Around the horn with the Red Sox lineup …
Ortiz is the only major leaguer to slug 30 homers and 100 RBI in each of the last three seasons. The Red Sox need the same production from their 40-year-old DH during the Big Papi Farewell Tour. The spotlight usually brings the best out of Ortiz, which is good news for the Red Sox. Ortiz rookie and memorabilia cards will be hot commodities by season’s end.
By all accounts, Ramirez’s transition to first base has been far from flawless, but much better than expected. I still have reservations. Ramirez has frustrated coaching staffs with overall indifference throughout his career. Entering his 13th big league season, should we expect a change in attitude? Ramirez has displayed the ability to field ground balls and handle cut-offs. He struggles with scooping balls thrown in the dirt. I’m having trouble picturing the less-than-nibble Ramirez starting and finishing a 3-6-3 double play. Much of the Red Sox success — or lack of success — will depend on Ramirez’s ability to be an offensive force while learning a new position — a position where there is little room for error.
When Pedroia is healthy, he’s one of the game’s best all-around second baseman and a lynchpin at the top of the Red Sox batting order. He’s at the point of his career where he may have to sit once a week or so. Keeping Pedroia strong and playing at a high level is one of the main goals of the coaching staff this season.
He’s becoming one of the game’s top shortstops right before our very eyes. Hard work has brought out his natural offensive and defensive abilities. Look for a little less batting average and a little more power and production in 2016. Buy his baseball cards early and often while they are still affordable.
A former first baseman, Shaw has quickly become the best third baseman on the team — not by default, but from tremendous overall play at the end of last season and to this point in spring training. A left-handed hitter with the ability to drive the ball to all fields, the Red Sox are intrigued by Shaw’s Fenway power potential. At this point, Shaw is an absolute must everyday player. Taking a look at Shaw’s early baseball cards isn’t a bad idea.
A complete bust. The weight issues, anemic hitting and lack of range are well documented. Quite simply, Sandoval was MLB’s Least Valuable Player last season. With little defensive ability these days and no proven record as a pinch hitter, the former World Series MVP is not expected to make much of an impact this season. With $75 million still owed to him, Sandoval appears to be untradeable — unless the Red Sox eat a ton of money. Bad situation not matter how you look at it.
He’s young, dynamic, extremely talented, articulate, good natured, and committed to excellence — reminiscent of Andrew McCutchen. Enjoy the ride folks, you don’t see this type of player very often. I’m looking for deals on his baseball cards as well.
JACKIE BRADLEY, Jr.
A bit of an enigma early in his career, Bradley needs to prove he’s more than an all-field, no-hit player. Defensively, Bradley is in a class by himself, combining speed, athleticism and an uncanny ability read the ball off the bat. Offensively he’s displayed stretches of power and production along with on base potential. There have also been miserable stretches of non-stop swinging and missing. Will the real Jackie Bradley Jr. please stand up.
The jack-of-all-trades player will get most of his at bats in left field to start the season. The Brock Star won’t put up huge numbers, but he’s a smart, steady, grinding type of player with lots of energy. One of the more valuable players on the team, Holt will also serve as backup for all infield positions. Just call him Ben Zobrist-lite.
Mashes left handed pitching, should be a good fit at Fenway. Platooning with Holt leaves the Red Sox left field is in good hands.
Castillo has a huge contract and lots of potential, but is fifth on the Red Sox outfield depth chart — not a good place to be considering all of the talent above him. A plus fielder and fast runner, Castillo has yet to prove he can consistently hit major league fastballs. Most of the competition in Cuba threw an assortment of junk, which Castillo mashed. He’s finding the power pitching of the majors much more challenging. Wouldn’t call Castillo a bust just yet, but the Red Sox may have overestimated his talent.
BLAKE SWIHART / RYAN HANIGAN / CHRISTAIN VAZQUEZ
Swihart gets the nod to start the season. The Red Sox expect big things offensively from 24-year-old switch-hitter and continued improvement defensively. Vazquez is a defensive specialist adept at calling games and framing pitches. The Red Sox will bring him along slowly, hoping to restore his cannon arm a year removed from Tommy John surgery. At some point, the Red Sox will need to decide between the Swihart’s offensive production and Vazquez’s defense and leadership. Not a bad problem to have. In the meantime, Hanigan is a sound backup.