Biggest Red Sox Storylines When the Season Begins
Jul 27, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) is congratulated after hitting a home run against the New York Yankees in the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Major League Baseball plans to begin the 2020 season in July, and one of the clubs that will be met with scrutiny is the Boston Red Sox.
Just 19 months after Chris Sale struck out Manny Machado to claim a World Series title, the organization has undergone overhaul from the top on down. Mookie Betts and David Price are now members of the team they beat in 2018, Chris Sale is lost to Tommy John surgery, Alex Cora was involved in two separate cheating scandals, and there are a lot of questions regarding the team’s future. However, when play resumes, what are some of the major storylines surrounding the Red Sox?
Naturally, when you’re the headlining piece in a controversial trade, a lot of eyes will track your every move. Verdugo has the unfortunate reality of ‘replacing’ a perennial MVP candidate in Mookie Betts, which should be met with a lot of pressure.
It’ll be hard for him to gain the support he’s craving from the Fenway Faithful immediately, but with a shortened season, he’ll likely get a “full” season to prove his impact to a winning team. If he can stay on the field and play well on both sides of the ball, it should translate to more wins for the team. However, replacing a fan-favorite, generational talent like Betts almost guarantees he’ll be met with perhaps unfair expectations.
Who is Andrew Benintendi?
Andrew Benintendi has had an almost seesaw career to this point. His wRC+ went from 121 to 102 to 122 to 100. His weighted on-base average, despite posting a .341 career mark, has also seesawed in his four-year career.
A player who was once a lock to be a main component for the future, Benintendi has a lot to prove regarding his status. Is he a future star? Or just another role player? In his fourth full season in the league, it’s becoming make-or-break time for the former Arkansas Razorback.
Is Rafael Devers a budding superstar? Or is he a one-year wonder?
When a young player struggles early but puts together an elite season, people will forget about the struggles.
The White Sox have a player like that themselves––Yoan Moncada––but people truly forget about how much of a struggle 2018 was for Rafael Devers. In 490 plate appearances, Devers slashed .240/.298/.433 with a wRC+ of 90. He did have an impressive ALCS, but it was far from an impressive inaugural full 162 for the young third baseman.
He rebounded nicely, posting a wRC+ of 132 and even saw considerable improvements defensively (seven outs above average), but the jury is still out on who Rafael Devers is as a major leaguer.
Is he closer to the 5.9 wins above replacement we saw in 2019? Most likely. However, it would be irresponsible to outright disregard the struggle-filled 2018 he had.
What is this pitching staff?
No Chris Sale. No David Price. No Rick Porcello.
Plain and simple, the rotation is bordering on one of the worst in the league on paper. Yes, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi can be very reliable arms when they’re healthy, they just haven’t had proven track records of that.
After those two, they have Martín Pérez, who hasn’t posted a FIP below 4.50 since 2015––an injury-shortened campaign. He can provide innings, but that doesn’t do the Red Sox much good if he’s sporting a FIP of 4.6 or higher.
The five-spot in the rotation is even more in a state of flux. Ryan Weber was borderline unhittable in spring training, but it’s been almost two months since he’s faced a live batter. On top of that, the Red Sox have been burned in the past with buying into a soft-thrower with Spring Training success––see Kyle Kendrick in 2017. On top of Weber, Brian Johnson and Tanner Houck were gunning for that spot––but aren’t proven either.
This one has more to do with the next offseason than the 2020 season itself, as J.D. Martinez can once again opt out of his contract.
He is going to do what he does best, which is hit the cover off the baseball (154 wRC+ as a member of the Red Sox). However, with a universal DH expected to be in effect for the 2021 season, that opens up the window for 15 other teams that could use a right-handed slugger.
Plus, with the team trending towards shrinking salary and likely not contending for a few years, it could be possible that Martinez wants to exhaust other options when the 2020 season ends.