RED SOX Roster...As Of Now
The Boston Herald ran a great overview of the 2009 lineup as it stands now. The writer of the piece is the very talented Sean McAdam, and with his permission I'd like to post his article with my comments following each section. We'll start with the outfield...
Locks: Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Rocco Baldelli.
The starting outfield is set, with Bay, Ellsbury and Drew left to right. Baldelli is the primary reserve, with the ability to play all three outfield spots.
On the bubble: Brad Wilkerson, Jeff Bailey, Chris Carter, Paul McAnulty.
Whoever wins this bubble spot is merely keeping the seat warm for Mark Kotsay, scheduled to return from back surgery on or about May 1. Terry Francona said the other day that in “a pefect world,” the winner of this competition would be, like Kotsay, a lefty hitter. That applies to Carter and Bailey in this group. Francona then added that the player should be able to contribute defensively. Of the four, Wilkerson fits both criteria. Moreover, he’s the only one who can play both first base and center field.
Overview: A good group - assuming Drew’s back isn’t more serious than the team suggests and Baldelli can be more durable than last season.
Peter's view: Bay, Ellsbury and Drew/Baldelli make a competent outfield quartet. It will be vital for rightfielder JD Drew to get his back healthy, something he should have done in the offseason. Also, Baldelli's health has been an issue in the recent past. There will be no centerfield competition as there was when Crisp was with the team, so it will be Jacoby all the time. I can live with that. My grade: B (A- if Drew is healthy)
Locks: Mike Lowell, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis.
On the bubble: None
Overview: The right side of the infield might be the best in the American League, with Pedroia winning the AL MVP and Youkilis finishing two spots back in the voting. Lowell won’t play in a game for another 10 days or so, making it difficult to assess his progress. Lugo and Lowrie are in a battle for the starting shortstop’s job, with Lugo given the edge because Lowrie is both more versatile and more likely to accept the utility spot. If Lowell doesn’t rebound, the offense could take a hit if Youkilis shifts to third and Wilkerson or Kotsay become the primary option at first.
Peter's view: The creme de la creme. As McAdam said, there is no better right side of anyone's infield. ANYONE. On the left side, Lowrie and Lugo will duke it out...may the best man win. Lowrie was great last year but it would be so terrific if Julio could stay healthy, something he hasn't done in recent years, and regain the "pop" in his bat. Mike Lowell is still rounding himself into shape after serious hip surgery, but his healthy return is a necessity. We do not want to move Youk over to third...his natual digs are at first base, right where he belongs. My grade...B plus (A if Lowell and Lugo are 100% healthy.)
Locks: David Ortiz
Overview: It will be some time before Ortiz can demonstrate that he’s fully recovered from the wrist injury which limited him last season. To date, however, his conditioning and determination are encouraging signs. Look for Baldelli to get some occasional starts here - especially against tough lefties - both to keep Ortiz fresh and give Baldelli additional at-bats without tiring him in the outfield.
Peter's view: We all want Big Papi to return to healthy ways, and if his wrist is OK, his power numbers and batting average will increase from 2008. My grade: B plus
Locks: Jason Varitek
On the bubble: Josh Bard, George Kottaras
Overview: If Varitek can provide at least some offensive improvement from the left side, he’ll be fine for 110 games. One talent evaluator said Varitek is throwing better this spring than he has in the last five years. Bard is the obvious front-runner for the back-up spot and seems more comfortable catching Tim Wakefield [stats]’s knuckler than he did in 2006. Unanswered to date: Can he hit well enough to take some playing time away from Varitek? Kottaras is out of options, but having never caught Wakefield, seems a decided longshot.
Peter's view: 'Tek must get his act together when batting from the left side. He was horrendous last year batting lefty. The Sox must find someone, be it Bard or Kottaras, to catch Timmy Wakefield's knuckies. My grade: C plus
STARTING ROTATION (5)
Locks: Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield
On the bubble: Brad Penny, Justin Masterson, Clay Buccholz
After experiencing shoulder fatigue over the weekend, Penny’s spring progress has been slowed. The Sox maintain that they weren’t expecting him to start until April 15 - when they first need a fifth starter - so there’s still plenty of time for him to rebound. If he has further setbacks, the Sox can choose between Masterson, who’s on the staff either way, or Buchholz.
Overview: On paper, the Sox rotation is the equal of New York’s and Tampa’s - assuming the bodies hold up, that is. The edge comes in the depth department. John Smoltz could be added to the mix a third of the way through the schedule and Buchholz, Masterson and even Michael Bowden offer insurance against injury or ineffectiveness.
Peter's view: The number five starter and who he will be is a still unfolding drama. No one knows if Penny's shoulder will come back enough to enable him to round himself into playing shape. John Smoltz, right now, looks like so much more of a "sure thing." I have more faith in him than I do in Penny's shoulder and its woes. My ideal (dream) rotation would have been Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Smoltz and Penny, but I might never see it. Wakefield MUST pitch well in the first third of the season before Smoltz is ready and Penny must get himself right. Masterson will be in the bullpen...mark my words. We might see Buchholz until Smoltz is ready if Penny cannot do it. My grade: B plus (A with Smoltz and a healthy and effective Penny/Buchholz).
Locks: Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Takashi Saito, and Justin Masterson
Peter's view: The names say it all. We're in great shape. My grade: A plus.
The 2009 Boston Red Sox will be a competitive team in the American League East, more than competitive if their many "ifs" become positives. Drew must come back, Lowell must come back, Smoltz must come back and the same thing goes for Penny. 'Tek must regain his hitting stroke, too. Those are too many question marks, but they'll all be answered starting in about four weeks. Click on the title of this post for more Sox stuff, thanks for stopping in and please comment with your thoughts of this preseason roster. As always, BE WELL. See ya. Cheers.