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3 Red Sox Poised for Breakout Seasons

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The Boston Red Sox are looking to bounce back from a World Series title defense that seemingly ended before the home opener.

However, they are going to have major holes in their roster, as neither Mookie Betts nor David Price will be wearing a Red Sox uniform come Opening Day on March 26 in Toronto. This means that Boston is going to need to replace a lot of productivity in the lineup with what they have existing already.

There isn’t another player out there like Mookie Betts and if there was, Boston evidently wouldn’t be prepared to pay market value for said player. So who on the 2020 Red Sox is going to step up and become a key contributor for a franchise that’s always World Series-hungry?

I have three in mind, and they are the following players.

1. Michael Chavis – UTIL – .323 wOBA, 96 wRC+, 33.2 percent K-rate, 22 home runs

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Michael Chavis burst onto the scene and appeared to be the spark the Red Sox needed to get out of that horrible rut they were in the first 20 games of the season (7-13 start, 14-6 in the 20 games following Chavis’ debut).

However, all good things must come to an end, and Michael Chavis’ run of dominance was not immune to that. From May 17, until his season ended on Aug. 11, Chavis slashed .241/.294/.402 with 76 wRC+ and a 35.7 percent strikeout rate.

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Many scouts had major concern over Chavis’ ability to find success on pitches up in the zone, and those concerns were well warranted based on the 24-year-old’s 95-game sample size in the MLB a season ago.

chart (1)
(via Baseball Savant)

Outside of pitches up and in, by his head, Chavis had major struggles on pitches above the belt in 2019.

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However, he still showed great promise on both sides of the ball, as well as showcase the ability to play multiple positions on the infield at an above league average rate (four outs above average across three infield positions). His plate discipline needs to improve, but he definitely has the power to keep himself in the lineup –– especially on a team lacking depth at second base.

Prediction: .337 wOBA, 112 wRC+, 28.6 percent K-rate, 29 home runs, 2.2 fWAR

2. Colten Brewer – RHP – 4.98 SIERA, 104 xFIP-, 20.6 percent K-rate, 90th percentile for curve spin

Colten Brewer is a guy I’ve been high on since the Red Sox acquired him last winter from the San Diego Padres. In 2019, he had his fair share of struggles, but he also showed flashes of brilliance.

The biggest issue for Brewer is consistency with his command and location of his curveball, which is easily his best pitch (2.15 xFIP on 437 registered curveballs). When he was able to keep that curveball out of the middle of the plate, he experienced great success. When he failed to do so, he often was punished by the opposition.

chart (2)
(via Baseball Savant)

Brewer’s curveball is one of the best pitches in baseball, and I firmly expect an even higher dosage than the 43.1 percent usage rate he had in 2019.

I see a lot of Brandon Workman in Brewer’s skill set, and we all know how good Brandon Workman was in 2019.

Prediction: 3.82 FIP, 3.97 SIERA, 97 xFIP-, 27.2 percent K-rate

3. Matt Barnes – RHP – 3.28 FIP, 3.25 SIERA, 64 xFIP-, 37.3 percent K-rate

It’s kind of odd to use Matt Barnes here, seeing as this is going to be his fifth full season in the majors, but here we are.

Barnes is a guy who has become one of the most irrationally-hated Boston athletes, and I am having a hard time coming up with why. Given his track record, he usually has one month every season where he completely comes unglued and is a walks machine, and also gets bit for a home run every so often. That can be frustrating, but that’s almost always due to over-usage because he’s one of the most dependable high-leverage relievers in the league.

However, Barnes is actually a top-20 reliever in the game, as he constantly has impressive peripheral stats and has blossomed into one of the most prolific strikeout artists in the MLB.

When I say Barnes will break out in 2020, I’m not expecting him to improve on last season. I’m expecting him to emerge from a top-20 reliever to being a guy you can’t ignore when you list the game’s 10 best bullpen arms.

He posted a 0.51 xFIP on his 659 (50.3 percent) curveballs, as well as a 41.1 percent difference in his strikeout rate versus his walk rate on that pitch.

chart (3)
(via Baseball Savant)

He’s at his best when he’s down and around the strike zone, which he could do more consistently with an uptick in his curveball spin rate, which ironically finished in the bottom fifth of pitchers last season. He also has success with his fastball when it’s elevated, as also exhibited in the chart above.

Prediction: 2.31 FIP, 2.87 SIERA, 43 xFIP-, 39.8 K-rate

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3 Responses

  1. Jordan
    What’s your thoughts about which player can fill a leadership role, that Mookie seemed to have in encouraging player performance?
    Will the bench coach be able to compare to Cora as a Players leader or are we better to look elsewhere?
    Jack

    1. Hi Jack,

      I actually think the leader has been Bogaerts for a while now. Betts is definitely the superior player but Bogaerts was definitely the leader in my opinion.

      As far as the next manager. Roenicke seems well respected in his position so I personally think it’s fine to just have him manage for the year. Long term? Wanna find somebody else but for 2020 I like Roenicke. Nobody can replace cora imo.

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