Editor’s note: NESN.com is holding a three-week tournament to determine “Boston’s Best Newcomer.” The Red Sox added a lot of new faces in 2013, and the results have been impressive. It’s time to determine which new addition from 2013 best embodies Boston baseball.
The 2013 Red Sox are successful, likeable and poised to make a deep playoff run. Boston has a ton of new faces to thank for its turnaround.
The Red Sox brought in a number of key veterans in the offseason and throughout the year. The goal was to improve not only the roster, but also the clubhouse culture. An emphasis was placed on acquiring players who are both talented and possess a lot of character. The Red Sox have discovered that it’s a winning formula.
The veterans that the Red Sox have acquired since the end of the 2012 season, which ended with a disappointing 69-93 record, are all unique. They’re also becoming more well-known to Boston baseball fans as we head down the stretch and toward the postseason.
But which player acquired over the last 11 months is Red Sox Nation’s favorite? Red Sox fans typically gravitate toward players who combine on-field success with a dash of personality, and a number of this season’s newcomers fit that mold.
Fans are asked to consider the players’ total package (personality, style of play, on-field success, impact, intangibles, etc.) while voting for their favorite. NESN.com’s “Boston’s Best Newcomer” tournament will determine which 2013 newcomer best personifies Red Sox baseball.
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 220 pounds
MLB experience: 8 years
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (one-year, $5 million deal)
Mike Napoli was a big component of the Rangers’ back-to-back American League championships in 2011 and 2012. Now, he’s focused on finally getting over the World Series hump as a member of the Red Sox.
Napoli signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox after an interesting offseason in which he was diagnosed with a hip condition called avascular necrosis. The 31-year-old has never showed any symptoms of the condition, and it doesn’t seem to be impacting his play, as Napoli has been the offensive force that the Red Sox envisioned when they signed him.
Napoli helped carry the Red Sox during the first month of the season in David Ortiz‘s absence. He racked up 27 RBIs in April, and he has continued to drive in runs ever since. Despite a rough patch, Napoli has showed plenty of pop and has provided multiple clutch hits.
While Napoli’s biggest asset is his power, the slugger has also made a smooth transition to first base. Even though he’s unlikely to win a Gold Glove any time soon, he has been solid, which is impressive considering much of his baseball career has been spent behind the plate as a catcher.
Napoli has shown a flair for the dramatic in 2013. He’s a threat to drive in runs whenever he steps into the batter’s box, and his right-handed bat continues to be an important complement to Ortiz in the middle of the Red Sox’ order.
“He’s in a great place right now. I think periodic rest has helped that. Not only the home runs with people on base, but [also] the big one late in the game to give us a four run lead again. This is almost reminiscent to the April that he had coming out of spring training. He’s obviously a major threat in the lineup.” (Sept. 7)
Weight: 195 pounds
MLB experience: 12 years
Acquired: Via trade from White Sox in three-way deal involving Tigers. (Red Sox received Peavy and Brayan Villarreal, and traded away Jose Iglesias, Cleuluis Rondon, Francellis Montas and Jeffrey Wendelken.)
The Red Sox wanted to add a starting pitcher for the stretch run. Enter: Jake Peavy.
Peavy was acquired from the White Sox as part of a three-team deal involving the Tigers. It was a polarizing deal given that the Red Sox had to part ways with highly regarded shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias, but Peavy has already won over much of the fan base through his success on the mound, his bulldog mentality and his emphasis on winning.
Peavy was once considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. He won a Cy Young award with the Padres in 2007 and has been named to three All-Star Games, including the 2012 Midsummer Classic as a member of the White Sox. The right-hander might no longer be an ace, as he has battled some injuries throughout his career, but he’s a very good pitcher who is capable of anchoring a rotation. It didn’t take long for Red Sox fans to get a glimpse of Peavy’s talent, as the 32-year-old went seven strong innings in his Boston debut on Aug. 3. He hasn’t stopped pitching well since.
Peavy’s intensity is what stands out the most. He’s clearly a guy who wants nothing more than to win baseball games, and sometimes, it even causes him to yell at himself on the mound. The shouting is Peavy’s way of staying focused, but it also shows just how fiery a competitor he can be.
While Peavy hasn’t been in Boston long, he has fit right in since joining the Red Sox on July 30. He now figures to be a big part of the Red Sox’ playoff run.
“He’s been everything we could have hoped for since coming over here. He’s worked deep in games. He’s thrown a lot of strikes. He’s made some big pitches in key moments when he’s needed. And even when he’s gotten some traffic on the base paths, he finds a way to minimize the overall damage and that’s held true in five of the six starts he’s made for us. A very strong competitor, as we see.” (Aug. 31)