The 2014 season was not a total failure for the Red Sox


Coming off an unexpected World Series championship and the best Red Sox team in years, there were high hopes for the Red Sox this season. However, those hopes were quickly dashed as the team failed to perform and turned in a disappointing 71-91 season. Despite the sharp downturn from 2013 to 2014, however, this was not a totally lost season for the Red Sox and the team is well-equipped to contend next year.

Looking back, the 2014 season was an experiment from the start. The Red Sox lost key players in the offseason in Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Stephen Drew (while he returned in June, he wasn’t the same as the solid Drew of 2013) and, rather than picking up free agents or even making a serious attempt to re-sign those players, they entrusted two rookies in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts and a short-term stopgap option in A.J. Pierzynski. Unfortunately, all of those players had disappointing 2014 seasons, but the youth movement has started for the Red Sox and this influx of young players has changed this year from a potentially lost year to one inspiring much promise.

While no rookies except for Mookie Betts (.291/.368/.444 with 5 home runs and 7 steals in 52 games) really impressed this season, it’s best that they could get some of their lumps out of the way in a low-pressure environment. Despite poor seasons overall, Xander Bogaerts (.240/.297/.362 with 12 home runs), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.198/.265/.266 with Gold Glove-caliber defense), Rubby De La Rosa (4.43 ERA, 2.11 K/BB), and Allen Webster (5.03 ERA, 1.29 K/BB) all showed flashes and appear that they could contribute in the near future.

The offense was the biggest factor in the demise of the Red Sox this season as they fell from first in runs scored a season ago to a meager 18th this season, and 11th in the American League. However, they’ve already made moves to improve that offense going forward. The outfield, a weak spot in the early portion of the season, is now a legitimate strength with Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, and Bradley all vying for playing time next season.

In fact, third base is really the only weak spot that the Red Sox have offensively as Will Middlebrooks (.191/.256/.265) struggled once again and Garin Cecchini is still too raw to be trusted as the starting third baseman. Aside from the hot corner, however, the Red Sox have big time players in David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, and potentially Bogaerts that should return this offense to its prior heights next season.

The Red Sox will need to address their starting pitching in the offseason, but the Red Sox got a chance to observe many of their prospects in big league action this season. In addition to De La Rosa and Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes, and new acquisition Joe Kelly all got a chance to pitch this season for the Red Sox.

In a contending season, the Red Sox would not have been able to give so many prospects a chance in Boston and, while it pales in comparison to a winning season, that’s valuable experience for both the players and the coaching staff. Expect the Red Sox to be better in 2015 but don’t discount 2014 as a lost season, because the Red Sox got a good look at Ben Cherington’s “next great Red Sox team.”