Despite all the snow on the ground right now and the feeling that winter isn’t going away anytime soon, the Red Sox will be playing regular season baseball at Fenway Park just 46 days from today. For reference, New Year’s Day was just 46 days ago and that doesn’t seem all that long ago – so we’re getting close to baseball season.
It’s difficult to remember a Red Sox season with so much anticipation as the Sox have the best odds in baseball (along with the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs) to win this year’s title at 9/2 (via Bovada.LV).
Before we get to October and before we even get to Opening Day on Yawkey Way, there is plenty of spring training baseball to be played and the shape of the 2017 Red Sox will be molded. Here are three players to keep close tabs on this spring.
Sox fans got a brief glimpse of Benintendi’s potential last season at the Major League level as the 22-year-old outfielder hit .295 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 34 games down the stretch. He also had a memorable home run-robbing catch against Tampa Bay in August when he climbed the left field wall at Tropicana Field and pulled back a ball off the bat of the Rays’ Steven Souza.
Benintendi was mentioned in trade rumors this past winter, particularly in the minutes before the Sox executed their blockbuster trade with the White Sox for Chris Sale. Sox boss Dave Dombrowski claims that the Sox were hell-bent on holding onto the young left fielder.
“We never came close to trading him in the wintertime,” Dombrowski said this past week. “He’s an all-around player. He can hit, I think he has a beautiful swing and will hit with some power and drive the ball. I don’t know if he’ll be a big power guy, but he’ll hit with enough power.”
Benintendi is set to make up arguably the best outfield in baseball with Mookie Betts in center and Jackie Bradley Jr. in right.
Sox fans are salivating at the year Sale could potentially have in 2017, and for good reason. In the past three seasons, Sale posted a sparkling 42-25 win-loss mark and struck out an absurd 715 batters.
ESPN Stats and Info published a story this week regarding how the Red Sox’ outstanding defense could lift Sale to even greater heights. In it, ESPN pointed out that Boston was second in the AL in defensive runs saved with 54 last year. The Sox also added the reigning AL Gold Glove winner at first base in Mitch Moreland, so it should be extremely tough for opposing teams to light up the scoreboard during Sale stars this spring and summer.
Of course, there were plenty of glowing remarks regarding David Price a year ago at this time and Price struggled during his first season in Boston. Sale is at least saying all the right things in Fort Myers.
“I have very high expectations for myself,” Sale said. “I demand a lot from myself. I don’t think it’ll be anything different. I’ll be harder on myself than (the media) will. I’m not worried about that.”
The Panda Redemption Tour is underway in Florida. Sandoval looks like Channing Tatum compared to what he looked like one year ago, but whether or not a good physique translates to hits remains to be seen.
It’s been awhile since the 30-year-old Sandoval was a legit threat at the plate. He hasn’t earned an All-Star nod since 2012 and he hasn’t finished a season having batted over .300 since that same year. His RBI totals – which were never all that impressive to begin with - have dipped every season since 2013, going from 79 to 73 to 47 in 2015 (his first year in Boston).
As for the starting job at third base, the Red Sox are at least saying that there will be a competition for the spot during spring training. Travis Shaw beat out a beat-up Sandoval in Fort Myers last year, but the Sox wound up trading Shaw this winter. Brock Holt will be the man in charge of pushing Sandoval this spring.