With the addition of Adrian Gonzalez and the re-emergence of David Ortiz in 2010-2011, the Boston Red Sox were a hitting machine. Unfortunately, a late season collapse by the Red Sox enabled Tampa Bay to steal the A.L. Wild Card spot.
Time for a change
This was a collapse of epic proportion and moves were made. General manager Theo Epstein
went west and has taken a job with the Chicago Cubs while manager Terry Francona
has decided to step down. Word leaked out that Francona was running a loose ship and players were taking advantage of it. This was partially used as the reason for the Red Sox collapse. Francona had a spectacular run in Boston, winning them their first World Series since 1918. This season, it was time for someone that the team would respect, a real winner.From Far East to American League East
After much speculation, Bobby Valentine has signed to be the Sox skipper. Valentine has a good relationship with the players that he coaches but he doesn't tolerate players that don't do what's best for the team. Valentine was a bigtime winner in the Far East as a manager and now he'll be looking to take down the American League Eastern division and also will be seeking the World Series title
.Number 1 offense in baseball
Adrian Gonzalez was already a star when he was with the San Diego Padres but as a Boston Red Sox, he's more highly profiled and he exceeded Boston's expectations on the field and was a good fit in the clubhouse.
The first baseman finished off the season with 27 HR, 117 RBI, and a .338 BA (.410 OBP). Gonzalez is a star for years to come. He'll turn 30 in May and is just reaching his prime. Much to my surprise, he gives David Ortiz a lot of credit with his development in Boston. Gonzalez claims that "Big Papi is a great asset to the team". Gonzalez will be happy because Ortiz will be returning to the Red Sox after much speculation of him going to the Yankees and the short right porch that Yankee Stadium presents.Big Papi has regained the touch
I remember when steroids were the talk and Ortiz couldn't buy himself a home run. Last season, Ortiz proved that he can still play as he enters his late 30's as a designated hitter. He hit 29 HR, 96 RBI, and had a .309 BA. Ortiz doesn't seem to be on the decline and Boston's offense will be imposing to opposing pitchers.The Heart of Beantown
Just as Derek Jeter is the heart of New York, I consider 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia to be the heart of the team for Boston. The silent leader that leads by example with his hustle on the field.
Pedroia doesn't mind getting dirty and will do anything to win. He's a grinder that everyone in the clubhouse respects. Last year, Pedroia had a strong season, with 21 HR, 91 RBI, 26 SB and a .307 BA. I promise you fans, this is a player that will be a "Bobby V. favorite". Expect a very productive season out of Pedroia in 2012.Best leadoff hitter in the game
No disrespect to Jose Reyes
of the Florida Marlins but Jacoby Ellsbury is the premiere leadoff hitter in baseball and can be taken into consideration for AL MVP. Ellsbury can do do it all. He's a 5-tool player in the leadoff spot. He possesses lightning quick speed and power to go with it. Ellsbury is a fantasy leaguers dream, a player to be considered where betting props are concerned.
Last season Ellsbury hit 32 HR, 105 RBI, .321 BA, and 39 SB. He sets the tone for the Sox and comes up with the big hits. On the season, Ellsbury also had a team leading 119 runs and 46 doubles.
Can Ellsbury play any better? He might be looking at an AL MVP award but newly acquired Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels might have to say something about that.Expecting more this season
When he's healthy, 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis is one of the most clutch hitters in baseball. Youkilis was hampered by injuries last season and his production took a dramatic drop. We don't have to mention numbers here. If "Youk" is healthy, he's a bigtime player in this lineup.A poor signing?
This season will determine whether getting Carl Crawford from the Tampa Rays was a bust or not. Crawford had a very poor 2010-2011 season and his batting average dropped 52 points from the previous season and he hit 11 HR and 56 RBI with 18 SB. Crawford is a question mark.Gamers
Seasoned veteran Marco Scutaro had one of his most efficient seasons in just 395 at-bats. Look for more of the same type of play from Scutaro. He's not a star but he'll come up with the key hits to win games.
24 year old Josh Reddick is slated to start in right field for the Red Sox this season. Reddick got his feet wet in 2011 and proved his worth in 254 at-bats. The Red Sox are counting on Josh Reddick to be a solid full time player in 2012.Pitching
With starter Clay Bucholz injured for much of the season, the rest of the Red Sox rotation bared down and did a stand up job. If you match the Red Sox starters up against the Yankees, I feel the Red Sox have a major advantage. Unfortunately, the Red Sox have been hampered by injuries.
Daisuke Matsuzaka who had Tommy John Surgery in June of 2011, is expected to return in the mid-part of the season while John Lackey will be out for the entire season. Lackey was a disaster last year. This isn't much of a loss.
The Red Sox will need key performances out of co-aces Josh Beckett (13-7, 2.89) and Jon Lester (15-9, 3.47). Along with them, if setup man Alfredo Aceves can put up half the numbers that he did in 2011, the Red Sox will be in good shape. Aceves was 10-2, 2 saves, 11 holds, 2.61 ERA.Take the money and run
That's exactly what reliever Jonathan Papelbon did as he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Sox will most likely go with Mark Melancon who was picked up in the Jed Lowrie trade with Houston. For losing an ace like Papelbon, this appears to be a solid move. Melancon will be playing on a much better team and his numbers will reflect that.
Last season, Melancon was 8-4 with 20 saves and a 2.70 ERA. He had 5 blown saves but we have to remember that he played for the lowly Houston Astros.Prediction
This is a tough one due to the epic collapse that the Red Sox endured last season. When you look on paper, this is the best team in the American League (sorry Texas Rangers
and New York). The Red Sox will win the American League East and look for a return trip to the World Series.Season record - 98-64Betting odds
for my MLB Pick will be disclosed in a future update.