Red Sox offense should once again flourish

We’ve talked ad nauseam about the Red Sox pitching, and rightfully so as it was the Achilles heel in the Red Sox epic collapse but in all of the hoopla people seem to forget that the Red Sox had the best offense in the league last year and it will be coming back nearly unchanged.  They were first in the majors in hits, doubles, runs, RBI, total bases, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging last year.  It’s ridiculous that a team so prolific offensively failed to secure a spot in the postseason.  Defense was another story however and that is an area that the club will need to improve on if they want to right the wrongs of last year.  Here is what the roster of position players looks like heading in.

Saltalamacchia returns for his 2nd season as the Sox' starting backstop

Catchers – Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Lavarnway:  It looks like the Red Sox are content with sending Lavarnway down to Pawtucket to start the season to get him more seasoning behind the plate.  Lavarnway looks to be about major league ready at the plate but the Sox would like him to develop more defensively.  Saltalamacchia played pretty well in his first full season at catcher although he slipped a bit towards the end of the year.  His .235/.288/.737 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI was respectable for a catcher and you would expect him to improve those numbers with an increase in durability.  Varitek wasn’t horrible as the back-up last year offensively, going .221/.300/.723 with 11 HRs and 36 RBI but defense was the issue with this group.  Saltalamacchia was at 31% throwing out numbers which is decent but Varitek was at a horrible 14%.  The Sox signed Kelly Shoppach from the Rays on Monday.  Despite a lowly offensive line of .176/.268/.607 with 11 HRs and 22 RBI he threw out an impressive 41% of base runners last season.  Again with a pitching staff that doesn’t like to hold people on it is important to get guys out there who can throw runners out.  The defense has been greatly improved at catcher.

Gonzalez should improve his power numbers with a healthier shoulder next season

Infield – Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Aviles, Nick Punto:  The infield seems set at this point with 4 starters and 2 utility men.  Obviously, Gonzalez and Pedroia are as good as it gets, both offensively and defensively, on the right side of an infield.  Gonzalez didn’t disappoint in his first year in Boston with an offensive line of .338/.410/.957 with 27 HRs and 117 RBI.  Bear in mind that was while dealing with the recovery of off-season shoulder surgery that sapped much of his power.  He also earned a Gold Glove award for his defense.  Pedroia became Pedroia after his knee was looked at in June and he got a clean bill of health.  Pedey had a slow start but still put up a final line of .307/.387/.861 with 21 HRs and 91 RBI.  He also was awarded a Gold Glove for his defensive efforts.  If these guys stay healthy, and they usually always do, it would be hard to name a better right side of an infield in the league.  Marco Scutaro was a pleasant surprise in the 2nd year of his deal, posting a .298/.358/.781 line with 7 HRs and 54 RBI.  His good year got him another year with as the Sox starting SS as they picked up his option for 2012 right after the season.  He still plays a solid enough shortstop and he’s been a good stop-gap for Jose Iglesias, who is still only 22 years old.  Kevin Youkilis was a disappointment last year.  He posted a 258/.373/.833 line with with 17 HRs and 80 RBI in an injury riddled season.  His hip is making it harder for him to move around at third.  With his trade value all but shot at this point the hope would be that they can keep him in one piece for the next year or two and then slide him into the DH spot when Papi retires and Will Middlebrooks is ready to step into the lineup.  The concern now is that he may end up like Mike Lowell did at the end of his career.

Aviles will be the Sox' supersub, playing infield and outfield

As far as the utility guys go Mike Aviles will return to the Sox bench this year.  Aviles was acquired in a deadline trade with the Royals.  Aviles is a solid guy to have on the bench and he was productive for the Sox last year, posting a .317/.340/.775 line with 2 HRs and 8 RBI in his time with the Sox.  He will also be able to play in the outfield, making him one of the more versatile members of the Sox bench.  Yesterday the Sox added Nick Punto to their bench as well.  Punto has never been a particularly productive offensive player but last year posted a respectable .278/.388/.809 line with a HR and 20 RBI.  Punto’s value is in defense, as he is one of the most sure handed utility men in the league.  Punto will replace Jed Lowrie who had a .252/.303/.685 line with 6 HRs and 36 RBI.  Lowrie was also a dreadful defensive player and one of the key offenders of the September defensive swoon.  He also had serious durability issues.

Ellsbury will look to build on his breakout 2011 season

Outfield – Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald:  There are not many more positive things that you can say about Jacoby Ellsbury’s season last year.  He posted a .321/.376/.928 line with 32 HRs and 105 RBI.  He also stole 39 bases.  On top of all of that offensive production he also won his first Gold Glove.  All in all Ellsbury put up an M.V.P. type season for the Sox last year.  Of course the concern will be that Ellsbury won’t be able to keep up with the pace but that remains to be seen.  I expect, if not a similar year, something in the same ballpark.  In fact, don’t expect a sharp decline before his arbitration years are up.  In contrast to Ellsbury’s dream season Crawford’s was more of a nightmare.  The usually productive Crawford had a dismal .255/.289/.694 line with 11 HRs, 56 RBI and 18 SBs.  He was also a disappointment in the field.  Let’s all be honest though, we know from years of watching Carl Crawford play baseball that he is a better player than he showed last year.  Maybe he acclimates to playing baseball in Boston, maybe he doesn’t.  One thing that would help, for starters, is a place in the lineup.  Put him somewhere and leave him there.  Josh Reddick is the dark horse of the group.  He looks to be the starting RF for the Sox.  He had a decent .280/.327/.784 line with 7 HRs and 28 RBI last year but he is, to put it nicely, not very good in the field.  His high energy style at the plate may make you forget J.D. Drew but his defensive skills certainly won’t.  McDonald was horrible early last season, hitting under .200 for much of the first half of the year, but he recovered late and posted a .236/.303/.704 line with 6 HRs and 24 RBI.  McDonald is a decent enough option but you wonder if the Sox would be more comfortable with a veteran guy with more experience to platoon with Reddick, say a Cody Ross or a Ryan Ludwick.  If that’s the case McDonald’s spot on the roster would be in jeopardy with Aviles being able to play the outfield.  A lot of people love Ryan Kalish but he had sort of a lost season last year when he injured his shoulder so he will get more seasoning time in Pawtucket to start off the year.  He’s a definite long term prospect for RF though.

Ortiz is back for his 10th season as Sox' DH

Designated Hitter – David Ortiz:  We all know by now that David Ortiz will be back for his 10th season as the Red Sox DH.  I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Sox didn’t make a two year commitment to him by time spring training rolls around either.  Of course Ortiz’ resume as a designated hitter is basically flawless, he is the best ever in the game.  He shook off the slow starts of the prior two seasons last year and started strong and went the distance posting an impressive .309/.398/.953 line with 29 HRs and 96 RBI.  His numbers have been consistent over the past three seasons with the exception of an uptick in his average last year.  I’d expect similar numbers, at least power-wise, next season.

Overall outlook:  Look at it this way, worst case scenario is an everyday line-up of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ortiz, Crawford, Reddick, Saltalamacchia, Scutaro.  How many MLB teams would take that lineup in a heart beat?  Adding Shoppach and another right handed outfield bat will make the Sox a better team against lefties.  Defensively they look to be improved in some areas, in particular catcher and infield defense, but Reddick has got to be a concern in right field.  The offense wasn’t the problem last year and doesn’t look to be again this year.  Look for the Sox to be at or near the top of every offensive category in the league.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

2 Responses to Red Sox offense should once again flourish

  1. toosoxy says:

    I just really want to see them thinking about pitching. All moves thus far are underwhelming.

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