Red Sox Spring Training: Who (And What) To Watch With 2022 Camp Underway

It'll be a quick ramp-up before Opening Day

by

March 15

Major League Baseball is back, and so, too, are the Boston Red Sox, who joined the other 29 clubs in reporting to spring training Sunday, three and a half weeks before Opening Day.

The lockout cast uncertainty over the 2022 season, but after 99 days, MLB and the MLB Players Association last Thursday agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. Thus, we finally can stop speaking in hypotheticals and fully assess Boston’s standing ahead of the new campaign.

Now, that doesn’t mean there still aren’t questions surrounding the Red Sox, who are looking to build on a successful 2021 in which they fell just two wins shy of reaching the World Series. So, let’s examine some of the key talking points as the Sox arrive in Fort Myers, Fla., for what figures to be a unique camp.

Most intriguing storyline: Will the Red Sox make a splash in free agency?
The end of the lockout means MLB’s transaction freeze is over. And we’re already seeing a wave of activity, with trades being completed and free agents flying off the board. It’s fair to wonder how aggressive Boston will be in rounding out its roster. Several intriguing names still are available on the open market, and the Red Sox have the financial resources to strike at some point. Why not now?

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom so far has refrained from handing out big-money contracts, with Kiké Hernández’s two-year, $14 million deal last offseason being his largest expenditure to date. But one could argue the Red Sox should strongly consider flexing their monetary muscle before the April 7 opener, as they’re slated to have a lot of cash come off the books next offseason, when the free agent market isn’t quite as strong.

The Red Sox could use a right-handed bat. Or another starting pitcher. Or more bullpen help.

Basically, the roster is constructed as such that Boston doesn’t desperately need anything, but it definitely would benefit from bolstering one or more areas.

“I don’t think we should worry about the size or the Q factor or the splashiness of the move,” Bloom told reporters Monday at JetBlue Park. “We should be trying to use all our resources to be as great as we can every year, whatever that means. But certainly, especially looking out ahead, the more flexibility you have, the more options you can consider. That’s part of why that flexibility’s important, because it does give you access to the whole menu.”

So, will the Red Sox target someone like Seiya Suzuki, Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa or Freddie Freeman? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s at least within the realm of possibility given their situation.

Player(s) to watch: Garrett Whitlock, RHP and Tanner Houck, RHP
Boston added three starters before the MLB lockout: Michael Wacha, James Paxton and Rich Hill. So, the Red Sox could simply plug Wacha and Hill into the Opening Day rotation — Paxton still is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won’t be available until later in the year — and see where it takes them. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta currently own the other three spots.

But let’s not forget about Whitlock and Houck, two up-and-coming hurlers who could see their roles fluctuate this season. The Red Sox plan to stretch out both pitchers this spring, suggesting they’ll be called upon to pitch multiple innings, either as starters or as long relievers in the middle frames.

Whitlock was a late-inning force in Boston’s bullpen in 2021, but the Red Sox selected him in the Rule 5 Draft with the intention of grooming him as a starter. Houck, meanwhile, started 13 games last season and flashed tremendous upside, even though manager Alex Cora typically was cautious about giving him a third trip through the opposing lineup within outings.

The Red Sox are staying open-minded, so as not to pigeonhole either Whitlock or Houck in 2022. But their respective performances this spring might dictate the nature of their roles to open the new campaign.

Prospect to watch: Triston Casas, 1B
Casas, listed at 6-foot-4 and 252 pounds, is one of the Red Sox’s two top prospects — Marcelo Mayer being the other — and an awe-inspiring figure with a hulking frame. He’s also nearing his major league debut, at a position (first base) where Boston received inconsistent production in 2021. A strong camp would further solidify his case for a call-up in 2022. This is an easy pick. Watching Casas hit is a delight.

Non-roster invitee to watch: Durbin Feltman, RHP
There was talk when the Red Sox drafted Feltman in the third round in 2018 that he might debut in the majors that season. It didn’t happen. And now, four years later, the right-hander still is fighting for his first big league opportunity. We’re entering make-or-break territory for the hard-throwing reliever.

The Red Sox chose not to add Feltman — now 24 years old and entering his fifth professional season — to their 40-man roster this offseason, which under normal circumstances would have exposed him to the Rule 5 Draft. The Rule 5 Draft was canceled due to the MLB lockout, though, and that’s good news for the Red Sox, as it gives them a little more time to evaluate Feltman, who made strides in 2021 and could very well factor into Boston’s bullpen plans at some point in 2022.

Dark horse to make Opening Day roster: Yolmer Sánchez, IF
Sánchez is a seasoned veteran, having played in 657 regular season games with the Chicago White Sox across seven seasons from 2014 to 2020. The 29-year-old is versatile, with ample experience at second base and third base, and even won a Gold Glove at the keystone in 2019.

While it’s difficult to project an exact fit right now, without knowing what other signings/trades the Red Sox intend to make before Opening Day, there’s definitely a path for Sánchez to contribute with Boston in 2022. And other developments, or lack thereof, could pave the way sooner rather than later.

Bloom even mentioned Sánchez by name Monday when asked about the Red Sox’s second base situation for 2022.

“I think that’s a growing area of system depth for us, up to and including Triple-A,” Bloom told reporters. “Yolmer Sánchez is in here who won a Gold Glove not too long ago, who brings a little bit of a different profile with the ability to hit from the left side and elite defense.”

Thumbnail photo via Landon Bost/Naples Daily News via USA TODAY Sports Images
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