On the field it hasn't been the most encouraging of spring trainings for the Red Sox, who entered the final days with the worst record of any team, and who haven't exactly been lighting things up individually, either. But soon enough they'll all get a fresh start, with the numbers counting for real as of Monday afternoon.
Nobody knows exactly how things will go, of course, but there's plenty of folks who think they do -- and many of those offer some reason for optimism regarding the local nine. With the help of Fangraphs, here's a look at 10 projections for 2014 that Sox fans would sign for immediately if given the chance:
1. Will Middlebrooks -- 32 HR, 104 RBI (Bill James Handbook)
This seems wildly optimistic at first blush, but the reality is that if Middlebrooks can do enough otherwise to keep himself in the lineup regularly, his career to this point suggests that his power numbers should be close to this level -- if they don't reach it outright. In 660 big-league plate appearances he's got 32 homers and he's knocked home 103 runs. That's basically a full season, so if his growth affords him that much opportunity then David Ortiz-like slugging numbers are not an unreasonable expectation.
2. Dustin Pedroia -- .814 OPS (Bill James Handbook)
A torn thumb muscle limited Pedroia's power last season, when he hit just nine home runs, his lowest total since he was a rookie. To his credit he still managed to hit 42 doubles, but a stronger hand should facilitate something closer to the .823 on-base plus slugging that the second baseman has averaged for his career. And Red Sox fans will gladly take anything resembling a typical Pedroia season.
3. David Ortiz -- .937 OPS (ZiPS)
This would actually signify Ortiz's lowest OPS since 2010, despite the designated hitter coming off his first .300 average, 30 homer, 100 RBIs season since 2007. But, given that he's 38, Sox fans shouldn't be greedy. If he delivers a .937 OPS this season there'll be no complaints.
4. Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp -- 26 HR, 80 RBI combined (Steamer)
In the Red Sox outfield rotation, Daniel Nava is the guy expected to reach base most offense, while Gomes and Carp are there to provide some thump. These projections assume 548 plate appearances between the two of them (they totaled 609 last season), and if they can produce to this degree the Sox should have one of the more productive left fields in the American League this year.
5. Jake Peavy -- 3.31 ERA (Bill James Handbook)
The right-hander posted a 4.04 ERA after being traded to the Sox late last July, and hasn't had an ERA lower than 3.45 since 2008, when he was with the Padres. There's a chance he could deliver better numbers than he did after arriving last summer, and if so Boston would be thrilled to get that level of performance from its No. 4 or 5 starter. So 3.31 is probably a bit overly optimistic.
6. Xander Bogaerts -- .283, 19 HR, 84 RBI (Bill James Handbook)
These numbers would win Bogaerts rookie of the year honors in the American League -- and would instantly make him one of the league's premier offensive shortstops of any age. In fact, the OLIVER projections suggest Bogaerts will finish the season with a team-high total of 3.8 wins above replacement (WAR) -- and if there were still any doubt about the fact he's got a superstar ceiling, there wouldn't be after a year like this.
7. Shane Victorino -- 132 games played (ZiPS)
Given how much the Sox needed to manage his ailments last season, and how issues have already arisen this spring, Victorino's health is second only to Grady Sizemore's in terms of uncertainty. If he plays in 132 games, and factoring in occasional days off, it means he probably only made one (relatively short) trip to the disabled list throughout the course of the season. The Sox would take that.
8. Mike Napoli -- 145 strikeouts (ZIPS)
The first baseman reset the club record by whiffing 187 times last season, so trimming 42 off that total would theoretically lift his numbers across the board. It's an imperfect calculation, but based on the rate at which he walked last season, and his average on balls in play, eliminating 42 strikeouts in 2013 would've added six more free passes and 13 more hits, lifting Napoli's average from .259 to .289. He's unlikely to hit .367 on balls in play again this season, but more contact would still mean good things.
9. Andrew Miller -- 60 innings pitched (Oliver)
Miller's ability to attack left-handed hitters, and to pile up strikeouts, make him a big weapon for the Sox bullpen -- but each of the past two seasons have been spoiled by injury. He's thrown a total of 71 innings since the start of 2012, so if he can successfully throw 60 in 2014 it figures to be significant for the Red Sox setup corps.
10. The five primary starters -- 138 starts (Steamer)
The Red Sox enter the year figuring to rely on veterans Peavy, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront, and if they can get an average of almost 28 starts out of each member of that group, the club should be in good shape come September. That leaves 24 starts for the Sox to introduce minor leaguers to the majors, as they've done over the years, but means the five arms they'd prefer to rotate through have mostly stayed healthy. And healthy pitching usually means healthy results.
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