Friday, March 9, 2012

My biggest concerns (or lack thereof) about the 2012 Red Sox

After last season's epic September collapse, the Sox enter this year with a number of lingering questions.  The one I'm hearing most frequently is "Who's going to play shortstop?"  After trading away Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie, Boston is left with utility men Mike Aviles and Nick Punto, as well as slick fielding prospect Jose Iglesias (whom they clearly want to keep in Pawtucket for now).  I don't see this as an issue.  Aviles hit .317 in 38 games for Boston last year.  And even if they don't get much production from him (or Punto) this year, is it really that big a deal to have a weak hitting shortstop in an otherwise fairly stacked lineup?

There is also uncertainty with the pitching rotation behind Lester, Beckett, and Buccholz.  Can Bard become an effective starter; and who will be the #5?  Again, I'm not that worried.  Last March I remember making fun of the Yankees for naming A.J. Burnett their #2 starter, and at the time it looked as if they couldn't even fill out their rotation.  However, they still managed to win the A.L. East.  Between Andrew Miller, Felix Dubront, Vincente Padilla, Aaron Cooke, and a number of other guys in camp, someone will step up for Boston and get the job done.  And there's always the option of starting Alfredo Aceves, who has put up some pretty spectacular numbers in the past.

In right field the Red Sox will most likely use a platoon of Cody Ross and Ryan Sweeney (also Darnell McDonald? Ryan Kalish?), which definitely doesn't seem very exciting.  But according to, Boston right fielders batted .233 with 169 strikeouts last season.  Pretty much whatever they run out there is most likely going to be an improvement.  Over in left field there is the curious case of Carl Crawford.  Will he bounce back from last year's debacle?  Everything I know about baseball suggests that his .293 average and 42.7 steals per year, over a ten year career, is a much better indicator than what he did last season.  There's no good reason to believe he won't return to form.

At that brings me to my biggest worry about the 2012 Red Sox: Center field, Jacoby Ellsbury.  I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out.  Jacoby was a MONSTER last year.  Unless he really has become the best player in all of baseball, it's going to be virtually impossible for him to have a repeat performance.  So even if he's just "very good" this season, everybody is going to be wondering "What's wrong with Jacoby?"  That's a difficult situation to be in, kind of like how I felt about the Red Sox as a whole heading into 2005, when there was no conceivable way to top 2004.  But all in all if that's my biggest concern, I'd say the outlook is pretty good.

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