The 2014 edition of the Red Sox looks poised to contend again for the AL East crown. It’s a deep team with several stars and veteran leaders, balanced by some young talent. Baseball Prospectus predicts they’re an 88 win team. Every team has weaknesses though, and here are three weaknesses that could derail the season and lead to the Red Sox missing the playoffs.
1. Depth at third base and shortstop
One of the reasons I advocated re-signing Stephen Drew this offseason was to provide depth on the left side of the infield. The Red Sox don’t have great options if either Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts struggle. Jonathan Herrera and Brock Holt* are decent backups, but really don’t hit enough to be full time players.
Within the organization, Garin Cecchini might be ready to take over third if Will Middlebrooks struggles. This would be replacing an unproven player with another unproven player. Deven Marrero plays major league quality defense at shortstop, but his .252/.338/.317 offensive line from last year shows he doesn’t have anywhere near the offensive upside of Xander Bogaerts.
There are always trade options outside the organization if injuries or poor performance necessitate a change. Until Stephen Drew signs somewhere else, he remains an option as well.
It would be difficult for any player to match the season Jacoby Ellsbury produced in 2013. The Red Sox have two imperfect options for 2014 in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore. Bradley Jr. possesses strong on base and defensive skills, but the jury is still out on whether he will provide enough offensive value. Sizemore hasn’t played a meaningful amount of games in two years due to a variety of injuries.
The best option would be to keep both on the team. This way Sizemore can limit his games and hopefully avoid injury, and Bradley Jr. can ease his way into the lineup. Keeping both, though, could have a negative impact on other areas of the roster.
3. David Ortiz
David Ortiz is certainly not a weakness on the Red Sox, but he’s the player on the roster that would be the most difficult to replace. His injury in 2012 was the final blow the team couldn’t recover from, leading to the team tumbling out of contention. Mike Carp and Ryan Lavarnway would be decent stopgaps, but couldn’t match the offensive output and leadership Big Papi provides.
A Red Sox team without David Ortiz would have missed these moments in 2013:
If you think I identified Ortiz as a “weakness” as an excuse to add that video, you’re absolutely right.
These are three areas that could lead to struggles in 2014 for the Red Sox. Hopefully the depth the club has built and their financial clout will allow them to address these issues if they do become problems this season.