February 22, 2013

Playing Pepper Answers

As mentioned previously, the Cardinals blog C70 at the bat at Cardinal70.com hosts an annual series where bloggers from each team answer some specific questions in previewing their team's seasons.

To see how other Red Sox bloggers, Steve from BosoxInjection, Christine from Boston Red Thoughts and Rebecca from Fenway Fatales answered these questions, take a look at the Red Sox "Playing Pepper" page at C70 at the bat.

Below are the questions with the answers that I provided. As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, hate mail....
1) How would you grade the offseason?
It’s in the B range.
Why is it not an A? Well, Josh Hamilton won’t be batting cleanup  for us and Zack Greinke won’t be our Opening Day starter. We also did not trade for RA Dickey, Jose Reyes, Justin Upton, Shin-Soo Choo or any of the other big names who are also changing zip codes this season.
Why is not a C?  See above. We did not go out and sign any of the premier free agents and get saddled with long term contracts or give up top prospects in trades.
We have a good crop of prospects almost ready on both sides of the ball. Coming into the offseason we had question marks at first base, shortstop, corner outfield and rotation. Instead of making big splashes we plugged these holes with good players who should give us decent production in the short term until the prospects are ready.
If Mike Napoli was healthy, I would have graded it a solid B+. With question marks around his ability to stay on the field, we do have a potential depth problem at first base, so the final mark is a B-.

2) What are the expectations for this club throughout the fan base, besides much less drama than the last couple of years?
It depends on what part of the “fan base”. From what I hear, the unsophisticated casual fans are pessimistic. They don’t understand why we didn’t spend more money on better players, or trade some of our prospects whom they don’t know for, well, anybody really.  The expectation of that part of the fanbase is low. They see a last place team that didn’t make any major moves, while the Blue Jays who came in 4th made some big headlines, so they are probably expecting a similar last place finish. The more sophisticated fans can see that we made some smart short term moves, without impacting long term financial flexibility or giving up top prospects who could contribute at a high level soon. I think overall nobody is expecting a division title, but anticipate us to at least be in the playoff race into September.

3) Who do you expect to be the most pleasant surprise to be for the coming year?
The most pleasant surprise HAS to be John Lackey.  Why? Well, expectations are abysmally low. I think we’ve been conditioned to expect the worst from him. Anything short of 20 losses, an ERA north of 7 and a freak collision sidelining Dustin Pedroia for the season will be deemed to be a “pleasant surprise”.  More seriously, he has had a full season to recover from Tommy John, and should at least be an innings eater that provides league average pitching.  That might not be what was expected when he was initially signed but it would go a long way to solidify our rotation.

4) What rookie will make the biggest impact in 2013?
We have a lot of promising young players, but I think they are all at least a year away from having a shot at becoming regulars. Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias are no longer considered rookies.  Rubby De La Rosa is one hangnail away from being called up for a start, but again, he’s not technically a rookie either.  I am excited for the arrival of Jackie Bradley Jr, Xander Bogaerts and Bryce Brentz, but I suspect we won’t see them until September, if at all.   Of course if our outfield has the same injury problems that befell them last season where at one point, the top seven outfielders in our depth chart were all sidelined at the same time then Bradley and/or Brentz may get called up early, and if they impress they may stick around.

5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division? 
86-76, 3rd place.

6) What one thing from your team are you most looking forward to watching?
There are two things I’m most looking forward to watching. First of all, it’s the young guys. For the past several seasons there were no spots on the horizon for any of our promising prospects to aspire to.  They were destined to either be bench players or trade bait.  If we had a need we would fill it with an established major leaguer rather than risk subpar performance from a rookie.  But we have a huge crop of near ready prospects, several of whom will fill a position of current or short term need. I am really looking forward to following them in the minors and anxiously await their arrival at Fenway, expecting some to come up before season’s end.

Secondly, as a Canadian, I always root for ballplayers from the North, and am every excited that one of Canada’s best arms, Ryan Dempster, will be pitching for Boston and look forward to watching him pitch in the tough AL East and expect him to handle it just fine.

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