The Red Sox have looked like a juggernaut so far this season. To continue to steamroll the competition, they will have to rely on these three players.
We are only nine games into 2018 baseball season, but already the Boston Red Sox have given us plenty to talk about.
The Red Sox are 8-1 and they have not lost a game since Opening Day. Boston’s starting rotation has been phenomenal, and their lineup has been timely if unspectacular. Before the season started, the Red Sox looked like a very good team who, if a few things broke their way, could be great. With the Red Sox firing nearly on all cylinders out of the gate, it’s fair to ask how likely it is that this team will be a juggernaut throughout the season.
If you asked me two weeks ago what would need to happen for the Red Sox to run away with the AL East I would’ve told you that it starts with David Price, Hanley Ramirez, and Xander Bogaerts. These three players have absolute sky-high ceilings, yet all three either underperformed last season or couldn’t stay on the field.
In particular, Price threw well, but only for 74.2 innings, Hanley couldn’t keep his wRC+ above 100, and, after getting drilled by a pitch in the hand, Bogaerts hit with all the authority of a mall cop patrolling Hot Topic.
Despite all of this, the Red Sox won 93 games last season. In 2016, those three players combined for 12.3 fWAR, but in 2017 that same group generated just 4.4 fWAR. It’s reasonable then to think that if those three perform to their potential, the Sox could add 6-8 WAR to their roster before you even consider the addition of J.D. Martinez.
The good news for the Red Sox is that these three players have torn up the opening week and a half of the 2018 season. Through 14 innings, Price has yet to allow a run. Meanwhile, Hanley has two game-winning 12th inning doubles under his belt, and Xander has hit to the tune of .368/.400/.711 in his first 40 plate appearances.
The bad news is Xander limped off the field with an ankle injury the other day. The Red Sox placed Xander on the 10-day disabled list and he is expected to be back on the field within two weeks. We will play under the assumption that this will not significantly alter the course of his season.
The preseason X-factors have delivered above and beyond what we could have hoped thus far. It’s very much worthwhile to note that nine games are nine games and the predictive power they hold over the other 153 is likely minimal. It would be far more shocking if Xander’s OPS at the end of the season was 1.100, or even .900, than it would be if he ended the year around .750.
By the same token, one would expect that Andrew Benintendi will have a batting average above the Mendoza line come July. If the Red Sox are to be a juggernaut, it starts with those three players. So the question is, how much more confident are the Red Sox than they were two weeks ago?