Xander Bogaerts has helped sure up an already potent Red Sox lineup. Credit: Getty Images Xander Bogaerts burst onto the scene last fall, how will he fare in 2014? Credit: Getty Images

Pitchers and catchers have been reporting at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., and the excitement for the 2014 season is building. Let’s take a look at what needs to go right for Boston if they want to defend their World Series title.

1. Is Xander Bogaerts a sure thing at shortstop?
The sample size is small, but the Red Sox believe the rookie is ready to handle the big leagues.

In the 18 games Bogaerts played in the regular season, he hit a respectable .250, but he struck out 13 times in his 44 at-bats. He showed great poise in the playoffs as he batted .296 and his OBP was an impressive .412, but he still struck out nine times in just 27 at-bats.

 

Bogaerts was ranked number two overall by ESPN’s Keith Law in his annual list of the top 100 prospects in baseball for 2014. Bogaerts will have to prove that he can handle his new field position (he was playing third base for most of his games last season), and he’ll also have to realize that pitchers will be treating him much differently at the plate now that enemy teams will have scouting information on him.

2. Will Koji Uehara be as reliable as he was last year?
Uehara put up fabulous numbers last year, recording 101 K’s in just 74.1 innings of work, while only surrendering 9 walks. His WHIP was a microscopic .565, and his ERA was just 1.09. Such numbers are almost unheard of, so it would be nearly impossible for him to replicate these. The Red Sox must be wary of regression for the Japanese native, and remember that last season their bullpen recorded a 3.70 ERA, just tenth-best in the American League.

3. Who’s playing center field?
With Jacoby Ellsbury doing his best Benedict Arnold impersonation in the Bronx, the Red Sox are now left with a gaping hole in the middle of their outfield. Currently, the Red Sox carry only two center fielders on their 40-man roster in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Grady Sizemore.

Bradley was mediocre in his brief stints in the majors in 2013, batting just .189 in his 37 games. The Red Sox are hopeful that the overall No. 51 ranked prospect will blossom this year, as their only other option at the moment is Sizemore, who has not played a game in the majors since 2011 due to various injuries.

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