Red Sox

5 big questions facing the Red Sox in 2022 (eventually)

Is Rafael Devers ready to secure his place as one of the best players in the league? What does Chris Sale have left? The Red Sox are going to find out this year.

Rafael Devers Red Sox
Is Rafael Devers about to prove himself a superstar for the Red Sox? (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Recent Links

Instead of seeing headlines about Red Sox pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training this week, fans continue to watch with mounting anxiety as MLB’s lockout of its players approaches 80 days.

Eventually, though, the MLB season will resume, and Boston will have its chance to prove last year’s playoff run and ALCS trip was no fluke.

The Red Sox will have to outperform expectations for a second consecutive year to make that happen in an AL East division that will likely be the toughest in baseball. As they’re attempting to do that, they have a few short- and long-term questions to answer.

Will Rafael Devers become a full-on superstar?

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Devers’s 2020 drop-off may have been nothing more than a blip on the radar.


The slugging third baseman stormed back in a huge way in 2021, putting up a .279/.352/.890 slash with 38 home runs and 113 RBI — both of which led all MLB third baseman. He also finished third at his position in OPS and wRC+ (134).

In short, Devers looks like he’s clearly among the top-10 players, if not top-5, at his position. The question now: how much higher can he go?

Even after his rough 2020, FanGraphs stayed bullish on Devers’s potential. Those expectations remain high heading into 2022, where he’s projected to slash .283/.348/.888 with 37 HRs and 116 RBI and post a 4.5 WAR. Doing that for a second-straight season would almost certainly signal he has arrived as a true star and undeniable franchise cornerstone.

A big year couldn’t come at a better time: he’s going to be due a very big extension soon if the Red Sox want to keep him.

Which version of Chris Sale will the Red Sox get?

What does the soon-to-be 33-year-old Sale have left in the tank? We’re going to find out (hopefully) in a couple of months.

The ace left-hander was about as good as you could expect while shaking off rust mid-season and having to ramp up his performance quickly in time for a Red Sox playoff run. He managed to post a 5-1 record in his nine regular-season starts with a very respectable 3.16 ERA. On the other hand, the postseason didn’t go nearly as well as he had an uncharacteristically high WHIP of 1.78 and an 8.00 ERA in nine playoff innings over three starts.


The hope is that he’ll be much closer to his old self now that he’s more removed from that 2019 Tommy John surgery. But he’s projected to throw fewer than 100 innings and pitch closer to his 2019 self — the one who struggled before opting for Tommy John — than his dominant campaigns in 2017 and 2018.

In many ways, Sale’s ability to outperform those expectations and regain some semblance of his old form is the biggest wild-card in the Red Sox’s deck this season.

If he’s good, the rotation has real promise with Nathan Eovaldi, last year’s breakout star, alongside Sale and young pitchers Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck developing behind them. But if Sale struggles, the pressure on Pivetta, Houck and the bevy of veteran stopgaps that include Rich Hill and James Paxton will be under significant stress.

When will we finally get Tristan Casas?

The short answer: not as soon as you might want.

Assuming there is a Spring Training, the Red Sox will almost certainly invite him so they can see what he does with his opportunities against Major League pitching. But that’s likely as far as it will go with Bobby Dalbec likely to start the season at first base and J.D. Martinez firmly entrenched as the team’s DH.


But if the 22-year-old Casas keeps showing off that tantalizing power and ability to get on base in the minors as he did last season, it’ll be hard to keep him down too long.

Casas put up good numbers in combined trips to Portland and Worcester last season, slashing .279/.394/.877 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI in just 86 games, and there’s no reason he won’t start with Worcester’s AAA team whenever 2022 gets going.

If he continues to make leaps and Dalbec struggles in the first half as he did last season, Boston might not have much choice but to explore bringing Casas’s powerful left-handed bat up from the minors, especially with Dalbec hitting an ugly .212/.278/.730 against right-handed pitching.

The kid is coming. It’s just a matter of time, where he plays and how many opportunities the Red Sox give him with the big club as a rookie.

Will we have seen the last of Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez?

One of these answers is pretty simple. The other isn’t.

Let’s start things easy: Martinez is very likely done with Boston after this season. Though he deserves immense credit for bouncing back from a dreadful 2020 campaign with a very good offensive season, he’s about to be 34 and is very expensive. (He has a $19.375 million player option this season and has the Red Sox in the luxury tax penalty.)

With Casas potentially able to provide Martinez’s level of production in the future and Devers approaching stardom, the Red Sox could justify moving on from their steady veteran DH during or after the season.

Bogaerts is a trickier story.

The longtime Boston shortstop is still in his prime and just came off a fourth straight excellent season at the plate, putting up top-five numbers in wRC+ (130) and WAR (5.2) among shortstops. But he can opt out of the remaining years of his contract after this season and head to free agency, where he might have a shot at a bigger payday.


The interesting thing: Bogaerts has expressed a willingness both to stay with the Red Sox and potentially switch positions, which could benefit both sides. It will be intriguing to see if Boston explores putting Bogaerts at second or third base this season.

There’s also a chance the Sox make a run at other veteran shortstops, like a Carlos Correa, in anticipation of Bogaerts’s departure.

Who plays the outfield?

The Red Sox certainly have bodies to put in the outfield, with Alex Verdugo and Kiké Hernández both capable of playing solid defense and providing dependable offense.

The question, as it was at times last year, is: who’s the other guy going to be?

As good as Jackie Bradley Jr. is defensively, his offensive numbers (.163/.236/.497) were horrifying in 2021. He might be the natural choice to start in center field because of his glove, but he’s not going to last there if he can’t hit.

Then, there’s the void left in right field with Hunter Renfroe’s big bat and cannon arm going back to the Brewers in the trade that brought Bradley back to Boston. In all likelihood, one of the Sox’ outfield spots will have a giant question mark by it when the season starts, even if they go with the ostensibly stable trio of Verdugo, Hernández and Bradley.

Of course, a post-lockout acquisition of power-hitting, Gold-Glove Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki could change all that. But the Red Sox aren’t the only team in pursuit of the high-profile foreign free agent.


Boston proved it could survive and compete with Hernández in center field and Renfroe flailing hopelessly at the plate for two months of the 2021 season (along with committing a lot of errors). But if they really want to contending for a World Series this season, surviving and competing might not be enough.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on