Red Sox’s Young Core, Chris Sale Have Team Primed For 2018 Success

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As Harvey Dent famously said: “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

And for the 2017 Boston Red Sox, there was no darker day than Monday, the day their season ended.

The Red Sox’s season came to a heart-breaking end when they fell 5-4 in Game 4 of their American League Division Series matchup with the Houston Astros at Fenway Park after the Astros rallied to take the lead in the eighth inning off of Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel.

The 2017 campaign saw the Red Sox capture the American League East crown for the second consecutive season by winning 93 games, and it ended unceremoniously for the second consecutive season with a quick exit in the ALDS.

But there were plenty of positives from the Red Sox’s 2017 campaign, and it began with the Opening Day starter.

Sale had a stellar first season in a Red Sox uniform, as the powerful left-hander went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA while leading Major League Baseball with 308 strikeouts and 12.933 K’s per nine innings.

The rest of Boston’s staff was plagued with injuries and inconsistencies, as both David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez missed time with injuries, while 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello had a season to forget, leading the league in home runs (38) and losses (17).

Left-hander Drew Pomeranz had a solid first full season in Boston, though, as he posted a 17-6 record and was a reliable arm for manager John Farrell.

The Red Sox’s offense was led by the homegrown core of young talent, including Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and rookie third baseman Rafael Devers.

Boston’s lineup, however, lacked pop in the first season without legendary designated hitter David Ortiz.

In a year that saw a record number of balls leave the park, the Red Sox ranked 27th in the league with 168 round-trippers. Contrast that with two teams the Red Sox are likely to see in the playoffs for the foreseeable future, the New York Yankees and the Astros, who ranked first and second, respectively.

While the Red Sox have won the AL East in consecutive seasons, that hasn’t translated into postseason success, as Boston has gone 1-6 in the playoffs over the last two seasons.

But Boston will head into the winter with plenty to be optimistic about.

As previously noted, the Red Sox are in good shape with a young core of Betts, Benintendi, Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr, as well as an ace to spearhead their rotation in Sale.

And despite a rough Game 4, Kimbrel remains a dominant presence in the backend of Boston’s bullpen. Kimbrel along with Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman and Carson Smith should form a formidable bullpen for the next few years. And don’t forget Tyler Thornburg, who missed the entire season with a right shoulder impingement.

Price’s health will be a key for the Red Sox in 2018, as the left-hander showed flashes of the Cy Young-winning pitcher who has won the ERA title twice and looked rejuvenated coming out of the bullpen in September. Having a healthy Price in front of Pomeranz, Porcello and Rodriguez, assuming the rotation stays intact, will go along way toward securing Boston’s third straight division title.

The offense will need the young core to continue to develop in order to keep pace with the Astros, Yankees and Cleveland Indians in the AL.

And after subpar years at the dish from Betts and Bogaerts, the Red Sox should expect their two stars to have bounce-back seasons in 2018.

Third base was a black hole for most of the 2017 campaign, but Devers’ arrival changed all that, as the 20-year-old phenom put his name on the hot corner at Fenway Park, hitting .284 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI. Devers also led the team in RBI in the ALDS loss to the Astros.

Dustin Pedroia battled injuries once again, but if he can stay healthy he gives Boston a veteran leader and steady presence at the top of the order in 2018.

The Red Sox might have exited the postseason too soon for the second straight year, but there is plenty to build on for 2018.

It’s a dark day on Yawkey Way, but fear not, the dawn is coming.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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