Boston Red Sox 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Boston Red Sox 2021: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Here's all you need to know about the 2020 Red Sox — it didn't take world events to make their year miserable. From trading MVP Mookie Betts to (temporarily) parting ways with scandal-plagued manager Alex Cora to losing ace Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery to finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball, the Red Sox gave their fans no shortage of reasons to change the channel. Now begins the process of winning them back. It won't happen immediately because outside of some nice offensive weapons, the overall talent base just isn't there. The Red Sox need massive upgrades to their rotation, help in the bullpen and depth at every level of the system. The good news is that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has already started remaking the farm system with a series of shrewd deals. The bad news is that they're early in a process that can't be rushed. There's a path back to contention, but it's going to take more than one offseason to get there.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Red Sox

"I know they had injuries last year, but it looked like they weren't even interested in competing. Just a lifeless team killing time for 60 games. Now that Alex Cora is back, he'll light a fire under them. Of course, the roster's nowhere near as strong as it was for Cora in 2018, and the pitching staff especially is in shambles. They just didn't throw strikes, and all those walks will kill you at Fenway. J.D. Martinez looked disinterested last year; his bat speed was down, and he wasn't making the in-game adjustments like he used to. I love Alex Verdugo, though; as much as it hurt them to lose Mookie Betts, at least they got an everyday outfielder with presence and upside. Xander Bogaerts sprays the ball all over the field; he doesn't strike out, and he's smooth in the field — a great leader for a guy like Rafael Devers, who is the best player on that team. He hits any pitch from line to line, with authority. My only worry with Devers is his weight; he's young now, but he's got to get in better shape to have the long, productive career he's capable of."

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Beyond the Box Score

Posterized Michael Chavis played basketball at Sprayberry High School in Georgia. Archrival Wheeler boasted future Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, who effectively ended Chavis' hoops career with a vicious alley-oop dunk. "My friends, my family, my faculty at my school are cheering for Jaylen, laughing at me, and I'm on the ground, and I got pulled immediately, so he literally ruined my basketball career and I didn't play again," Chavis said with a laugh. "I was the sixth man. You've got the whole school laughing at you, that's pretty much it."

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2021 Athlon Sports Baseball Preview

Name Game

Hunter Renfroe hits bombs. Hunter Renfrow catches them. The former is a new Red Sox outfielder who's blessed with prodigious right-handed power. The latter is an NFL wide receiver for the Raiders. The two finally met in 2019 and now consider each other friends. "We actually have a really good relationship and keep up with each other often," Renfroe said.


COVID Casualty Of all the baseball players to contract COVID-19 last season, none was hit harder than Red Sox lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez. He tried returning in July, but even simple workouts left him exhausted. The diagnosis of myocarditis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart, floored him. "That's the most important part of your body," Rodriguez said. "I was kind of scared." The good news is that the Red Sox anticipate he'll be ready for the start of the season.


Bringing the heat Kevin Plawecki has a better perspective than most catchers on what it takes to pitch because he has made five mop-up relief appearances, including a scoreless outing with the Red Sox in 2020. Since allowing four runs in his debut with the Mets in 2017, Plawecki has thrown four straight scoreless outings. He relies primarily on a 75-mph four-seam fastball, so he's unlikely to quit his day job.


Bringing the Noise One of the only highlights of 2020 provided a window into what kind of favorite Alex Verdugo might be once fans return to the stands. Playing against the Blue Jays in an otherwise empty Fenway Park, Verdugo raced back to the right field fence and timed his leap perfectly to snatch a would-be Travis Shaw home run. Verdugo's shouts of, "WHOOO!" were clearly audible on the broadcast. His enthusiasm is genuine and infectious.


Taking out the trash If there's one question that hung over Alex Cora's suspension, it was this: If banging on a trash can to steal signs worked so well when he was Astros bench coach, why didn't he bring the system to Boston? "People were starting to talk about what was going on around the league," Cora said. "It wasn't worth it."

Projected Lineup

LINEUP

CF    Alex Verdugo (L)

3B    Rafel Devers (L)

SS    Xander Bogaerts (R)

DH   J.D. Martinez (R)

LF    Hunter Renfroe (R)

1B    Bobby Dalbec (R)

C     Christian Vazquez (R)

RF    Franchy Cordero (L)

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2B   Enrique Hernandez (R)

BENCH

UT    Marwin Gonzalez (S)

INF   Michael Chavis (R)

C      Kevin Plawecki (R)

INF   Christian Arroyo (R)

OF    Marcus Wilson (R)

ROTATION

LHP    Eduardo Rodriguez

RHP    Nathan Eovaldi

LHP    Martin Perez

RHP    Garrett Richards

RHP    Tanner Houck

LHP    Chris Sale*

BULLPEN

RHP    Matt Barnes (C)

RHP    Adam Ottavino

LHP    Darwinzon Hernandez

LHP    Josh Taylor

RHP    Ryan Brasier

RHP    Phillips Valdez

RHP    Nick Pivetta

*Note: Chris Sale is expected to miss the start of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

2021 Prediction: 4th in AL East