At long last, baseball is back.
The Red Sox on Sunday will face the Minnesota Twins in their first 2021 spring training game. Following a bad season in 2020 and a busy-but-polarizing offseason, Boston has given us plenty to think about.
We could go on and on about this team. And we’re sure you could, too.
For now, here are 10 random thoughts (in no particular order) before the Red Sox kick off their spring training slate:
What if Franchy Cordero really struggles?
Cordero, an uber-talented but unproven outfielder, acquired in the Andrew Benintendi trade, seemingly will be given every opportunity to earn the starting left fielder job. He might even have the job regardless of how he does this spring.
But what if his struggles are so bad that the Red Sox simply can’t put him in left field on Opening Day? Would the job then become Marwin Gonzalez’s to lose? Would a door open for a top prospect?
These kinds of questions are why we’re as skeptical of Boston’s outfield as we are optimistic about it.
Will a prospect force their way onto the roster?
From where we’re standing, these seem like the prospects with the best chances of breaking camp on the big league roster:
(Note: Bobby Dalbec technically counts as a prospect, but we fully expect him to make this team.)
Jarren Duran — CF (No. 4 prospect)
Tanner Houck — RHP (No. 7 prospect)
Jeter Downs — 2B (No. 2 prospect)
Connor Seabold — RHP (No. 9 prospect)
Bryan Mata — RHP (No. 3 prospect)
Of these five players, Houck easily has the best chance of making the team. He might start the season in Triple-A, but he also could earn a spot in the rotation or, at the very least, as an opener/long reliever.
Duran, potentially the center fielder of the future, has flown up the prospect rankings over the past year. But the Red Sox likely want to see more of him in the minors (he’s yet to play in Triple-A) before giving him a promotion.
Downs, acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, feels like a longshot as there simply wouldn’t enough playing time for him in the majors. Look out for a late-season call-up, however.
Mata would need to dominate this spring to have a chance. He’s got a ton of talent, but he needs to refine his command. The Red Sox also need to decide whether he’ll be a starter or a reliever.
Seabold, 25, could make this team. The Red Sox think highly of him, as do many around baseball. He would need to be awfully impressive throughout the spring, though.
We can’t wait to watch Hirokazu Sawamura
Sawamura, 32, still is going through COVID-19 travel protocols and has yet to step on the field for the Red Sox. We eagerly await his arrival.
Signed as a free agent out of Japan, Sawamura is a relative unknown. But his numbers last season, coupled with very impressive highlights, make it easy to envision a high-leverage role for the hard-throwing righty.
Noah Song would’ve been a fascinating player to watch this spring
Last year, Song found out he had to attend Navy flight school and, in turn, put his professional baseball career on hold. He might not resume his career until next year, at the earliest.
Had things gone differently, Song, a hard-throwing right-hander who dazzled in 2019 with Team USA, could have entered camp as a top-six Red Sox prospect. Whether he would have continued his upward trend is anyone’s guess, but Song’s makeup and high-quality stuff could have made him a candidate for early season promotion.
We stand by our take about the offseason
A little over a week ago, we laid out why we believe the Red Sox had a strong offseason. Additionally, we explored why the team and their fans should be encouraged by what Chaim Bloom and his staff have done over the last year.
Reactions to that story were mixed, but many of you passionately disagreed.
We have nothing to add other than we stand by our take.
Feels like a big contract extension is just around the corner
What Bloom recently said about Rafael Devers speaks for itself:
“What I would say is obviously, I’ve mentioned this, this is generally the time of year when those types of conversations happen. I don’t need to tell you guys how good he is or how important he is. He’s a guy that we would love to see wearing our uniform for a long, long time.
“If and when there’s news to announce because of that, we will consider who we want to leak it to, but obviously, we’re not going to get into any kind of specifics about the process there.”
Obviously, Devers isn’t the only player the Red Sox could extend before the regular season.
Is Garrett Whitlock legit?
In December, the Red Sox selected Whitlock, a hard-throwing right-hander, from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft.
Since then, the team hasn’t stopped singing his praises.
Manager Alex Cora recently said this of Whitlock:
“Whitlock is a guy that I’ll be paying a lot of attention to. Wait until you come down here, whoever comes down, and you see him. He plays the part. He plays the part. He threw a bullpen (Friday) and was very impressive. The most impressive thing about him is the way he acts, the way he takes care of his body and what he does. He’s a very quiet kid, he knows what he wants to do and I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch and see where he takes us.”
Bloom over the weekend added this: “We’ll see how camp goes but very impressed to this point.”
Whitlock, 24, currently is the organization’s No. 32 prospect. We’re not going to tell you we know everything about him. All we know is the Red Sox have piqued our interest.
Let’s not totally undervalue spring training win-loss records
At the end of the day, teams can look awful in spring training and still do very well once the games really count.
But consider this:
2018 spring training record: 22-9.
2018 regular season: historically great.
2019 spring training record: 12-17.
2019 regular season: awful start, never recovered.
2020 spring training (before COVID-19 hit): 9-11.
2020 regular season: very, very bad.
The Red Sox need some good vibes after the events of the last two years. Hitting the ground running this spring could go a long way toward early-season success.
Keep an eye out for trades
No, we don’t have any inside info.
But Bloom’s penchant for trades, either of the blockbuster or under-the-radar varieties, is clear. Don’t be surprised if the Red Sox swing another deal or two over the next month.
We’re thankful for baseball normalcy
Relatively speaking, anyway.
We still have a long way to go before everyday life, let alone baseball, feels like it used to. But the Red Sox will have fans in the stands during spring training and at Fenway Park for Opening Day. As of right now, it looks like we’ll have a full season of baseball — and thank goodness for that.