A Red Sox fan's surprises from the 2023 season

New York Mets v Boston Red Sox
New York Mets v Boston Red Sox / Brian Fluharty/GettyImages

Masatka Yoshida is not a surprise to me but to many; he is with particular emphasis on those executives, scouts, media, and fans who plummeted the Red Sox for the five-year and $90 million contract.

I have a baseball friend in Japan who raved about Yoshida, calling him a better hitter than Ichiro Suzuki. Certainly not a better player but a better hitter. I accepted his review, despite his being an Orix fan, which was Yoshida's Japanese club.

We have seen what Yoshida has done, and he may capture a Rookie of The Year Award at 30 years old. The last Boston player to win that award at an advanced baseball age was switch-hitting Sam Jethroe of the Boston Braves, who won in 1950 at age 33. Jethroe was a Negro League star, and Masataka a Japanese star, and both those leagues are relatively advanced, but Yoshida may get it and a batting title.

Jarren Duran's career was dying and reminiscent of former celebrities who have disappeared after much promise. Unlike Freddie Prinze Jr., Duran returned thanks to an unfortunate injury to Adam Duvall. Duran was under the Mendoza Line at Worcester, and now he is a double and stolen base machine.

Two months ago, the Red Sox might have dumped Nick Pivetta, who became a pitching pinata. As a starter, Pivetta was road kill with a 6.30 ERA and was eventually pulled from the rotation. Necessity forced manager Alex Cora to work Pivetta out of the 'pen, and it has been, as Eck would say: "A thing of beauty."

Chaim Bloom occasionally goes to the dumpster for a reclamation project, bringing us to lefty Brennan Bernardino. Picked off waivers from the Mariners, Bernardino is a primary sinker-slider pitcher who can handle righties without getting mauled. Hopefully, at age 31, Bernardino has found a niche. Cora has exhibited increasing trust in Bloom's Bernardino salvage operation.

Connor Wong has established himself as one of the better defensive catchers in the American League, but he can also hit. I thought Wong would be a quick memory after doing little to impress in 2022.

Wong is hovering around .250, and make a mistake, and it will show as six home runs and 19 doubles attest. Wong has been a workhorse with Reese McGuire on the IL and a savior with his arm, timely hitting, and game management.

Here are a few pleasant surprises for Red Sox fans to feel good about

One of the spin-offs from trading Andrew Benintendi is right-hander Josh Winckowski. Winckowski in 2022 was forgettable unless you had a bat in your hand. This season the walks are down about 1.0 per nine, and the K rate is up about 2.0 per nine. Winckowski has been steady out of the 'pen with his mid-90s heater paired with a slider and cutter. Winckowski is seeing and has earned more high-leverage situations.

Justin Turner has been a refreshing surprise, and watching him play the words "Old School" pop up. Consistent at-bats, versatility afield, and even judicious base running. With the game on the line, I would rather see Turner in the box than any other hitter on the team.

Years of recovery have paid dividends for lefty James Paxton, who choose to stay with the team by exercising his option. That move may have saved the team from ending up in the Mariana Trench. Quality starts have saved the bullpen more than once, and now Paxton will be on the verge of a healthy off-season contract.

The last surprise is the tenaciousness of this team, which injuries, self-induced baserunning faux pas, and defensive lapses have plagued. They have still managed to be above .500 and have held their own against some quality teams. The depth has proven its value.

Others I have omitted, such as Tanner Houck, Brayan Bello, and Triston Casas. All have contributed and most likely will for a few more seasons. Bello and Casas may form a nice one-two punch from the mound and the plate.