Worst-to-first, worst-to ______. This is what will be determined in 2015 as the Red Sox look to rebound from last year’s 71-91 record and a last place finish in the American League East.
The 2015 Sox will look a lot different from past seasons, most notably with their starting rotation. Only one member of the staff this season started in the rotation at the start of last year, and that is Clay Buchholz -- who will start on Opening Day for the first time in his career (Today, 3 p.m. at Philadelphia, NESN).
While the rotation may lack true star power, what they do have is dependable pitchers who are likely to eat up innings. Rick Porcello is coming off a season where he eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career, and Wade Miley has thrown over 200 innings in each of the last two seasons.
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Justin Masterson has had three different seasons of 200 innings or more, and is looking for a bounce-back campaign, while Joe Kelly may have the best pure stuff on the team and is primed for a breakout season.
There certainly are questions in the bullpen, but as long as he stays healthy, the Red Sox have one of the best closers in the game in Koji Uehara.
Offensively, the team struggled for much of last year, finishing with a team batting average of .244, which was tied for 21st in baseball and second-to-last in the American League. This likely won’t be the case this season as the team made offense a big priority this offseason.
The Sox signed sluggers Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to help bolster the middle of the lineup. It certainly adds length to the batting order, as the pair will hit in the middle of Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli.
Ramirez, who returns to the organization in which he came up in, could do some serious damage at Fenway Park with the Green Monster so close to the plate in left field. Providing he stays healthy, Ramirez’s career-high of 33 homers could possibly be within striking distance.
Having Ramirez and Sandoval in the lineup will likely benefit Ortiz and Napoli the most. Ortiz, who is now 39 years old, will likely do much better than his .263 average last year, as he will likely see better pitches to hit with the new sluggers in the order.
Napoli too should see an increase in his numbers as he is likely to hit behind Pedrioia, Ortiz, Ramirez and Sandoval, which means there should be plenty of opportunities to drive runs in. This isn't even mentioning the up-and-coming stars in Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Scoring runs shouldn’t be an issue for this year’s club.
Already suffering a big blow at the end of spring training by losing starting catcher Christian Vazquez for the season because of Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox will have their work cut out for them.
But, after going from worst-to-first in 2013, who says they can’t do the same in 2015?
Projected batting order
1. Mookie Betts, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Hanley Ramirez, LF
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
6. Mike Napoli, 1B
7. Shane Victorino, RF
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Ryan Hanigan, C
1. Clay Buchholz
2. Rick Porcello
3. Justin Masterson
4. Wade Miley
5. Joe Kelly
Key bullpen contributors
1. Junichi Tazawa
2. Matt Barnes
3. Alexi Ogando
4. Craig Breslow
5. Edward Mujica
6. Koji Uehara (starting season on DL)