be wise for Ben Cherington if he scoured the market in search of reliable starting pitching. Sweeney can’t/won’t be the keystone of any trade, but he could certainly be a valuable piece.
Kevin Youkilis will play at least 135 games
I don’t really have much to back this up. It’s just a feeling. He came into spring training in February in the “best shape of his life.” While that may be a massive cliche, he seems to be taking his conditioning very seriously, and that will hopefully only mean good things for he and the Red Sox. Unless he gets hit with a freak injury, 135 games seems like a decent goal. That said, I expect he makes at least one trip to the disabled list.
Please note two things: (1) I’m saying he’ll take a step toward supplanting Beckett as the number two starter, and (2) I’m not saying Beckett will have a bad year. For the past two seasons, Buchholz has showed us flashes of the kind of pitcher he’s capable of being when everything is working. Now, it’s time for him to take that all important next step forward. He seemed to be making that transition over his last eight starts before going down his a lower back injury in mid-June; producing a 2.57 ERA with a 43/13 K/BB ratio in 49 innings over that stretch. This spring he’s looked pretty solid. While he’s allowing too many fly balls and not striking out enough batters, I’m not terribly concerned. Spring Training is more about the approach and process than it is the results. Right now, he’s attacking the strikezone more aggressively, so I like his chances of taking that next step forward in 2012.
Andrew Bailey will miss spend at least six weeks on the DL
Do I really need an explanation for this one? He already has a wrist injury that will potentially require surgery. The only place you’ll get better odds than Bailey hitting the DL is if you went to Vegas and counted cards at a blackjack table.
Ryan Lavarnway siezes catching role by August
I like the catching combination of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach on paper, but I’m not sure it will work so well in reality. I hope I’m wrong. Still, both will be under a lot of pressure to perform if Lavarnway sets the International League afire like we all know he’s capable of doing. If Shoppach, in particular, is struggling at the plate, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him moved as part of a deal to bring in another piece to the puzzle.
Bobby V will act like a diva
Again, no explanation is really needed, but I’ll try. I expect a full array of altercations with the media, Joe Girardi (and the rest of the Yankee brass), umpires, and probably a player or two by the end of the season. Everyone loves his fiery attitude, but he tends to create unnecessary drama. I don’t know whether or not that will help the club or not (it could as it will place the spotlight/pressure on him rather than the players), but it’s pretty clear we’ll be talking about him all season long.
Carl Crawford makes a comeback
Don’t expect to see the Crawford of 2009 or 2010 this season. His wrist injury has pretty much destroyed any of that happening. That said, I fully expect him to have a productive season both at the plate and in the field. He seems more focus, relaxed, and comfortable this season. This should only help his performance. I’m projecting a ..330-340 wOBA will solid defense, which should be good for 3-4 fWAR.
Jacoby Ellsbury will hit approximately 20 home runs
It’s pretty safe to say that Ellsbury’s power will regress in 2012, but I don’t expect it to regress all the way back to his pre-2011 levels. According to Hit Tracker Online, only six of his 32 home runs were of the “Just Enough” and “Lucky” varieties, which signifies that his power output was legit last season. Still, conditions will change this season, and its possible more of his long fly ball/would be home runs will be hit into heavy in blowing winds or to the wrong part of the ballpark; thus reducing his total. I expect him to hit 20 home runs +/- 2 in 2012.