A few days before position players join pitchers and catchers in the sunny getaways of Florida, Arizona and Southern California, avid USSS reader and Sox-aholic Matty C agreed to put together his annual Sox preview for us. Here’s his positional breakdown of the 2008 club:
C: Jason Varitek (.260/10HR/75RBI/.750OPS) Backup: Doug Mirabelli (.190/3/20/.600): Catcher is a position of concern for me going into the season. As much as everyone seems to love “Tek” and his “intangibles”, the fact is his bat is slow and he really wears as the season goes on. I said back in 2003 that Tek should catch Wake and 2 others and find a decent backup to catch the other two. Stubbornly, they stuck with Belli and now Tek is almost toast. I would not sign him to an extension before the season is over, anytime Scott Boras approaches you for an extension rather than letting his client hit FA, that’s a big red flag.
1B: Kevin Youkilis (.300/17/95/.880) BU: Sean Casey (.290/2/45/.725): Youkilis seems primed for a true breakout season. Especially with a competent backup in Sean Casey, a career .300 hitter, the team should be able to rest Youks more early in the season to avoid his terrible 2nd-half slides.
2B: Dustin Pedrioa (.315/10/80/.900) BU: Alex Cora (200/1/22/.625): I hate saying it, but I told you so. I told anyone who would listen Pedrioa was a ballplayer, and not to worry about 100 meaningless Abs from Sept 06. Well, a .320 season and one ROY award later, everyone is on board with DP turning the DP all season long. Alex who?
SS: Julio Lugo (.275/8/70/.745) BU: Cora (see above): I’m not high on Lugo, but he is better than he showed last season. Look for him to return to his career norms of 270s and 740-760 OPS. Always a threat on the bases and I think underrated defensively.
3B: Mike Lowell (.280/15/100/.800) BU: Youks/Cora: I was driving the A-Rod train for 3B to get a younger power bat in the middle of the order. When that didn’t happen, it was inevitable that Lowell was coming back. I’m not a big Lowell guy, and he will never top what he did last season, but he’ll hit some doubles and he’s a good clubhouse influence on some the younger guys.
LF: Manny (.295/32/125/1.000) BU: Bobby Kielty (.250/6/40/.725): Do I need to put anything here? Manny’s working out at API this year, and should rebound to regular Manny #’s. Just look at his postseason last year.
CF: Covelli Crisp (.275/10/75/.750) BU: Jacoby Ellsbury (.260/5/50/.740): I’m going on the record: I do not like Jacoby Ellsbury. There, I feel better. His absolute ceiling in MLB is a .300 hitter with no pop. Yeah, I wouldn’t include him for Johan either….
RF: J.D. Drew (.285/14/95/.800) BU: Kielty (see above): On the other hand, I do like J.D. Drew (I think I’m a contrarian by nature). Smooth swing, good glove, good baseball instincts. Plus he was our 2nd best hitter behind Ortiz in Sept. and the postseason. Look for him to bounce back to his regular #’s as well.
DH: Papi (.315/40/140/1.050) BU: Casey/Youks: Big Papi fixed his knee, and now he’s going to fix that little power dip from last season. MVP candidate this year.
1) Josh Beckett (20-7, 3.25 ERA, 195ks, Cy Young): The Real F’n Deal. Tossed aside his machismo throw-it-by- you attitude and learned how to pitch last season. The result? Domination. Now, presuming health, the next 3-4 years are his prime, he should be even better through the end of his ridiculous 3-year, $30-million contract. By comparison, Zito got 7 years, 120mil.
2) Daisuke Matsusaka (18-9, 3.75 ERA, 210ks): 2008’s Josh Beckett award winner. The Dice-Man had an up and down season, but later in the year he attacked more with his fastball to set up his ridiculous off-speed repertoire. Was 2nd in the AL in strikeouts as a rookie. If he can cut the BB’s down (78 last year), much like Beckett did in 07, watch out. He is as good as the hype.
3) Jon Lester (13-10, 4.15 ERA, 160ks): Starting to get back on the Lester bandwagon. Put on 25lbs of muscle this offseason. Not a command guy, but when he’s tossing in the mid 90s, you don’t have to be. His problem was the cancer weakened him and he was slopping it up there at 87. High ceiling. Two years ago was considered more untouchable than Papelbon following his terrific season as a 21-year-old at Portland.
4) Tim Wakefield (14-12, 4.75 ERA, 110ks): Oh Wakefield. Old man is still kicking and eating innings with an ERA in the 4’s. Biggest steal in the game at 4mil per season. Carlos Silva, with worse numbers across the board, just got Beckett money. Point, Theo.
5) Clay Buchholz (15-5, 3.90 ERA, 175ks): My binky. Started following him when I read he ran a 4.25 40 yard dash in HS and was Texas player of the year his Sr. Year in HS Football. That and when scouts said he’d make it to the pros as a CF’er, SS, SP, or RP. Electric stuff. Mid to upper 90s fastball, devastating straight change, absolute hammer 12-to-6 curve, and a developing slider. His worst pitch is his fastball, simply because of inconsistent command. A lot of that had to do with him overcompensating for velocity, as he stated in a Herald article. Like Lester, bulked up this offseason by 10 pounds. Highest ceiling on the staff. His pro numbers from 2007 mirrored Josh Beckett’s at the same level, same age. Scary talent. ROY candidate no questions asked.
CP: Jonathan Papelbon (40 saves, 1.50 ERA, 10.50 k/9): Simply the best.
SU: Manny Delcarmen (3.00 ERA, 9.00 k/9): Gotta love the local kids. He throws cheddaaa and his changeup developed into a plus pitch last season, to go along with a great hook. Three plus pitches, if MDC throws them for strikes he’s your 8th inning guy this season.
SU: Hideki Okijima (3.50 ERA, 8.25 k/9): Oki had a great rookie year, but will some of the mystique be gone? He said he has developed another secret pitch, so hopefully not. Worst case scenario he’s a steady lefty who can get RHH and LHH out equally.
Mid: Mike Timlin (5.00 ERA, 4.5 k/9): I hate him. Slops 88 with no movement down the pipe consistently. Take him out to the pasture and shoot him, cuz Tito WILL use him in critical situations.
Mid: Julian Tavarez (4.75 ERA, 4.25 k/9): Gotta love crazy Julian. Might be traded, but he is unselfish and takes the ball whenever. Not many guys can be a middle reliever and spot starter at the same time. Rubber armed freak.
Long: Kyle Snyder (4.00 ERA, 6 k/9): Will never see a hi-lev spot, so he’s not getting anymore ink.
Summary: Team will be very good again this year. I’m thinking even without Schilling, 95 wins is a near lock. Great offense, very good rotation, lights out closer. Becketts a stud, Dice-K’s gunna make the leap, and watch out for Lester and Buchholz. Final record: 95-67, 1st place AL East…WS Champs again.
Prospects to watch out for:
- 1) Justin Masterson-RHP
- 2) Michael Bowder-RHP
- 3) Jed Lowrie-SS/3B
- 4) Lars Anderson-1B
- 5) Brandon Moss-OF