Saturday, April 4, 2009

AL East Preview: Boston Red Sox

Prediction: Boston Red Sox: 1st place finish

Strengths: Boston may have the deepest pitching staff in all of baseball. Both their starting rotation and their bullpen are loaded with talented young arms. Starting pitchers Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daiskuke Matsuzaka form a dominate top of the rotation. Closer Jonathan Papelbon has three straight years of 35 or more saves. The talent in Boston's staff is almost equaled by the quality of their lineup. Reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia sets the tempo for Boston's lineup. Behind Pedroia sits the meat of the Red Sox order, designated hitter David Ortiz, first baseman Kevin Youkilis, left fielder Jason Bay and right fielder J.D. Drew. All four players are high OPS (on base+ slugging percentage) guys with 20-30 home run power.

Weaknesses: Despite having a great overall lineup the Red Sox are getting below league average production from their catcher and shortstop positions. Jason Varitek has been an integral part of the Red Sox organisation for over 10 years now, but should no longer be considered an everyday catcher. This is a position that Boston will likely look to upgrade during the season. Shortstop is another problem spot for Boston. Last year Julio Lugo and rookie Jed Lowrie split time at the position and combined for a subpar performance. Lowrie showed promise though and will need to continue to improve as the Red Sox look to reclaim the AL East. Injuries are another area of concern for the Red Sox. Ortiz, Drew, and third baseman Mike Lowell all missed significant time last season due to injury. Boston will need a healthier lineup as they battle through their tough AL East schedule.

Farm Aid: While no longer considered rookies young players such as Lowrie, and pitchers Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson figure to play a big role for Boston in 2009. Lowrie will be the starting shortstop and will hopefully bring much needed production to the position. Masterson will be Papelbon's setup man and should give Boston the best 8th-9th inning combination in the AL. Buchholz has the talent to join Boston's rotation and will be the first arm called upon when an injury occurs. The biggest advantage of Boston's talented minor league system is their ability to make a trade to improve the team for a stretch run.

Outlook: Given the Red Sox depth and talent they should be looking at a division title and are the early favorite to win the World Series.

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