Potential Red Sox trouble spots during 2021 season
What are the warning signs? What should we collectively examine as the season (hopefully) moves forward? The evaluators, media, and fans may have different and similar perspectives but based on past history there is information that is introspective. This is what I see as potential warning flags for the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox have a possible Rookie of The Year candidate in right-hand hitting Bobby Dalbec. Dalbec has terrific power, but with it comes a curse. The whiff. Dalbec had an awful 42.4 K%.in 2020. That curse has trailed him for his entire professional career and it is an opportunity wasted.
Dalbec hit .394 on BABIP so it is not a leap of faith that reducing the whiffs has a profit. Dalbec managed eight home runs in just 92 plate appearances, but just how many strikeouts will the lineup absorb? What is the offset? If Dalbec doesn’t lower the K% then manager Alex Cora may cut his playing time significantly.
Rafael Devers is a magnificent hitter. A veritable line-drive machine producing a bounty of extra-base hits. Fortunately, it somewhat counterbalances the Devers weakness – his glovework at third base. Devers is emulating Butch Hobson.
Devers has a .928 career fielding percentage which is somewhere between terrible and embarrassing. On metrics, it is even another step-down. In 2020, Devers ranked a pitiful last defensively among qualified third basemen. Maybe Cora will help? With a questionable pitching staff, a sieve at third is not needed. Devers needs to return to his 2019 fielding form when he was sixth among qualified.
Michael Chavis and Dalbec do have a connection in their propensity for missing the ball with a high frequency. In 2019, Chavis – who can match anyone in the power department be they human or animal – demonstrated his right-handed thunder. Chavis was a tape measure machine. A Stat Cast Leaderboard regular. Chavis totaled 18 home runs in 2019 in 95 games. Despite a 33.2 K% Chavis still managed a .254 average. Then came 2020.
Chavis’s average plummeted to .212. The strikeouts remained a constant but the walks were just eight over 158 plate appearances – just three more than Chavis’s home run total. Despite his defensive versatility, Chavis was soon on the outside looking in. A lineup with Dalbec and Chavis will be a delight to the more savvy moundsmen. Chavis keeps muddling near the Mendoza Line he could be gone.
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Would you take 34 starts? A 9.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and a 3.82 ERA/3.65 FIP? That was the stats for Eduardo Rodriguez in 2019. There are no stats for 2020. That is the cruncher. E-Rod was on the sidelines with COVID-19 and a subsequent heart condition linked to the virus. Stamina, location, velocity will all be in play. Rodriguez falters this team is in deep trouble and so is Rodriguez who is a pending free agent.
The ace of the staff is Chris Sale. A healthy Sale is one of the most dominant hurlers in the game. But the string bean lefty is recovering from Tommy John Surgery and it is a long and tedious process. Will Sale be Randy Johnson or Jamie Moyer? By mid-season, it should be known.
Who will close? The Red Sox have Matt Barnes on the leaderboard for this task and based on his history it is a 50/50 crapshoot when he closes. That said, the Sox have some other options on the table so the job is Barnes’ to lose and that could happen by the end of April. Barnes can have electric stuff only to watch it short circuit.
The Red Sox outfield has Alex Verdugo. That’s it. They also have two lukewarm options is Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe. Neither has been a rousing success elsewhere. Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez can fill in. Yairo Munoz dazzled but briefly in 2020. This will be a mix and match unless someone takes charge. Eyes will be on prospect Jarren Duran who sparkled in winter ball. Red Sox are noted for great outfields and this will not be one.
J.D. Martinez recovering from his 60-game snooze in 2020 is a must. The metrics have been examined, gagged upon, and discussed ad nauseam. Martinez fails it will reverberate through the lineup. Eyes will be on his Stat Cast numbers. Of course, Martinez like Rodriguez is brimming with confidence.
The remains of the rotation. There is safety in numbers but by examining the potential pratfalls in the rotation one can see question marks proliferate. Is Nick Pivetta the real deal? A two-game sample gave hope, promise, yada, yada, yada. Maybe he found that magic that was missing?
Tanner Houck was outstanding but with it comes a huge warning sign. – a 14.3 BB%. The various projections for 2021 – if you place value in them – have the rookie somewhere around .500 and the accompanying metrics to back it up.
With Garrett Richards and Nathan Eovaldi it is all about being as close to 100% as possible. Neither will should be considered Mr. Durability. With Eovaldi the SIERA folks love him. When Eovaldi is percolating he is tough. Richards could be (1) A waste of money or (2) the steal of the offseason.
The bullpen closer has been mentioned but the rest of the ‘pen is certainly questionable. The Red Sox relief corps certainly was a joy to behold for opposing batsmen. Having a rotation about as stable as mush was not conducive to great results. Adam Ottavino was certainly Red Sox like in 2020. Can he recover his past form?
Chaim Bloom went all over the map and I do mean map bringing in arms to help stabilize the situation. Hirokazu Sawamura hails from Japan and hopefully can be as close as possible to a facsimile of Koji Uehara. Matt Andriese will start or relieve and brings a nice 6.8 BB% for his career. The holdovers have “promise” with Darwinzon Hernandez leading that parade. It may take Cora months of tinkering to get it right.