The biggest problem, that no one is talking about, for this Red Sox team is where is the power going to come from? It is unreal that no one else sees this. Come May, however, everyone will be complaining about this offense. Here are some projections for the 2016 Red Sox lineup. Take note of the lack of twenty-plus home run thumpers (there is only one, and he is forty years old).
Blake Swihart: 432 AB, 7 HR, 51 RBI, .276 avg., .733 OPS
Christian Vazquez: 146 AB, 2 HR, 17 RBI, .251 avg., .652 OPS
At some point the Red Sox and Dave Dombrowski will need to make a decision on which catcher to move ahead with. Pitchers love pitching to Vazquez, but Swihart’s hitting ability has drawn comparisons to Buster Posey. What to do? What to do?
Hanley Ramirez: 496 AB, 19 HR, 71 RBI, .279 avg., .788 OPS
Say what you will about Hanley, but the Red Sox need him in their lineup. And they need him to produce like he did last April when he hit 10 home runs in the month. If Hanley is out of the lineup, this team has zero protection for David Ortiz. Now that Hanley doesn’t have to worry about crashing into The Wall in left field, maybe he can focus more on his hitting. Next year, when David Ortiz is gone, he can focus, exclusively, on hitting.
Dustin Pedroia: 587 AB, 10 HR, 72 RBI, .284 avg., .798 OPS
Brock Holt: 338 AB, 3 HR, 41 RBI, .276 avg., .714 OPS
Pedroia was having a nice bounce-back season last year before pulling a hamstring in late July. In only 381 at-bats, he hit the most home runs (12) in 2015 that he has hit since 2012. Pedroia is a career .299 hitter. He may not be the run-producer he once was, but he is serviceable. His importance to this team goes well beyond the numbers.
Brock Holt will get his playing time at various positions. His natural position is second base, but he will see time at third base, shortstop, and left field. If he gets more than 300 at-bats, that means the Red Sox are in trouble (meaning: “The Red Sox offense will be in trouble in 2016”).
Xander Bogaerts: 616 AB, 12 HR, 84 RBI, .292 avg., .782 OPS
If anyone, besides Mookie Betts, is guaranteed to be penciled in the lineup every day, it will be Bogaerts. Bogaerts finished second, behind Miguel Cabrera, in American League batting average in 2015 with a .320 mark. Not bad for a 22-year-old. Would it be too much to ask if he could improve on his seven home runs?
Pablo Sandoval: 422 AB, 11 HR, 62 RBI, .271 avg., .781 OPS
Travis Shaw: 322 AB, 13 HR, 39 RBI, .248 avg., .801 OPS
This will be the positional battle to watch this season (along with left field). Shaw is the darling of all the fans right now. The problem is fans have seen the best of Shaw. They haven’t seen the minor league Shaw. The minor league Shaw was a power hitter who hit for a poor average. That is who he is.
Shaw may get more of the playing time at third base, and may even get off to a hot start, but he will fade. Then the Red Sox will turn back to Sandoval. Sandoval is who he is. Don’t expect a .300 hitter who will hit 20 home runs. Be happy if he hits .280 with 15 home runs. Settle for the numbers above.
Rusney Castillo: 254 AB, 6 HR, 27 RBI, .257 avg., .736 OPS
Chris Young: 367 AB, 16 HR, 56 RBI, .245 avg., .788 OPS
Yes, Chris Young will get far more at-bats than Rusney Castillo. No, it has nothing to do with injuries. Castillo is, simply, not better than Young. He may not be better than Brock Holt or Travis Shaw, either. He may not even be better than David Murphy.
Jackie Bradley, Jr.: 421 AB, 9 HR, 49 RBI, .244 avg., .742 OPS
Where have we seen this before? Bradley is being handed the starting job in center field. He is being given a chance, once and for all, to prove if he can hit major league pitching. For two months last year, he proved he could. If he can only hit about .240, he is roster worthy. Can he do it?
Mookie Betts: 637 AB, 19 HR, 82 RBI, .296 avg., .822 OPS
Betts and Bogaerts are the cornerstone of the post-Ortiz Era Red Sox. Betts is ready to take the leap into the upper echelon of superstars like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Andrew McCutchen. He hasn’t struggled at any level. He is one of a kind.
It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox drop Betts down lower in the lineup, a la Andrew McCutchen. He may be better suited as a number three, or even clean up hitter, than Xander Bogaerts or Hanley Ramirez. It would definitely help his RBI production. It would be the wise thing to do.
David Ortiz: 566 AB, 25 HR, 88 RBI, .265 avg., .872 OPS
It’s pretty sad that the most dangerous hitter in Boston’s lineup may be a 40-year-old. This will be Ortiz’s last season (but, shhhhh, he doesn’t want any hoopla). If he hits 30-plus home runs, might he change his mind? Would that surprise anyone?