Red Sox Roster Projection: Piecing Together Opening Day Pitching Staff

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July 16, 2020

Projecting the Boston Red Sox’s Opening Day roster always comes with inherent challenges, but this season is unlike any before it.

Major League Baseball teams will carry 30-man rosters into Opening Day before the number gradually dwindles to 26. Further complicating matters is that the Red Sox already have three players on the injured list — Eduardo Rodriguez, Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor — dealing with COVID-19, and it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if additional players join them before Boston takes the field July 24 against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.

All that being said, we have a decent idea of who will be on the roster to begin the 2020 campaign.

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Here’s our current 30-man roster projection:

Pitchers (15): Nathan Eovaldi, Brian Johnson, Ryan Weber, Martin Perez, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Jeffrey Springs, Josh Osich, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, Austin Brice, Ryan Brasier

Where to start?

With Rodriguez (coronavirus) and Chris Sale (Tommy John Surgery) out of the picture, the Red Sox likely will start the season with a starting rotation that looks something like Eovaldi (arguably the most important player on the team), Perez, Weber, Johnson and a combination of openers/relievers to fill out the final spot. You are justified in being concerned. Even when Rodriguez returns, the rotation will remain a work in progress. Hall and Mazza make the most sense as openers, but Hernandez also would be a solid option once he joins the team.

If Collin McHugh (elbow) returns from the injured list, he likely would get a look at least as an opener, if not as a legitimate starter.

As for the bullpen, you’ll be able to scratch two names off that list once Hernandez and Taylor, both of whom impressed in the second half of last season, return from the injured list. The Red Sox already have confirmed Workman will begin the year as the closer. He and Barnes are safe, no matter what. Springs, Brice and Osich all are capable of providing help in the middle innings if they make the team. Players such as Brewer, Walden, Hembree and Brasier are virtual locks to make the Opening Day roster, but again, anything could happen.

Once the rosters are cut to 26 players, at least one of the aforementioned pitchers likely will be squeezed out. Of course, nothing is preventing the Red Sox from adding new players to the equation — Zack Godley, anyone?

Catchers (3): Christian Vazquez, Kevin Plawecki, Jonathan Lucroy

This operates on the assumption that Lucroy eventually is added to the 40-man roster.

The veteran backstop has plenty of experience and is capable of fielding first base if the Red Sox develop a need. He might be an odd man out by the end of the season, but we expect him to begin the year on the roster.

Vazquez is a lock, as is his primary backup, Plawecki. This is the easiest group to project.

Infielders (7): Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis, Jose Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Arauz

We’re confident this will be the group Boston carries into Opening Day, but there are a couple of players who could make things interesting.

Bobby Dalbec, Boston’s top power-hitting prospect, is knocking on the door of the major leagues and could be an intriguing option if the Red Sox think his bat is ready. He missed the start of the summer camp after testing positive for COVID-19, so he has some catching up to do. He’s a longshot, but you never know.

Another player to keep an eye on is Yairo Munoz, a 25-year-old whom the Red Sox signed to a minor league deal in March but haven’t added to the 40-man roster. He’s a .273 hitter over 196 big league games, all with the St. Louis Cardinals. Munoz can play second, short, third and all three outfield positions. If Boston loses confidence in Lin — who is out of minor league options — or isn’t sold on Arauz — a Rule 5 pick who must remain on the active roster all season or else be offered for $50,000 back to the Houston Astros — then it could roll with Munoz.

By the way, don’t sleep on Peraza.

Outfielders (5): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, J.D. Martinez, Alex Verdugo

Benintendi, Bradley and Martinez are givens, and always have been.

Verdugo, whom the Red Sox acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, wouldn’t have been ready to start the season had it begun on time due to a back injury. However, the extended time off apparently did wonders for the 24-year-old, who has a ton of talent and could be a difference-maker in the 60-game season.

As for Pillar, we could envision a scenario in which the 31-year-old either misses the Opening Day cut or gets left behind later in the season. However, he’s a proven big leaguer who is a decent hitter as well as a phenomenal defender, and thus he probably is safe for the time being.

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Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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