Previewing the 2021 Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox concluded the 2020 season in last place in the American League East with a 24-36 record. Boston had lost outfielder Mookie Betts over the offseason and were under the direction of a new regime led by Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom. Pitching and injuries were part of the problem for the Boston Red Sox over the 60-game sample. Now, the team has Alex Cora back in the saddle as the skipper and has a fresh outlook on what the 2021 season could present. Granted, it will be a challenge given the landscape of the rest of the American League East.

However, there is still potential for the Red Sox with some of the talent they have amassed. Here is a complete breakdown of their roster.

2021 Boston Red Sox Breakdown

Preview of the Starting Rotation

Given that Chris Sale will open the season on the 60-Day Injured List, he will not be anchoring the starting rotation. During spring training, it was announced that Eduardo Rodriguez would be given the Opening Day start. However, it was later announced that he was scratched with a dead arm. It is not known how severe that issue is or what the prognosis of it might be.

Therefore, Boston will give Nathan Eovaldi the ball on Opening Day. Eovaldi has been with the organization since the second part of the 2018 regular season. Over that span, he has posted a 4.50 ERA with a 1.376 WHIP and 4.37 Fielding Independent Percentage (FIP).

Following Eovaldi will be Garrett Richards in the third spot followed up by Nick Pivetta and Martin Perez. Pivetta came over from the Philadelphia Phillies mid-season last year and showed promise over the two starts he made. Meanwhile, both Richards and Perez give Boston two starting pitchers who can provide some veteran stability at the back of the rotation. Over his 10-year big league career, Richards has averaged a total of 174 innings of work per season. Furthermore, Perez is getting set to pitch in his 10th big league season and made 12 starts for the Red Sox in 2020.

Due to the unknown status of Eduardo Rodriguez, it appears as though Tanner Houck could be inserted into the rotation. Houck made two starts last season and is someone who has middle-of-the-rotation stuff.

Preview of the Bullpen

Last season, the Red Sox had one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball with a combined ERA of 5.79. Many of the same relievers are returning once again this year, and it looks as though the team will rely on a closer-by-committee.

Over the offseason, Boston acquired right-hander Adam Ottavino from the New York Yankees. Ottavino should add some veteran stability and mentorship for the team’s young relievers. The 35-year-old reliever pitched in five innings over the 2020 campaign with a 0.00 ERA.

Matt Barnes is another name to watch in the bullpen. Barnes was originally drafted by the organization during the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He has the makeup to pitch late in games and be used in high leverage situations although his big league workload to this point has been minimal. Since making his debut in 2015, Barnes has pitched a total of 60 innings.

Beyond Ottavino and Barnes, Matt Andriese is another pitcher who could provide value this year for Boston. Andriese is a hybrid pitcher in that he can be used as a starter or reliever. In 2020, he made two starts and recorded two relief appearances. Given the lack of depth in some regard, Andriese could find himself pitching at the back of the rotation at some point in 2021.

Preview of the Lineup

  1. INF/OF Keke Hernandez
  2. LF Alex Verdugo
  3. DH J.D. Martinez
  4. SS Xander Bogaerts
  5. 3B Rafael Devers
  6. RF Hunter Renfroe
  7. INF/OF Marwin Gonzalez
  8. 1B Bobby Dalbec
  9. C Christian Vazquez

Easily, the vast amount of production in the lineup will come in the middle with J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers. Over the last few seasons, the Red Sox have started to transition to the next chapter in their franchise history. Part of that transition has brought forth future core pieces such as the aforementioned Devers.

Bobby Dalbec is another important part of the core moving ahead into the future. Dalbec has the ability to play both first and third base respectively. As he gains more experience and playing time at the big league level, the 25-year-old should only continue to show more power. On the scouting scale, Dalbec received a grade of 60 in the power department and 70 based on his ability to make throws across the diamond.

In addition, the Red Sox have versatile pieces in their lineup in Kike Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez. Hernandez can play second base and shortstop as well as centerfield. Meanwhile, Gonzalez can play any of the middle infield positions as well as both corner outfield spots. That alone helps with lineup construction and matchups for manager Alex Cora.

Shifting to the outfield, it would not be a surprise to see Franchy Cordero get some playing time in left. If Cordero is starting in left, then Alex Verdugo would be in center with Hunter Renfroe over in right. It’s also important to note that J.D. Martinez does have the ability to play in the outfield. However, his defensive shortcomings could potentially be an issue.

Preview of the Lineup

  1. C Kevin Plawecki
  2. INF Christian Arroyo
  3. LF Franchy Cordero

As mentioned above, the outfield arrangement will be dependent on the matchup at hand. Cordero still has potential in his game but has yet to put everything together to the point where he can make a solid contribution on a full-time basis. Therefore, the Red Sox could have a platoon situation with him in left.

Furthermore, Christian Arroyo provides Boston depth at second base and shortstop. Given that Bogaerts is the starting shortstop, it’s unlikely that Arroyo sees a lot of time at that position. Instead, it is more likely that he is utilized at second base, but it once again depends on where Hernandez and Gonzalez are playing.

Finally, Kevin Plawecki will be the team’s backup catcher. Plawecki is entering his second season with the team after spending the 2019 campaign with the Cleveland Indians.

Outlook for the 2021 Boston Red Sox

In the end, the 2021 Boston Red Sox will most likely end up falling short of the playoffs unless something unexpected happens in the American League East. The New York Yankees are the favorites to win the division on paper. Additionally, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to build off last year’s success when they made it to the World Series. The Toronto Blue Jays are also young and ready to make some noise of their own, while the Baltimore Orioles will round out the division.

However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be talented players to watch — such as Bobby Dalbec and Rafael Devers — as well as established veteran players like J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts. With that being said, 2021 will likely be another year in the transition of the organization and one where the Red Sox continue to have their eyes focused on the future.

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Players Mentioned: Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, Martin Perez, Tanner Houck, Adam Ottavino, Matt Barnes, Matt Andriese, Keke Hernandez, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Hunter Renfroe, Marwin Gonzalez, Bobby Dalbec, Christian Vazquez, Franchy Cordero, Kevin Plawecki, Christian Arroyo.

Manager Mentioned: Alex Cora.