With the start of spring training a week away, here are the players I feel are in the Hot Seat.
Josh Beckett – Josh has been a front of rotation starter throughout his career. The emergence of Jon Lester and Clay Buckholz, however, may have pushed him to the number 3 starter in the rotation. Beckett’s biggest problem has been his health more than his ineffectiveness. Being on the “Hot Seat” doesn’t mean that he is in jeopardy of losing his place in the starting rotation. Red Sox management handed Josh a contract extension for four years last April. This extension comes with high expectations – there is no reason to believe that he can’t bounce back from a down year in 2010 and become the stud on the mound he has demonstrated in previous years. I’m sure when spring training starts that one of Beckett’s goals will to be the Sox opening day starter again, and how satisfied would that make Terry Francona? Is it too much to ask for a flashback to his 2007 brilliance?
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – I heard Rob Dibble say on MLBnetwork radio that the two words he hates the most is “prospect” and “potential”, because it is all about what a player can be and not who he is. How well does that describe Salty? It is time for him demonstrate that he can handle the everyday catching duties. He has an excellent mentor in the name of Jason Varitek; he should listen and learn from the Captain. On this Sox team, shortstop and catching are really the largest question marks going into spring training. He also has some pretty big shoes to fill when Victor Martinez signed with the Detroit Tigers. A lot of pressure for a young kid – Lets hope he is up for the challenge.
J.D. Drew-There is little doubt that this is J.D.’s last year with the Sox and there have been rumors that he is considering retiring at the end of the year like Mike Lowell did last year. Although J.D. never seemed to live up to his big contract, there is no denying that with the exception of Dwight Evans, he was one of the best right fielders to handle those tricky corners of Fenway. He also has proven that he can come up with the big hit in the post season when needed. Who could ever forget his first inning Grand slam against the Cleveland Indians in 2007 with the Red Sox facing elimination? Like Beckett, J.D. has struggled with his health and seems to always spend some time on the disabled list every year. This could be the start of the Ryan Kalish era. Expect to see Kalish get plenty of playing time this year, preparing him to take over the role full time in 2012.
Jacoby Ellsbury – The Carl Crawford/ Jacoby Ellsbury show is about to begin. If these two aren’t the most exciting players in the game today, I don’t know who is. You can usually find Jacoby on the highlight reel somewhere, whether for his base stealing prowess or another acrobatic catch in the outfield. Jacoby only played 18 games last year due to breaking his ribs after a collision with Adrian Beltre. The problem Ellsbury has facing him is rebuilding his reputation amongst his teammates. Just last week Kevin Youkillis called Ellsbury out again for not spending time with the team while on the DL; instead he chose to stay in Arizona to rehab alone. He will go into the spring as the leadoff batter, a position that Francona has declared makes the Sox a better team when Jacoby leads off. He needs to be the table setter for the big guns behind him. Personally, until Crawford signed on, Jacoby was my favorite Sox player and I always hold my breath when I hear trade rumors and his name is mentioned. I am rooting for his success and I hope he proves me right.
When spring training begins I will be adding “who is Hot”. I’m sure we all agree that what is hot going into 2011 is the work Theo Epstein did this offseason.
Who do you think is “HOT’ or in the “Hot Seat”?
Tags: Adrian Beltre Carl Crawford Cleveland Indians Detroit Tigers Dwight Evans J.D. Drew Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jason Varitek Josh Beckett Kevin Youkilis Mike Lowell Mlbnetwork Red Sox Rob Dibble Ryan Kalish Terry Francona Theo Epstein Victor Martinez