The Lo Down: Red Sox Spring Preview
Spring Training hit its stride this past weekend and while last week’s column focused on recapping what had happened over the winter; this week looks towards the future. Red Sox fans here are a few storylines to keep an eye on as we lead up to Opening Day.
Stephen Drew isn’t walking through that door
When Ryan Dempster broke news of his departure, speculation of a Stephen Drew return to the Red Sox increased; however management knew of Dempster’s intent two weeks prior to announcement.
The notice would have been plenty of time for the parties to negotiate if the Sox were seriously interested in having the shortstop return, instead it is Xander Bogaerts time in Boston (better start memorizing how to spell the name now).
You can never have enough pitching
Ryan Dempster suddenly departing further validates the adage, you can never have too much pitching.
Strengthening that point was Jake Peavy’s recent accident, cutting his hand while fishing.
As of now there are no significant concerns but I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if Peavy is delayed or perhaps misses a start (the cut required stitches, if slow to heal the accident could have some lingering affects).
This is a significant year in the development of Felix Doubront. He enters his age 26 season, and signs show that the previous four years of pitching in the majors are helping him mature.
It was last year Felix arrived overweight and assigned the guidance of Red Sox great, Pedro Martinez. The tutelage seems to have worked as Doubront’s athletic condition entering camp this spring is visibly improved.
Doubront enters his physical prime (years 26-31) and many are interested to see if he takes a step to capitalizing on the potential within his skill set on a consistent basis.
With a 2013 k/9 of 7.71, Felix Doubront had a higher rate of strikeouts than more recognized names like David Price, CC Sabathia, and teammate Jon Lester; but the inconsistency and inability to control walks is what many scouts believe hold Doubront back from solidifying his place among the elite southpaw starters in the AL.
If Felix falters -- while unfortunate -- the Red Sox won’t be in jeopardy or need to scramble for a replacement.
The Second Coming
Between the years of ’05-’07, Sox fans were treated to the first developing glimpses of Clay Bucholz, Jonathan Pepelbon and Jon Lester.
None were considered to be future Hall of Fame players, but in hindsight all three have provided very serviceable careers as Red Sox players.
Under the guidance of Ben Cherrington there is a return to player development, with a number of arms (Henry Owens, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes, Anthony Ranaudo and Ruby De La Rosa) that are quickly due to mature in the next few years all will have a shot to compete at the highest level relatively soon.
Some will be relegated to bullpen, some traded away, but all will be homegrown or developed for multiple years (De La Rosa came via trade). Shrewd acquisitions like AJ Pierzynski, ones that provide serviceable knowledge and experience without blocking developing-talent’s path to the majors will be exciting for fans to follow, but also creates the Red Sox greatest challenge in the year ahead; managing expectations.
Life after Ellsbury
The Red Sox were not the favorites to win the World Series last year.
Much of the fan base was left unsure of what to think of the 2012-2013 off-season acquisitions, reserving judgment. Coming off an off-season where the Red Sox lost their dynamic lead-off hitter ownership has earned some leniency given last season’s title.
Right now analysts are applauding the decision to count on developing talent to compensate for the lost production of much more expensive veterans. Their off-season acquisitions complement internal player development in hopes of creating a “team” of baseball layers, and not a compilation of high-profile athletes (example here).
Adopting such a philosophy requires patience and we’ll see if the new generation of Red Sox fans, ones use to a decade of success (yes it’s been that long, can you believe it???) have that patience. I know that the ones that preceded them certainly did, about 86 years of patience.
Tim Lo is a Bangor based entrepreneur, marketing and advertising professional, and sports fan; fair and objective, in-depth analysis for the educated sports fan with a dash of opinion.
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