Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at each team and their biggest offseason move, their biggest question heading into the season, their prospect to watch, and their 2015 outlook. I will be starting in the American League East and because I am a Sox fan, I will start with them.
Boston Red Sox
Biggest Off-Season Move: Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez
I could not pick just one of these players because both were signed to fix the offensive woes that the Red Sox faced in 2014. In the 2013 season, the Red Sox lead the American League in runs scored with 853. In 2014, they finished in the bottom half of the American League with 634 runs. 200 + runs are a big difference and one of the reasons why the Red Sox finished in last place in the A.L. East. One way to fix the 2014 offensive struggles is to go out and sign the two best free agent bats and that is exactly what Boston did. Sandoval, .279/.324/.415, is a consistent hitter that the Red Sox are looking for despite the fact that he appears to be a couple of pounds overweight. It will be interesting to see how Sandoval’s aggressive approach fits in with Boston’s approach to drive the opposing pitcher’s pitch count up. An argument could be made that when Hanley Ramirez is healthy and on the field, he is one of the most valuable players in the league. In 86 games in 2013 he was in MVP conversations and in 128 games last year he produced .283/.369/.448. The big question for Hanley is health but if healthy he could have a big year in his return to Fenway Park.
Biggest Question: Starting Pitching
When the Red Sox lost Jon Lester to the Cubs, there was a big gap to be filled. Did the Red Sox do enough to bolster their rotation? Adding Porcello could be huge because his ERA has dropped in each of his last five seasons, 3.43 in 2014. The Red Sox added two more pitchers in Justin Masterson and Wade Miley and both had solid 2013 seasons but subpar 2014 campaigns. Masterson had a 3.45 ERA in 29 starts in 2013 but pitched through injuries last year and his ERA showed at 5.88. Miley is moving to the American League East which can be difficult for pitchers to do. In 2013, he had a 3.55 ERA but last season he saw his ERA climb to 4.34. The biggest question mark for this rotation is Clay Buchholz. Buchholz has shown that he can be a top of the rotation pitcher but he has struggled at times where he doesn’t look like he could get outs in AA. Boston appears to be going into Spring Training content with their rotation but a move for Cole Hamels could be made if things do not go as planned.
Prospect to Watch: Rusney Castillo
I know a lot of Boston writers would pick Blake Swihart as their prospect to watch but I am very interested to see Castillo for a full 162 game season. In only 36 games, he produced .333/.400/.528. His unique skill set of speed and power could be a huge part of the Red Sox’s offense this season. One concern for every young player is if he can produce for an entire season and if he can make adjustments once pitchers make an adjustment on him. There is no question Castillo has the tools to be successful but can he produce at the major league level in the city of Boston at a high level is still a question that must be answered.
There is no question that the 2015 Boston team will have a better season than the 2014 team but there are a lot of pieces that have to fall into place for this team to compete for a division title. The offense will be much improved from last season but Pedroia will need to stay healthy and Ortiz is entering his age 39 season. The starting pitching is definitely a cause for concern and I do feel a move must be made if this team has expectations of making the postseason. If all the pieces fall in place, this team can compete for the division but I see this team competing for a Wild Card spot rather than a division title with the roster they have right now.