Spring training for the Boston Red Sox is now in full-swing, and the team looks completely different than it did in 2022.
On every championship team, there is one or two players you can point to and say 'that guy is the face of the franchise'. That goes beyond just digging into the batter's box and coming through when the club needs a lift or saving the game with a jaw-dropping web gem.
Rafael Devers is the star of this Red Sox roster, but who else will step up to be a leader that this team needs in 2023
In addition to the duties in-game, on the field, the job description includes is the ability to shoulder the blame from the media and fans when things go sideways, to hold themselves and their teammates accountable through a slump.
Let's not sugar coat this - in sports, especially in Boston, the pressure to perform is amplified. Everything is under a microscope from the fan base to the media. Mistakes and slumps are bound to happen over the course of a six month, 162-game slate.
The question that remains? Who will be the player that steps up and fills the shoes of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and many others who have been the leaders on championship clubs from the past?
With those captivating voices and figures no longer present, despite Pedroia emerging in Fort Myers this spring in a coaching role, the 2023 edition of the Red Sox will need to have a leader. There are, as it stands, some intriguing candidates to fill the void.
We know what Rafael Devers brings to the table in terms of on-field production. The average, homeruns, RBI, OPS, that will all be there. He’ll be the figure Boston relies on to shoulder the most weight in the heart of the lineup night in and night out. But what about the vocal part of the equation?
There are plenty of names on the roster who have been in positions with other clubs that have gone on to have postseason success. Kiké Hernández, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner were members of Dodgers teams that made deep postseason runs on a consistent basis.
Adam Duvall, another veteran free agent who found his way to Boston this off-season, is not too far removed from a World Series championship in 2021 with the Atlanta Braves. Alex Verdugo, who has grown into a fan favorite over the past few seasons and has been known to be vocal in and around the clubhouse, could be someone Alex Cora looks to for leadership down the line.
On the other side of the coin, there are a bunch of young players who will likely be a part of the team at some point in 2023 and they could provide a much-needed spark. Whether they make the roster right out of camp or promoted from Worcester to Boston at some point this season, they're coming.
It is no secret Triston Casas will be the everyday first baseman for the Red Sox, alongside Christian Arroyo at second base with Trevor Story sidelined due to off-season elbow surgery. Shortstop is an interesting conversation, though. The departure of a franchise cornerstone Xander Bogaerts has left a lot of unanswered questions for Boston up-the-middle.
The Red Sox traded for Adalberto Mondesí, who spent the entirety of his 7-year big league career with the Royals. However, Mondesí is still not ready to participate in game action after having knee surgery that caused him to miss most of the 2022 campaign, suiting up for just 15 games.
Alex Cora has been adamant that Kiké Hernández will start the season at short, and the Sox fifth-year skipper has shown the utmost confidence in him to fill the position. Once Mondesí is ready to make his debut, it could leave Cora with a plethora options, depending on how smoothly Kiké is transitions to an everyday infield role.
Not only does Alex Cora have high hopes and belief in his guys. Chaim Bloom shares in that sentiment, as he said this when asked about Kiké's ability to play every day and be a leader:
However, perhaps the biggest criticism that Boston’s Chief Bsseball Officer has received from fans this off-season was his lack of pursuit of pitching, particularly of the starting variety. It’s become clear that Chris Sale’s health will be of high concern from this point forward, and combine that with the loss of Nate Eovaldi as well as Michael Wacha and the rotation will look much different than it did a year ago.
A bright spot? There’s plenty of young talent on the cusp of bursting onto the scene at Fenway Park. Don’t believe me? I’ll let Alex Cora tell you.
While the Red Sox await the MLB debut of one of their top pitching prospects, they’ll continue to lean on Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Brayan Bello as they look to take the next step.
Now, back the original point of conversation. Who IS the ‘face’ of the 2023 Red Sox? Time will tell, but, one thing of note that almost all of the names listed above have in common? They haven’t won. Winning, and the desire to reach the top helps chemistry flourish, which in turn, brings out the best in everyone.
The good part about this year? Boston isn’t expected to make noise. So because of that, it will allow for the team to band together and go play loosely on a nightly basis. Almost reminiscent of 2013, anyone?
But no matter what the results on the field, this next era of Red Sox baseball will need a new wave of leaders. Who do YOU think willl emerge? Let us know in the comments!