Craig Kimbrel saves over 50 games
Why it could happen: Only one pitcher in the majors reached 50 saves last year, with Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon racking up 51. If Kimbrel can get there it will match the career-high that he set in 2013, when he finished 4th in NL Cy Young voting. Last year he saved 39 games for the San Diego Padres, the lowest save total he has produced since becoming a closer in 2011, but he’s primed to make another run at 50 now that he’s with the Red Sox. He has the support of one of the league’s top offenses, but the starting rotation behind Price remains shaky enough that Boston won’t be winning a ton of blowouts. That means plenty of save chances for Kimbrel. Last season Red Sox relievers combined to convert 40-of-60 save opportunities for a 66 percent success rate, while Kimbrel has a success rate of over 90 percent for his career. If the Red Sox provide him with the same number of opportunities as the bullpen received last year and he coverts them at his career average level then he would end up with 54 saves. The rest of the bullpen may vulture a few of his opportunities, but he should still come close to that range.
Tommy Layne will have the team’s best ERA
Why it could happen: At this point Layne isn’t even a lock to make the roster, but if he does then the Red Sox should deploy him as a lefty specialist. The 3.97 ERA he produced last season wasn’t all that impressive, but only because he wasn’t used properly. Right-handed hitters knocked Layne around to the tune of a .322 average and .950 OPS, but he held lefties to a .148 average and .418 OPS. Boston’s revamped bullpen has enough quality depth on the right side that they can now afford to utilize Layne exclusively against lefties, which is a role he would thrive in.
Next: Buchholz and team record