The State of the Sox 2008


I thought as we start to head into the 2008 season, it’d be nice to get a “big picture” overview of the club, to see where we’re headed not only this season, but in the near future. This is a chance to see up the pipeline a little bit, and anticipate what the Sox may be facing in future offseasons. Here’s a look at the depth charts at each position, and a short discussion of our strengths and weaknesses; the current state of the Sox.

Most organizational players have been left off of these lists, so you see only Major Leaguers, backups and prospects at each position. For all player lists below, an asterisk denotes the expected 25-man active roster.

Position players

Infielders

1B			2B			SS			3B
Kevin Youkilis*		Dustin Pedroia*		Julio Lugo*		Mike Lowell*
Sean Casey*		Alex Cora*		Alex Cora*		Jed Lowrie
Chris Carter		Jed Lowrie		Jed Lowrie		Chad Spann
Brandon Moss		Tony Granadillo		Christian Lara		Scott White
Aaron Bates		Ryan Dent		Argenis Diaz		Ryan Khoury
Lars Anderson					Oscar Tejeda

The Red Sox have both Lowell and Lugo locked up for the next three seasons, and young infielders in Youkilis (could reach free agency after 2010) and Pedroia (could reach FA after 2012). Optimistically, you could say that they will provide a lot of stability; pessimistically, you could look at it as no job openings for several years. Because they make a combined $21M this year and more each successive year, Lugo and Lowell are basically immovable for probably two more years; therefore pursuing a free agent at 1B (i.e. Mark Teixeira) or 2B (i.e. Brian Roberts) would mean trading one of the starters there.

The Sox do have some promising power at first base in Aaron Bates and Lars Anderson, and Ryan Dent is exciting to watch at second. Argenis Diaz and Oscar Tejeda are slick-fielding youngsters who could become good shortstops. But these middle infielders are still teenagers, and a lot can happen in the next five years. The only really talent-barren position is third base, where Lowell is already 33 years old. Look for the Sox to be players for a big 3B free agent in a couple of years, or they could sign someone at first with the idea of moving Youkilis across the diamond.

Catchers

Jason Varitek*
Kevin Cash*
Dusty Brown
George Kottaras
Mark Wagner

As I’ve said many times before, I am most worried about the catcher position organizationally. If Varitek is injured, we don’t have anyone with any significant Major League starting experience. Beyond Tek, there really isn’t anyone that is proven or even very hopeful. Brown and Kottaras have shown some flashes, and could be league-average or slightly better, but free agency could turn out to be the only viable option here, as Varitek is now in a contract year, at age 36. Kenji Johjima, 32, is expected to be a free agent after this season, and could fit well with the Japanese-speaking pitchers on our staff.

Mark Wagner is a name to remember for the future. The 23-year old hit .318/.406/.533 at high-A last year, and will probably begin at Double-A Portland this year.

Outfielders

LF			CF			RF
Manny Ramirez*		Jacoby Ellsbury*	J.D. Drew*
Jeff Corsaletti		Coco Crisp*		Bobby Kielty*
Zach Daeges		Bobby Kielty*		Brandon Moss
Bubba Bell		Jonathan Van Every	Michael Hall
			Jason Place		Josh Reddick
			Ryan Kalish

The big question going forward is Manny. 2008 is his last guaranteed year, though the team holds two one-year, $20M options on him for 2009 and 2010. What Theo Epstein chooses to do with him will determine how the outfield shakes out for the next few years. That’s a lot of money that could potentially be freed up for a free agent or to re-sign our star players. Otherwise, Drew is locked up until after 2011, and Ellsbury is under team control through 2012.

The Sox have loaded up on young guys who can play centerfield, though many of them like Bubba Bell, Michael Hall and Jason Place will probably move to the corners eventually. Ryan Kalish is a very promising athlete, and the main reason the Sox even entertained the idea of trading Jacoby Ellsbury this offseason. Place (or possibly Zack Daeges) will be the next power-hitting prospect to come out of this farm system, so the Sox will have to look outside the organization until they are ready (Adam Dunn, maybe?).

Pitchers

Starters

Righties		Lefties
Josh Beckett*		Jon Lester*
Daisuke Matsuzaka*	Abe Alvarez
Curt Schilling*		Kris Johnson
Clay Buchholz		Dustin Richardson
Bartolo Colon*		Nick Hagadone
Tim Wakefield*
Devern Hansack
David Pauley
Justin Masterson
Michael Bowden
Daniel Bard

The Red Sox front office have really built up this pitching staff well through the draft. Despite Schilling and Wakefield being on their way out, Buchholz and Lester are expected to fill in the gap. Beyond them, there are a bunch of players who’ve just gotten a taste of the Major Leagues who should be capable fill-ins in case of injury. Colon is just making a pit stop in Boston, and even if he revives his career here, it’s unlikely we bring him back after 2008.
The next wave of promising starters includes sinkerballer Justin Masterson, the balanced Michael Bowden, flamethrower Daniel Bard and lefty Kris Johnson. Nick Hagadone is someone who also has the potential to move up quickly. Out of these guys, probably about two of them will actually pitch for the Sox. With the big league rotation as crowded as it is, the rest are probably destined to end up as trade bait.

Relievers

Closer/Setup		Middle relief		Lefty Specialists
Jonathan Papelbon*	Mike Timlin*		Javier Lopez*
Hideki Okajima*		David Aardsma		Craig Breslow
Manny Delcarmen*	Julian Tavarez*		Andrew Dobies
Travis Hughes		Kyle Snyder*		Hunter Jones
Craig Hansen		Bryan Corey
Bryce Cox		Mike Burns
Josh Papelbon		Edgar Martinez

The Sox have a number of young arms who could eventually be excellent in a bullpen role. Having Papelbon penciled in as the closer until after 2011 helps stabilize things a lot, though his shoulder is a very good reason to have a plan B for now. Another plus with having a strong stable of starters is that some of them may be moved into a relief role as swingmen, or even more important roles, just as Papelbon was.

We have a great back 3 in our bullpen, but I would still like to see one more veteran join the pen for middle relief. Also, our LOOGY depth is not very good, and I would love to see that improved, possibly through a trade of Coco Crisp. We do have decent depth here, however, several of these guys are out of options, and must be traded, waived or released if they are called up not to stay (David Aardsma, Kyle Snyder and Craig Breslow fall into this category).

Overall

As I’ve projected here, these Sox are in pretty good shape, even with the loss of Curt Schilling. I’ve predicted 95 wins and a playoff spot for them in 2008, and they have the potential to top 100 wins, if things break right (or don’t break at all, I should say). A recent survey of three different projection systems has Boston at 93 wins, two behind the Yankees in the AL East. We’ll see about that. I think it’s more likely to be the other way around.

As for the future, the path of least resistance would be to re-up Manny for two more years, and basically keep things status quo; however, teams that don’t turn over personnel can stagnate. My guess is that the way 2008 pans out will have a big impact on the future course of the franchise. With lots of pitching on the rise, the Sox will look to free agent position players to fill the holes on this squad (most imminently, catcher, left field, third base then shortstop). If another Schilling-type veteran becomes available, look for the front office to look into that as well. Go Sox!

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