Red Sox Roster Projection: Predicting Boston’s 2023 Opening Day Squad

Which 26 players will break camp with the Red Sox?


Feb 28, 2023

Will the Red Sox be better in 2023 than they were in 2022? Who knows. But they’ll sure look different, as Boston’s roster underwent significant changes over the Major League Baseball offseason.

Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi are among those playing elsewhere with MLB spring training underway. A host of Red Sox newcomers, meanwhile, are getting acclimated to their new franchise at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., where the next several weeks could set the tone for whether Boston bounces back from its last-place finish in the American League East.

We’re finally starting to see the fresh faces in action, with the Red Sox beginning their spring training game schedule last Friday. The World Baseball Classic will disrupt camp — a bunch of Red Sox players are participating in the two-week tournament — but there’s still plenty of time to ramp up before Boston’s season opener at Fenway Park on March 30.

So, who will crack the Red Sox’s 26-man Opening Day roster in roughly a month? Here’s our first projection of the spring, which obviously could change in the coming weeks as situations develop.

Catchers (2): Reese McGuire, Jorge Alfaro

McGuire and Connor Wong were a formidable catching tandem down the stretch last season after the Red Sox traded Christian Vázquez to the Houston Astros. So much so that Boston didn’t really prioritize upgrading the position this offseason, instead signing Alfaro to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.

The Red Sox could continue to roll with the McGuire-Wong duo to begin 2023, with McGuire a left-handed hitter and Wong a right-handed hitter. McGuire, acquired from the Chicago White Sox last season, is a lock. And Wong, a piece of the 2020 Mookie Betts blockbuster, probably deserves an opportunity at this point with his 27th birthday approaching.

But Alfaro has the most MLB experience of the group, as well as some right-handed pop. Thus, he has a chance to win out over Wong, who has minor league options remaining. Boston would need to add Alfaro to its 40-man roster to facilitate his callup.

Infielders (7): Triston Casas, Christian Arroyo, Kiké Hernández, Rafael Devers, Justin Turner, Bobby Dalbec, Yu Chang

Devers and Casas will hold down the corner-infield positions, at third base and first base, respectively.

The middle infield is less settled, with Bogaerts leaving in free agency and Trevor Story suffering an elbow injury that could cost him most of 2023. But it appears Hernández will open the year at shortstop while Arroyo plays second base. Adalberto Mondesí, a very good defensive shortstop, will enter the equation once he’s fully recovered from his torn ACL; it just might not be in time for Opening Day.

If Mondesí is unavailable to start the season, Chang is the most likely candidate to make the team as a versatile backup infielder. Chang appeared in 11 games with Boston last season and already is on the 40-man roster. Other options for such a role include David Hamilton, Enmanuel Valdez and Niko Goodrum.

Dalbec is nearing a crossroads after a disappointing 2022. The Red Sox could option him to Triple-A Worcester, where he’ll receive everyday plate appearances, but there is a need for a right-handed bat behind the still-unproven Casas.

Turner will more or less replace Martinez as Boston’s full-time designated hitter, capable of filling in at third base or first base, if necessary.

Outfielders (4): Masataka Yoshida, Adam Duvall, Alex Verdugo, Rob Refsnyder

Yoshida, Duvall and Verdugo presumably will start from left to right, now that Hernández is slated for a full-time role in the infield.

Refsnyder, a right-handed hitter, can log time at all three outfield spots, mostly against lefties.

Jarren Duran and Raimel Tapia, two left-handed bats, comprise the next line of defense. And it’ll be fascinating to see whether top prospect Ceddanne Rafaela eventually forces the Red Sox’s hand.

Starting rotation (5): Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Brayan Bello

Basically, how this unit looks to open the season largely depends on health. Who’s ready? Who isn’t?

Let’s assume the five guys above are good to go. Garrett Whitlock is the notable omission, only because Red Sox manager Alex Cora indicated Monday the right-hander might not be ready for Opening Day while working back from hip surgery he underwent last September. If Whitlock is healthy, he’s in a scenario that could force Pivetta to the bullpen.

Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford and Josh Winckowski are available as additional starting depth. And Bryan Mata, Brandon Walter and Chris Murphy make up the next wave of young starters.

Bullpen (8): Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, John Schreiber, Joely Rodríguez, Richard Bleier, Tanner Houck, Ryan Brasier, Kutter Crawford

The Red Sox (finally) have an established closer after signing Jansen to a two-year contract. That’s just one piece of Boston’s bullpen overhaul, though. Martin, Rodríguez and Bleier are fellow newcomers who can safely be penciled in for Opening Day roles.

Schreiber and Houck — two silver linings from the Red Sox’s underwhelming 2022 — are locks, with the former a more traditional reliever and the latter a prime candidate to provide bulk innings out of the ‘pen.

That leaves two open spots. If Whitlock starts the season on the injured list, thereby keeping Pivetta (or someone else) in the rotation, we’ll roll with Brasier and Crawford. Brasier has somewhat miraculously survived all of Boston’s roster reshuffling, and Crawford can join Houck in eating frames as a long reliever.

Zack Kelly, Kaleb Ort and Wyatt Mills are among the Red Sox’s other bullpen options already on the 40-man roster, and any of them could change the conversation with a strong spring.

Thumbnail photo via Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports Images
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