NEW YORK — So what can we expect from the 2013 Red Sox?
Let’s get to the point right away, probably 82-84 wins and a third- or fourth-place finish. If that doesn’t sound too exciting, consider they were 69-93 last season. The franchise is headed in the right direction but they have a long way to go.
Best-case scenario (90 wins): Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz pitch like All-Stars … David Ortiz comes back in May and is himself. … Mike Napoli hits 25 home runs and drives in 90 runs. … Jacoby Ellsbury plays to 85 percent of what he did in 2011. … Dustin Pedroia stays healthy. … The bullpen is the best in the division. … Ryan Dempster starts 33 games, pitches 200 innings and wins 13 games. … John Lackey goes 13-10. … Joel Hanrahan is a lock-down closer. … Will Middlebrooks picks up where he left off last year. … Jonny Gomes mashes lefties and Shane Victorino has a bounce-back season. … Stephen Drew recaptures the form he had for Arizona. … John Farrell is just what the team needs. … Ben Cherington makes a helpful trade in July. … Fenway fills up come the summer.
Worst-case scenario (78 wins): Lester and Buchholz are better but have ERAs around 4.30, not 3.30. … Ortiz is never himself and struggles with his foot all year. … Napoli wears down because of his hips and hits .240 with occasional power. … Ellsbury shows again that 2011 was the outlier for him. … Pedroia keeps getting banged up. … Hanrahan blows a few saves early and fans clamor for a change. … Dempster struggles in the American League. … Lackey goes 10-13. .. Middlebrooks strikes out 130 times and hits .263. … Gomes costs them three wins with plays in left and Victorino has numbers like he did for the Dodgers. … Drew gets off to a slow start after missing most of spring training and never recovers. … Farrell overmanages way too often. … Cherington gets fleeced by Oakland again. … Fenway has more empty seats than filled ones some nights.
Things to like: The starters seem to have a sense of purpose and Lester and Buchholz clearly respond well to actually getting coached as opposed to coddled. … The bullpen is legit. … Napoli is going to love Fenway. … Middlebrooks looks like a good, solid No. 5 hitter and his defense is much better. … Jackie Bradley Jr. will play Gold Glove defense for as long as he’s around. … There are prospects pitching at AAA, not assorted hangers-on. … The overall team defense is much better. … Farrell is well-organized, the coaches are hard workers and there is a clear sense that, unlike last season, everybody is going in the same direction.
Things not to like: It’s fair to be concerned about Ortiz. He had a 154 OPS+ in 2011 and was at 171 last season when he got hurt. At his age and coming off that injury, can he return to those levels of production? … The onset of the Jackie Bradley Jr. Era coincided with Shane Victorino hitting .178/.275/.289 in spring training, worse if you factor in the WBC. Are the Red Sox going to regret that $39 million deal? … You also have to wonder whether the $9.5 million spent on Drew was a good deal given the clear improvements made by Jose Iglesias.
On to the
total guesses predictions …
AL East: Rays, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles.
AL Central: Tigers, Royals, Indians, White Sox, Twins.
AL West: Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics, Astros.
AL wild cards: Blue Jays and Rangers.
AL award winners: Evan Longoria (MVP); Felix Hernandez (Cy Young), Aaron Hicks (Rookie), Ned Yost (Manager).
NL East: Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins.
NL Central: Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Cubs.
NL West: Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres.
NL wild cards: Dodgers and Braves.
NL award winners: Joey Votto (MVP), Stephen Strasburg (Cy Young), Jedd Gyorko (Rookie), Bruce Bochy (Giants).
World Series: Tigers over Reds in six games.