The Red Sox look a lot different nowadays.
Sure, there are some familiar faces — like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, for instance — but Boston also has ushered in a new wave of talent over the past couple of years while failing to reproduce the club’s 2018 World Series magic in 2019 and 2020.
With this transition comes opportunity and optimism. Alex Cora is back in the manager’s seat in 2021, and he’ll oversee a roster that’s both talented and versatile. More than anything, the Red Sox’s improved depth could help them get back to their winning ways this season.
For Boston to truly reemerge as an American League East contender, however, it’ll need fresh contributions. As such, we asked our NESN Digital team to identify who they think will be the Red Sox’s “breakout performer” of 2021.
Here are the responses, which varied greatly, further highlighting Boston’s recent roster turnover under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.
Lauren Campbell: Garrett Whitlock, RHP
The pitcher made the Red Sox’s Opening Day roster after missing all of 2020 due to Tommy John surgery. Whitlock has turned heads this spring by allowing only one run and striking out 12 through nine innings.
Mike Cole: Franchy Cordero, OF
If the 26-year-old can stay healthy — a big if — he has all the tools to change a game at the drop of a hat, with his blazing speed or tantalizing power. He just needs to cut down on the swing and miss, which would go a long way in unlocking his true potential as an undeniably talented player.
Ricky Doyle: Connor Seabold, RHP
Seabold, acquired last August from the Phillies in the trade that sent Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia, figures to begin the season at Triple-A Worcester. But we’ve seen how quickly holes can open in the major league rotation — Eduardo Rodriguez already has been scratched from his Opening Day start — and Seabold appears ready for a callup. What the 25-year-old lacks in flash, he more than makes up for with command and control, solidifying him as a high-floor prospect primed to make an immediate impact whenever he arrives to Boston.
Adam London: Garrett Whitlock, RHP
The Red Sox might elect to take it slow with Whitlock given he’s a Rule 5 pick who underwent Tommy John surgery less than two years ago. But given the uncertainties surrounding Boston’s starting rotation, the 24-year-old ultimately could become an important piece of the bullpen as the season unfolds.
Sean McGuire: Bobby Dalbec, 1B
The 25-year-old Dalbec enters the season as Boston’s starting first baseman. His calling card, though, will be his bat, as he can, and should, hit plenty of homers during the 2021 campaign. Dalbec, who played just 23 games last season (80 at-bats), has seven homers in 18 spring training games and looks poised to roll over that incredible power to when games really matter.
Logan Mullen: Christian Arroyo, IF
He looked great in a small sample size last season, and Chaim Bloom loves him. A former first-round pick, it seems like it has just taken him a minute to find his footing in the big leagues. And while Kiké Hernández and Marwin Gonzalez are getting much of the super-utility attention, Arroyo might blossom into a peak Brock Holt type (with more power) this season.
Dakota Randall: Nick Pivetta, RHP
Some people in baseball feel Pivetta, acquired last season in a trade with the Phillies, could be the next Tyler Glasnow. That feels a bit strong, but I still think he could be a solid back-end starter for the Red Sox.
Ben Watanabe: Kiké Hernández, IF/OF
He’s certainly not new to The Show, but having played most of his career so far in the National League and on the West Coast, he might be new to Boston fans. Expect Hernandez to become a fan favorite at second base this season.