We’re just over a week away from Opening Day (mercifully, I might add). You know what that means? Time for some crazy, random, polarizing predictions about the upcoming Red Sox season. Here’s nine of them, one for every minute that Clay Buchholz takes to deliver a pitch from the stretch:
1. Pablo Sandoval Will Eat Travis Shaw By May
1. Pablo Sandoval Will Actually Be Pretty Good
It’s become en vogue among Red Sox fans to bemoan the untimely demise of their hyper-expensive, Chris Farley-shaped third baseman. There’s a good reason for that: Sandoval showed up to Fort Meyers looking like this, and saying that 2015 was “not a disappointment“, which isn’t exactly the best way to endear yourself to the local media and fanbase. Sandoval’s struggles last season were well documented; not only did he post full-season career lows in nearly every offensive category, he was the worst everyday player in baseball per fWAR. With Travis Shaw breathing down his neck and Sandoval getting off to a slow start in Grapefruit League action, the calls for Sandoval’s head have gotten even louder. But the Panda’s bat has picked it up as of late, and while his fielding remains a mess I’m willing to hope that’s a matter of rust over anything else. All he has to do is post something like a .275/.330/.420 slash line with passable defense and all of the negative narratives will go away. Sandoval has worked extensively on his switch hitting this offseason, and his righty swing looks better than in 2015. Last year was a disaster for him, no doubt, but I have a feeling he’ll resemble something closer to what the Red Sox invested in two autumns ago.
2. Eduardo Rodriguez Won’t Make More Than 15 Starts
Remember how that knee injury Rodriguez suffered during a fielding drill early in camp allegedly wasn’t a big deal? Well, in typical Red Sox training staff fashion, it turns out that tweak of the knee was actually a dislocated kneecap. Rodriguez has missed nearly all of Spring Training and is going to start the season on the disabled list, though he has started throwing off of a mound again so he’s likely about a month or so away. However, something tells me that this is going to be one of those things that lingers, either tangibly with another injury or more abstractly, with the altered timetable hurting E-Rod’s season so dramatically that he has to make a stint back in Pawtucket. Either way, there’s a chance we won’t be seeing much of Rodriguez this season.
3. Chris Young Will Have More Plate Appearances Than Rusney Castillo
Young was an under the radar purchase by the Sox this offseason, and he’ll provide a good insurance policy should Castillo or Jackie Bradley Jr. struggle for an extended period of time. Here’s the thing though: I think it’s likely that Young ends up as more than a fourth outfielder or JBJ’s platoon partner. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Castillo, who has a penchant for getting nicked with nagging injuries, misses plenty of time this season. Castillo has also posted a .262/.302/.379 line in 329 career plate appearances, and was both inconsistent and unimpressive at the dish last year. Should Castillo’s erratic performance linger for too long, I’d expect John Farrell to begin giving Young more time, perhaps even to the point of a starting outfield gig.
4. Robbie Ross Will Be A Part of the Next Player/Reporter Sex Scandal
I mean, look at this flow:
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) March 7, 2016
Does anyone stand a chance against that? No freaking way. #Pray4BostonMediaMembers
5. David Ortiz Will Hit As Many HRs as Years He’s Existed On This Earth
Here are Big Papi’s home run totals from the past five seasons:
2012: 23 (in only 90 games)
Look, is it likely that Ortiz will make it to 40 dingers for the first time since 2006? Probably not. But he knocked 37 out of the park last season, and was about 50 plate appearances short of 40 bombs based on his HR/PA rate. He’s been around the mid 30s three out of the last five seasons (yes, I’m counting 2012 as one of those years. He was on a 35+ HR rate that year before he got hurt). Plus, I’d be lying if I didn’t want to see Ortiz go out with one of his best seasons just to stick it to the debacle that was the #Re2pect tour.
That spring training retirement ceremony thing is still pretty lame though.
6. Mookie Betts Will Finish Top Three In AL MVP Voting
In February our own Sheridan Prestero covered how important Betts is to the Red Sox playoff hopes this season, and what skills he brings to the table on a game to game basis. I’d argue that Betts is so important, and so skilled, that he’ll have a season that positions him as a serious challenger for the AL MVP trophy in 2016. ZiPS currently has him projected as a 5.4 win player with a .297/.355/.474 line, which would put him fourth in the American League. Betts has also been working on his opposite field hitting, per the Providence Journal, and if he can take an improved approach and apply it to a more diverse game, we could have a 20/25 type player on our hands. If the Red Sox are a playoff-caliber team this year and Betts outperforms his projection just a bit, he could be a dark horse MVP candidate.
7. Jake Arrieta Will Have An ERA Over 3.50 This Season
I know this prediction isn’t Red Sox related, but I’ve convinced myself that this is going to happen. Arrieta threw 248.2 innings last season, including the postseason. His previous high was in 2010, when he threw 173.1 innings between AAA and the majors. You don’t think there’s a chance he’s going to be worn down from that extra mileage? Plus everyone and their mother thinks the Cubs are the favorite to win the World Series, which all but guarantees that they’ll win only 75 games. That collapse would start with Arrieta taking a major step back.
8. The Red Sox Will Win Only 10 Games in September…
Take a look at the Red Sox’s schedule for September:
Notice anything? I’ll give you a hint. Check out all of the games in red (aka home games). Or rather, look at how few of them there are. The Red Sox have a MLB-low eight home games in the final full month of the regular season, including a nice little West Coast swing to start September. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out those aren’t great circumstances. Say the Sox go 4-4 at home, they would have to go 6-13 on the road in order to make this bold prediction come to come to fruition. A .315 winning percentage is really low, but not outrageously so, especially in a <20 game sample size.
9. But Will Still Make it to the ALDS, Where They’ll Get Swept
Despite that late season swoon, I still think Boston will have given itself just enough of a buffer to take the final two games against Toronto and sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Of course, assuming David Price takes the ball in the one game playoff, he won’t be available to start either of the first two games of the ALDS. That would expose the Sox’s weaker #2 and #3 guys (Buchholz? Rodriguez? Rick Porcello? Who exactly are the guys in those roles again?) against the best team in the AL’s top two pitchers, which could start the Red Sox on the road to an early October exit. Of course, this team could completely blow past expectations and win it all, or miss the postseason entirely. That’s the beauty of the weeks leading up to Opening Day; anything is possible.
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