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Playing Pepper: Random Thoughts As Spring Sprungs

Here are some random thoughts about the coming year for the Red Sox organization.  I will put up a season prediction in the coming weeks as well.

  • Alex Wilson seems to be the forgotten pitching prospect.  With so much attention going to Workman, Owens, Ranaudo, Barnes, De La Rosa, Britton, and Webster, I wouldn't be surprised if it's Wilson who actually pitches in the most games for the Red Sox this year.  He's not the high-level talent of the other guys, but Farrell seemed to love his agressive approach last year and the fact that he's not as much of a prospect will mean the Sox won't hesitate using him out of the pen as much as needed.  Last year he pitched in 14 games for the Sox (all in relief) and had an ERA of 4.88.
  • Feels like Grady Sizemore is the ideal candidate for an extended spring training then maybe a few weeks at Pawtucket - assuming he stays healthy enough to play this year.  I'm not holding my breath that we ever seem him play for the Sox, but if we do he will be a good addition to the outfield in June or July when perhaps we have a better feel as to whether Daniel Nava can repeat 2013, how Jackie Bradley Jr. can hit in the majors, and whether Victorino can stay healthy.
  • With Ryan Lavarnway learning first base, it looks as though Christian Vazquez (23 years old) will be the starting catcher in Pawtucket with Dan Butler (27) backing him up.  That said, as with Wilson in the first bullet, Butler is the most likely candidate to spend significant time on the major league roster this year.  With Pierzynski and Ross both getting pretty old in Boston, and with Vazquez and Portland's Blake Swihart being top prospects in need of more minor league seasoning, Butler seems well positioned to see quite a bit of time in Boston this year.  It appears unlikely that the Sox would turn to Lavarnway again for that role when he barely played last year when called up.
  • Speaking of Lavarnway, it'll be interesting (to me at least) how the Sox utilize first base in Pawtucket and Portland.  Travis Shaw seems like the only prospect but he probably will have to prove his Fall League performance wasn't a fluke before getting called up from Portland (where he had an off year last year).  I'll be that the PawSox start the year with Lavarnway and Brandon Snyder switching off between first and DH, with outfielder Alex Hassan getting some chances at first as well.  Then who knows what happens if, hopefully, Shaw forces his way to AAA.
  • Outfielder Corey Brown is another player who might make a significant impact in Boston this year but who is not being talked about much at all.  He's a former top pick who is known for good defense in all three outfield spots, power, and a good eye.  The Sox are thin behind Jackie Bradley Jr. in center (Sizemore, Victorino.... Brown) and Victorino in right (Nava, Bryce Brentz... Brown).  Brown, like Butler and Wilson, could be a significant factor this year though if we see much of him it doesn't mean good things about Bradley and Vic.
  • I feel good about Will Middlebrooks at third.  Looking at last year and assuming he'll be even a little better than that, we're talking about 30 homers and decent defense from third base.  You're not going to find that on the market.  
  • Some Red Sox reporter should cover Xander Bogaerts' defense.  Everyone is so enthralled by him - as they should be - that there seems to be little or no coverage of whether he's actually a good shortstop defensively.  And that matters a lot for the Sox' chances this year!
  • I'm sick of people comparing Jackie Bradley Jr. or anyone else to Bogaerts.  Of course we have less confidence in Bradley than Bogaerts, X-man is an unparallelled talent.  Every comparison between X and another prospect seems ridiculous.  While he might flop, he's the most talented Sox prospect since at least Nomar, and many Fred Lynn.  This isn't like anyone else when they came up.  Phil Plantier was not Xander Bogaerts.
  • The Sox will probably go with Nava, Gomes, and Victorino to leadoff.  But what they want is for Jackie Bradley Jr. to succeed enough to leadoff in the second half of the season.  They have a ton of confidence in his mental capacity to take on challenges (like making the opening day roster last year right out of Double-A).  He's not a big basestealer, but he's an on-base guy with some pop who could steal 20 bases.  That's a leadoff hitter sometime in the next few years if he lives up to his potential.
  • I'm sensing a big year from Felix Doubront.  He's nasty when he's feeling good physically and it sounds like he's finally in good shape.  Look out.
  • I love Jon Lester, but does anyone else see that his "hometown discount" proclamation is a negotiating tactic.  The reality is that he was pretty good during the regular season last year, bad the year before, and great (great!) in the post season last year.  He's most marketable right now when we remember the postseason ace, not the guy with an ERA over 4.00 into mid-August (4.52 on August 2).  Lester is horse and I hope he's a Sox for a long long time.  But he isn't always an ace and he knows that he showed the best of himself in the postseason and that that means it's the best time for him - not necessarily the team - to resign. 

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